EDITOR’S NOTE: The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the City event Monday night with the theme “City of the Future.” More than 300 local business leaders attended the event, held at the 1 Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Among the speakers were City Manager Paul Arevalo, Ashley Z. Hand of Citifi and West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico, whose remarks and visual presentation are published below.
On behalf of my colleagues and the entire city staff, I’d like to welcome you to tonight’s State of the City address. Thank you to Genevieve and the entire Chamber of Commerce board and staff.
Two thousand nineteen is the 35th anniversary year of city hood. In the words of Stephen Sondheim, “You’re no longer a kid any more kiddo.” West Hollywood has grown up.
We are a destination, we are a known quantity, we are stylish, we have agency and moxie, and though we’re the same size and have the same number of residents, we have over our short 35 years grown in purpose and reason to exist.
And we continue to be a place of attraction.
Seventy five percent of West Hollywood residents were born outside of the State of California. Our residents move to West Hollywood on purpose to invent the lives they want to live. To create an authenticity that feels right for them.
They count on themselves and us to generate the content of their lives. And for over 100 years we have been delivering. And the people in this room more than anyone know that …and know how to do that– to generate the content of their lives – and our lives too.
Our city has been through some remarkable periods –
The founding moment in 1984 and our baby steps – the late 80’s – a period of five to seven years when we were getting up on our feet – wobbly, stumbling, but on our way. John Heilman was there. The city started by making big proclamations, punching above our weight, proved that invention IS the daughter of necessity. Bonded with the Chamber of Commerce even at that early stage. Gay Camelot was out – the creative city was in. And we were off.
Then we were the NKOTBs – the new kids on the block — the 1990’s — the Sunset strip got Mark Wahlberg in his Calvins and Santa Monica Boulevard got David Cooley in his.
The Russian community emerged with one voice, and we invested in our first big public infrastructure moves,
City Hall. Santa Monica Boulevard. Bigger and bigger investments in social services, affordable housing policy, transit and rent control.
AIDS punched us right in the face. We punched back and proved how resilient we are.
Then came our popular teen years – the 2000’s –
Suddenly the Internet was everywhere and the world started changing faster than we did. The Towers fell, the music business changed, the housing laws changed, the economy crashed, AIDS deaths fell off, the Russian community got smaller.
That was when John Duran joined the city council. We were still the creative city and we were reaching our stride, and we were also wondering where we were heading next in the second decade of this century.
The 2010’s and the WeHo 2.0 years.
And an expansion of ideas: #metoo and marriage rights, trans rights are human rights,landed on City Hall. The deputies were out and internet was in…
Open data and Twitter. Facebook and YouTube and our own app.
New leaders at City Hall, me and Lindsey and Lauren.
Uber and scooters and Grindr and Tinder and Postmates, and cannabis and the green rush, and we went fur free too… and all of us embraced 21st Century technology, and the investment in the city poured in from around the globe.
The last 10 years were a period marked by our expansion from a $60 million per year budget to a $120 million budget. And we project continued growth for the next 20 years. Now we act more like a business and less like a hopeful community-based organization. In 35 short years we went from “please like us” to “we’ve got this.” And we’re still the creative city.
So it’s 2019 – we’re on the cusp of 2020 – the numerical equivalent of perfect vision. And when I peer into 2020 and our years of cityhood ahead … what do I see? I see the period we’re entering as I’ll call it …. the Essential Now – it’s characterized by a digital present that is omni present.
Everything is everything, and it is connected to everyone and everything else and it has already been on Instagram.
And it continues to evolve. And we continue to evolve with it.
I see our future will be a creative one, still committed to radical freedoms and achievable rights, I still see how our businesses make us vital and our residents make us whole.
Yet, It is technology and our ability to control it more than it controls us that will determine the parameters of the Essential Now.
In 2014, Jeffrey Prang and I initiated a citywide innovations and technology catalyst group. The purpose was to open our data to the world and refocus our city government on the people we serve.
Our public face, we thought, needed a digital platform. Our smart city policies have been a giant leap forward; creating new ways for residents to be served, protecting their data, generating new business, saving energy and saving time.
So we’re headed there – a smart city, a healthy city, a progressive city, a city that relies on all of its businesses, cherishes each of its neighborhoods and its residents.
We’ve started installing smart bus stops, a fiber loop, smart traffic technology, cameras for safety, sign boards for public info on top of a new web site and app, a digital interface that is truly resident centered.
And much more.
I’m excited for us and how we have managed to collar the beast and get technology to serve us and our residents and businesses.
And our smart city promise is that your data is safe and your business is safe too.
I’ll close with this…
My favorite part about the being involved with West Hollywood is the fearlessness we have embodied for so many years. It’s not reckless, but it is daring.
There is more newness coming, and our willingness to embrace the technology that supports our businesses is key. We will invest in our residents, and appeal to people from across the globe to keep coming here – it will keep us relevant. The changes of the last 35 years have prepared us for incorporating new sets of ideas just as it has reminded us that the history we rely on is real – and important.
The five of us and all of you. Thirty five years has changed us for the better … and for good.