A Planning Commissioner Nominates Himself In a Gender-Divided Vote

In a meeting filled with technical problems, Thursday night’s teleconferencing meeting on Zoom of West Hollywood’s Planning Commission saw the commissioners send an apartment project back to the drawing board for revisions. Meanwhile, after an unprecedented move of a commissioner nominating himself to become the new vice chair, the Commission voted along male-female lines with the man winning.

During its annual rotation of leadership, the Commission unanimously elected Commissioner Adam Bass to move up from vice chair to become the new commission chair for the next year. He succeeds Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro who has served as chair for the past year.

Lynn Hoopingarner and John Erickson

However, when it came time to select a new vice chair, an unusual male-female partisanship emerged. Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner was next in line for the vice chair position in terms of seniority. The Commission typically adheres to seniority in determining who will be the next chair and vice chair. Thus, Hoopingarner was duly nominated for the vice chair position by Commissioner Stacey Jones, with Commissioner Sue Buckner seconding the nomination.
However, in a never-before-done move, Commissioner John Erickson then nominated himself for vice chair. Commissioner John Altschul seconded Erickson’s nomination. When the votes were tallied, Erickson won by a 4-3 split with all the male members of the commission voting for Erickson and all the female members voting for Hoopingarner.

This is the second time Hoopingarner was bypassed for the vice chair position. Last year when the Commission voted on chair and vice chair, Hoopingarner was next in line for vice chair in terms of seniority (she was appointed to the Commission by City Councilmember Lauren Meister in May 2017, six weeks before Bass did), but the commissioners opted to skip her and elected Bass to the vice chair position instead.

Before the nominating process began, Hoopingarner suggested that Carvalheiro and Bass continue for another year as chair and vice chair, respectively. However, commission bylaws say the chair cannot serve two consecutive terms.

Erickson is a candidate in the City Council election being held in November. An appointee of Councilmember John Heilman, Erickson joined the Planning Commission in Nov. 2018. He also is the president of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

8760 Shoreham Drive (architect John Mebasser)

8760 Shoreham Drive

The Commission voted unanimously to send a proposed 11-unit, three-story apartment building known as Shoreham Lofts on the southwest corner of Shoreham Drive and Sherbourne Drive, just north of Sunset Boulevard, back to the drawing board for revisions.

Replacing a two-story Spanish Revival duplex built in 1938, the project will have studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. However, it will not have any units set aside for low-income residents. Owner Shoreham Capital LLC is opting to pay the city’s in lieu fee rather than have “affordable” units on site.

With large balconies and lace-like wrought iron railings, the building, designed by Santa Monica-based architect John Mebasser, has a European feel. The Commission was very pleased with the design, Commissioner Adam Bass calling it “fantastic.” Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner encouraged the architect to “come back to design more beautiful buildings for our city.”

Despite being impressed, the Commission rejected the project because of modifications it was requesting. City regulations dictate that units have a maximum average unit size of 1,200 square feet, but this project requested a six percent modification to allow units averaging 1,276 square feet. The developer said the lot is narrower at its southern end forcing several units to have extra-long hallways resulting in underutilized or “dead” space.

The Commission rejected this idea saying the architect could simply redesign the layout of the units so long hallways and dead spaces could be avoided.
“There is so much space outside of the seating area that is underutilized and not programmed that I think there is a lot of surplus area that can be better programmed and create interesting spaces like [architect Mebasser] already has,” said Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro.

Hoopingarner noted the architect is clearly talented and should be able to redesign it easily.

The project will have 23 parking spaces in a subterranean garage, but it requested a parking modification allowing nine parking spaces to be just 16 feet, 2 inches long rather than the standard 18 feet the city requires. The Commission also rejected this idea, noting the parking was already haphazard with several spaces that would require four-point turns to get into or out of. Again, the commissioners felt the garage could simply be redesigned to address the problems.

During the public comment period, resident Elyse Eisenberg, who lives nearby, praised the project, saying it was beautiful and would be a “nice addition to the neighborhood.” Meanwhile resident Barry Scott was disturbed that proper notification about this hearing was not sent out and that his email to Planning Department staff went unanswered.

Several other residents complained about construction disrupting their lives in terms of noise and dirt/dust being stirred up.

The project will return at a date yet to be determined, likely in the fall. Commissioners John Altschul and Sue Buckner recused themselves as they both live within 500 feet of the project.

Technical Problems and Potential Brown Act Violation

Thursday’s meeting also had major technical issues. As the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., the public viewing on WeHo TV or YouTube could only see a black screen and could barely hear the audio feed that was apparently on extreme low volume. That problem was finally fixed by 7:05 p.m. with audio and video restored to normal.

However, about 7:20 p.m. the YouTube streaming died, never to return. Viewers were forced to move over to WeHo TV on the city website to watch the rest of the meeting, while others moved to the Zoom platform (provided they knew the person to contact to get the Zoom login info).

The YouTube streaming is the more desirable way to watch the live stream of a city meeting because the video can be paused and even rewound as needed. When watching on WeHo TV, it is not possible to pause or rewind the video. The Zoom platform also does not allow for rewinding or pausing.

Monday’s Public Safety Commission meeting allowed the commissioners to see and hear one another with a video and audio connection. However, members of the public weren’t allowed to see the commissioners and the audio was sometimes not very clear. It isn’t clear why the public wasn’t provided video access to that meeting given that seeing as well as hearing a speaker makes it easier to understand what is being said.

This was a potential violation of the Brown Act which requires the public be allowed to participate in governmental meetings. The social distancing required because of the coronavirus pandemic has led local governments to move to teleconferencing meetings so that members of the public can see and hear the proceedings on their computers, tablets or TV.

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James
James
5 months ago

Thank god for John Ericsson doing what he did. It shows leadership and initiative. Lynn is the most annoying planning commissioner by far (At least that’s something that would get unanimous agreement on the commission!) and she constantly asks questions Lauren Meister feeds to her. At least John is no puppet and that’s the kind of leadership we need in Weho.

I’m voting for Ericsson! Great job!

Very Concerned Citizen
Very Concerned Citizen
5 months ago
Reply to  James

OMG that is Hilarious

Vigilant
Vigilant
5 months ago
Reply to  James

Do you believe accuracy and understanding are important in planning issues?

Perhaps you could give some specific examples on projects where you believe Lynn Hoopingarner was excessive in asking questions and thus annoyed you. Maybe we could learn something from your observations.

Truth be told
Truth be told
5 months ago
Reply to  James

Right – ur voting for a guy who is all about himself, shows little respect for others, and is a Horvath, Land, Heilman, lapdog. What your voting voting for is somebody who has done nothing to benefit any West Hollywood resident and is willing to bully his way about. If an election for city council is 100 days away and u think that this guy is your vote I guarantee Lynn gets the Vice Chair. You can’t have it both ways.

Vigilant
Vigilant
5 months ago
Reply to  James

Show Ponies cannot do the job of work horses.

The Planning Commission agenda is apparently too heavy to lift and too dense to read.

Imagine attempting to digest the City Council agenda with little expertise valuable to repairing an ailing community during a crisis.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
5 months ago
Reply to  James

Hoopingarner clearly does not need to be “fed” questions that are relevant to the Commission’s deliberations from anyone.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
5 months ago

Rotating the Chair of any commission can be fraught; that is why there is a tradition of insuring everyone has a chance. This sort of immature power play on the part of John Erickson is revealing. Where is the grace and civility? Unfortunately it reveals that he may not be ready for prime time.

James Francis
James Francis
5 months ago

I totally agree with peoples assessment. We see right through you John. How many Johns can there be on commissions and councils anyway? He tried to bulldoze his way to get media attention and I find that jockeying for political appointments and running for city council simultaneously should be prohibited. What I find bizarre is that he is running against the man who appointed him to the commission. It shows he has no dignity but just political ambition. It’s obvious he is an upstart and a social climber in context of Weho politics. I have heard his voice dominate questions… Read more »

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
5 months ago

Lynn Hoopingarner is smart as a whip – probably the smartest person on the Planning Commission, and probably beating Altschul in his prime.

I have watched meeting of the Commission on the City Channel, and quite honestly have no idea what Erickson is doing on that Commission. He exhibits absolutely zero comprehension of their process nor of the issues before them. Rather than provide constructive feedback to Council on the 8500 Sunset matter at a recent meeting, Erickson threw a tantrum.

And he’s Heilman’s hand-picked Council candidate?? What an embarrassment for our City – BOTH of them!

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
5 months ago

I have never thought that strict rotation for the chair/vice chairs is appropriate. One of my first appointment was to the Eastside Project Advisory Committee. I was elected chair my second year & asked to serve a second term. Allyne Winderman, then the director of housing, social services & development…and my mentor (along with Fran Solomon) said while it was an honor for me to be asked, you build stronger commissions and stronger commissioners by allowing everyone the opportunity to serve as vice chair and chair. When i was appointed to the Rent Stabilization Commission, the chair & vice chair… Read more »

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
5 months ago

John Erickson’s clear display of ego, sexism and misogyny is appalling. And to think he works for Planned Parenthood. Are they watching?

What say you to his action, Mayor Lindsey Horvath? You support him unequivocally.

After this, and his illegal behavior on Santa Monica Blvd., I don’t know how anyone can take him seriously as a candidate for public office.

James Francis
James Francis
5 months ago

I totally agree with your assessment. He tried to bulldoze his way on the commission in order to get a title to enhance his exposure and derail someone else’s chance. What I find bizarre is that he is vice chair while running for the city council simultaneously. This is unethical in my opinion. The practice in itself should be prohibited in city bylaws anyway. You are double dipping your political prospects in the same election cycle and commission rotation while simultaneously running for higher office while maintaining a commission seat and ascension to a role should be prohibited. That should… Read more »

David Abrams
David Abrams
5 months ago

Can someone enlighten me as to where the arbitrary 1,200 SF rule comes from?

Seems to me that there are better ways to incentivize more affordable rents, such as allowing micro-units and studios to be built more densely than 1 & 2 bedroom units…

Manny
Manny
5 months ago
Reply to  David Abrams

Just as arbitrary your micro-units idea.

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
5 months ago
Reply to  Manny

snap!

David Abrams
David Abrams
5 months ago
Reply to  Manny

Are you saying micro-units are not by default less expensive than larger, more luxurious units? Encouraging the construction of less expensive apartments is the only way out of this housing crisis. Deed restricted affordable housing is great, but too bad for anyone who doesn’t fall under the income requirements. The middle class workforce needs affordable housing too, and Weho is quickly becoming a city only for the rich or the lucky who live in rent-controlled units/won the affordable housing lottery. It’s literally called a lottery! That speaks volumes. Instead of 1,200 SF units, how about two 600 SF units? It’s… Read more »

very concen!
very concen!
5 months ago

Regarding the project they reviewed, everyone said it is a well designed building, with exemplary design yet they got hung up on two issues: Parking, the modification was asking to reduce length on some of the second stalls in tandem, Why? because they wanted to give more space to the backing space and the backing spaces were per cities requirement. However they objected to this because the commissioners thought the maneuverability felt difficult in the parking! (are they kidding us?) Most progressive cities in the world are talking about reducing parking requirements yet this is the first thing they look… Read more »

Déja Vu
Déja Vu
5 months ago

One can only imagine what the first words out of the mouths of those men would have been if the tables were turned and a female majority did the same thing. Oh I would imagine that they would have been called, “Those B- – ches”.

Very Concerned Citizen
Very Concerned Citizen
5 months ago

I have never been so appalled by this demonstration of blatant arrogance by JOHN ERICKSON and HIS fellow-male commissioners! What an OUTRAGE! This is exactly what I DO NOT want on any commission let alone City Council! He prides himself on being a champion of women’s rights and is a director at Planned Parenthood yet he finds nothing wrong in his conceited action of nominating HIMSELF and passing over Ms. Hoopingarner for Vice Chair. What a HYPOCRITE! And what a display by these male commissioners, especially Chair Bass. SHAME on all of them! I have been on the fence about… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
5 months ago

Additionally, we are today, living with examples of opportunistically designed projects as a result of commissioners that lacked knowledge and lacked conversant skills in the language of the subject matter.

The simple goal is well designed buildings that fit their surroundings and fulfill purpose.

One long standing commissioner has not learned a glimmer about aesthetics and a more recent one is equally oblivious. One can argue based on his legal expertise and the other can obfuscate equipped with skills learned in the legislative process. Neither serves the community.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
5 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Your comments are spot on. This act of arrogance and appropriation smacks of a lack of civility, decorum, grace and manners. We need to quash it before it continues. We need fewer bombastic boors and crass narcissists and more who do the work for the city they represent as public servants. As a self-proclaimed feminist, his action was the height of hypocrisy. Much of this behavior emanates from the sense of imperiousness and monarchy in one or more of the incumbents and now in the crown’s chosen heir. Take your choice on which (hint: there are two).

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Well said, Alan. Shameful display of self-righteous arrogance and sexism by Erickson.

Larry Block
Larry Block
5 months ago

Due to covid, any Chair that has served less than 9 meetings is eligible to serve a second term. In addition, we know the city council calendar has moved its election to November, and new commissioners may be installed in January. Thus, with an election 100 days away, the council should have addressed extending commissioner terms to the end of year. If Heilman loses, or Erickson wins there is an open spot on planning ..just a few months away. But for Erickson, a man who stands for women’s right and empowerment -he just took the seat away from Lynn.. again..It… Read more »