WeHo City Council Members Object to Number of New Housing Units Required

With a unanimous vote Monday night, West Hollywood’s City Council approved sending a letter to the Southern California Associations of Governments questioning the methodology used in a new report suggesting the city must create 3,970 housing units in the next ten years.

That number is 510 more units than an earlier draft report that suggested the city would need to create 3,460 units by 2029. Whichever number ends up being used, that is still a substantially large number of new housing units, which is why the city wants to assure a fair methodology is used.

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) makes recommendations for housing to help cities guide their zoning laws and land-use policies. Cities are expected to adopt the RHNA recommendations into the housing element of their General Plan. The RHNA numbers for West Hollywood come from calculations by the Southern California Association of Governments.

California is the midst of a housing crisis, so RHNA numbers have increased substantially for every city. For comparison, Beverly Hills RHNA number is 3,143 new units, while Culver City is expected to create 3,372 new units. Meanwhile, Santa Monica’s RHNA number is 9,059 and Los Angeles is listed as needing to create a whopping 463,682 new units.

These latest RHNA numbers come as a new eight-year cycle, the sixth RHNA cycle, is set to begin in October 2021 and run to October 2029.

While many other cities have failed to meet its RHNA numbers in the past, West Hollywood is one of the few cities that has met its goal. During the fourth cycle, running 2006 to 2014, the city was required to create 584 new units and exceeded that. However, some of those who have studied the reasons for California’s housing crisis have cited problems with the way RHNA calculates housing needs.

“Across California, some jurisdictions are earning high grades only because they have very low targets for housing units, relative to local population and performance grades actually decreased as the number of units assigned relative to population increased,” says the public policy think tank “Next 10,” referring to a study called “Missing the Mark.” “The nine jurisdictions that earned an A+ on RHNA progress had an average of only 0.7 units assigned per 100 persons in the jurisdiction’s population,” Next 10 reports. “On the other hand, jurisdictions that earned an F had an average of 3.3 units assigned per 100 persons.”

In the current RHNA cycle, running 2014 to 2021, West Hollywood is required to build just 77 new units but has already issued building permits for 2,259 units.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilmember Lauren Meister questioned why West Hollywood and Culver City had similar RHNA numbers when Culver City is larger and is on the mass transit Expo Line.

She noted the RHNA numbers don’t take into account the amount of land each city has. She said it will end up being almost 2,000 units per square mile for West Hollywood, compared to 551 units per square mile for Beverly Hills, 661 units per square mile for Culver City, and 1,078 units per square mile for Santa Monica.

“This is not fair,” Meister said. “Why are we ending up with this? I think we need to say something, we need to write a letter. We need to be strong and we need to do it sooner rather than later.”

Councilmember John Heilman noted the RHNA report wasn’t taking the size of the city and the amount of land available in figuring out the number. He recommended those points be emphasized in the letter to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

“It seems to, in some respects, punish those cities like us that have met their numbers in the past,” said Heilman. “They don’t take into account the square footage of the area and they seem to reward those communities that have a lot of land but have zoned their entire city R1 so they don’t have the same kind of obligation to provide housing that we do.”

Mayor John D’Amico noted there is no penalty if a city doesn’t meet its RHNA numbers, which is why, at least in part, why the vast majority of the other cities have not met the quota.

“If we only did what we have done in the last ten years [in creating housing], it would far exceed what anyone else has done,” said D’Amico.


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carleton cronin
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How can we defend ourselves against Change known as Progress? Very few people easily accept change and such pronouncements from a government agency are asking us to accept change without comment. We are wallowing in what some call democracy, a political system, mistaking it for the overreach of zealous government clerks. Our little town has become a elite village, no doubt as greed has replaced the old-fashioned principle of a “fair profit”. All the rules of city, county, state agencies like this one will go into the trash bin of public disdain. BUT – imagine West Hollywood in the year… Read more »

learntobeajournalist
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learntobeajournalist

We are not in a housing crisis, especially when it comes to expensive property.

I read a recent article about The Metropolis development in downtown L.A. is struggling to find buyers so they turned one of the buildings into apartments (but even those are too expensive for most people). The demand is not there and developers don’t make much of a return unless they build higher end buildings. We are full here in W. Hollywood. Choose another city. It’s too congested as is and most of us don’t want this to be downtown L.A.

The Real Zam
Guest

This quote best summarizes your argument:

“Our country is full”
-Donald J. Trump

learntobeajournalist
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learntobeajournalist

The message in parts of this state is be ashamed if you make a decent living (which supports many of these big govt projects through taxes), be ashamed if you can afford a luxury condo (even if you worked your entire life and struggled through college and the corporate ladder to barely afford one), and be forced to share luxuries with low income homeowners (who don’t always behave appropriately partly due to their lack of education, etc.) Feel guilty for upgrading in any way. So down we go to communism and the demand for these luxury condos continues to collapse.… Read more »

Kevin
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Kevin

We are absolutely in a housing crisis and you can speak to any expert at UCLA, USC, Berkeley, etc. and they will affirm that we have not built enough housing for decades and we are continuing down that same path. The choice to build luxury housing vs. more moderate units is one of the many issues, but is not the cause of our housing problems. The cause is simply supply and demand, with CA having not enough supply.

learntobeajournalist
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learntobeajournalist

Just because the demand is there doesn’t mean you must supply it when you’re talking about increased congestion, pollution, limited land for parks (enjoyment of life), etc. There’s nothing wrong with saying we’re more than dense enough for 1.9 square miles and enough is enough. Also the more people cramped in, the less nice people become because they lack quiet, space to move. They feel like just a number.What made WeHo nice at one time was a village feel. It’s gone and if we keep pushing more density it will be 100 percent finished as residential neighborhood. Just another city,… Read more »

The Real Zam
Guest

While I can see why our government should object to the methodology used in determining RHNA goals, I definitely believe in the importance of increasing the supply of housing at a city, county, and state level. Whatever we can do to help aid the housing crisis and we should do. The lack of affordability is a simple case of supply and demand.

learntobeajournalist
Guest
learntobeajournalist

The message in parts of this state is be ashamed if you make a decent living (which supports many of these big govt projects through taxes), be ashamed if you can afford a luxury condo (even if you worked your entire life and struggled through college and the corporate ladder to barely afford one), and be forced to share luxuries with low income homeowners (who don’t always behave appropriately partly due to their lack of education, etc.) Feel guilty for upgrading in any way. So down we go to communism and the demand for these luxury condos continues to collapse.… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

I can assure you, there will always be a luxury condo in West Hollywood for you to own and another for you to aspire to own. Now, with that solved, let’s go back to trying to help make housing for the rest of us more affordable…

Manny
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Manny

Sounds like it’s time to get rid of the
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment program, or just ignore it like everybody else does.

Webuiltthiscity
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Webuiltthiscity

Is this City Council in denial of all the housing that is lost each time they approve another grossly unnecessary construction project that loses the much needed housing units?

Factoring these numbers into account over the next ten years might be why West Hollywood is compared to Culver City and falling short.

Hopefully this will be an eye opening moment, and instead of pushing back on the findings in the report, they will come together to create solutions for the crisis that exists in our City.

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

There has been a long history of demolition of rent controlled units to create new and expensive luxury housing. While this may increase the number of units created it also displaces long term tenants, (our friends and neighbors), who will inevitably leave West Hollywood. We need smart growth policies that protects our existing residents while still creating new housing opportunities. The housing numbers suggested West Hollywood shoulder would call for close to a 20% increase in our population. Unfortunately this does not take into account the stress this puts on our infrastructure such as sewers, electricity and green space. New… Read more »