John Heilman Brings Forward a Plan to Assist WeHo’s Hotel Industry

Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood’s hotel highway

City Councilmember John Heilman is bringing forward several proposals to help West Hollywood’s hotel industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heilman is proposing that the city work with the film industry to confirm best practices for filming at hotels during the pandemic and promote the city’s hotels for on-location filming. He also is asking that the city work with the West Hollywood Travel + Tourism Board to create a “staycation” campaign. Such a campaign would encourage local residents, who face some restrictions on travel because of the pandemic, to vacation at West Hollywood hotels. He is asking that City Hall explore ways to allow hotel restaurants to continue to provide service to non-hotel guests after the expiration of the local emergency order, which currently permits such service. And he proposes that once the city allows special events to resume that it streamline the process for hotels to get permits for such events. They could include events hosted by restaurants in open hotel spaces.

Other items in Heilman’s proposal, which is on the City Council’s Monday agenda, would have the city work with hotels to provide COVID-19 safety training videos for hotel employees and guests and work to ensure that they are implementing best practices for ensuring their safety.

A memo explaining Heilman’s proposals notes that “the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry ranging from hotel shutdowns to airlines halting flights in some regions. In addition, stay at home orders have created a shock to the tourism industry with consumers pulling back on discretionary spending and cancelling many large-scale events and conferences. As people return to everyday life—and even once COVID-19 is behind us—the hotel industry may not return to business as usual. Helping the hotel industry recover and return to its normal occupancy levels is essential for the hotels and their employees, but also for the city and for other businesses in the community.”

West Hollywood is home to 21 hotels, and the hotel room occupancy tax is the single largest contributor of revenue to the city’s General Fund. A number of those hotels have re-opened, some with a focus on housing healthcare workers or other clientele. For example, The London West Hollywood is offering guest rooms that serve as remote offices, as well as welcoming traditional tourists and visitors. lists 11 hotels in West Hollywood that are open, with most offering discounts on room rates.

In response to the pandemic, some hotel owners have radically changed their business model. Andre Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont, which is located just outside West Hollywood’s eastern border, recently announced that he is converting that historic hotel into a private club.

  1. I’m glad to see candidates shift from cultural issues to policies that could provide relief to WeHo’s main street businesses and our tanking economy. In addition to any hotel relief should be a moratorium on building new hotels–as the existing hotels are not sustainable.

    Pre COVID-19, a 2016 study found the addition of new hotels would bring occupancy-rates down across all hotels making them less successful, yet we only focus on building more rooms. “Study Finds Negative Impact in Projected WeHo Hotel Growth”:
    We should be looking at ways to protect our current business base that we have, while diversify future projects, not add more of the same that is doing so poorly.

    1. Thank you Tia for reminding us of this important study. You may not be aware that early this year the City commissioned a second study which many people is meant to undermine the findings of the first. If we want to protect our hotels we need a ban on further approvals until we see how the impacts on COVID 19 play out. Heilman’s suggestions are hardy a solution and look like window dressing.

  2. I have a plan. Convert them to apartments and condos, which they should have been from the start! It is completely idiotic that we have so many hotels yet NONE of them can host a convention. This isn’t the fault of the hotels, it’s the fault of the city. They should have anticipated the desire for convention and vacation space as well as housing. Now we just have all these hotels that are locked into tourism.

    1. Good luck with that plan, from a legal perspective.

      Also, people are leaving the City in droves, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve never seen more “For Lease” signs, in 23 years of living here.

      Further, I don’t know what legal authority the City has for making a property owner build apartments over hotels. My guess is that they have none.

      1. Of course they do. They can require the hotel build a certain number of units as apartments or whatever the city wants. The developer either develops or doesn’t.

  3. Remember all of the residents who have been saying that there has been “too much development” and it’s “unsustainable?” Look where we are, now ! What about us, the residents, that aren’t working, work gig jobs and can’t draw unemployment or stimulus check? Maybe think about us first? The hotels can find financial backers, us renters aren’t that fortunate. Or are you just waiting for so many of us to leave to convert into newer more expensive buildings, that few can afford!

    Careful what you wish for.

  4. What Plan?

    This is a perfect example of why our current City Council is entirely out of touch with the community and precisely why the incumbents need to step down from the dais and experience life in West Hollywood as civilians.

    His ideas or lack thereof are as vapid as vanilla ice cream and as useful as nipples on a bull.

    1. Heilman is proposing that the City work with the film industry to confirm best practices for filming at hotels during the pandemic and promote the City’s hotels for on-location filming. 

    *There is no location filming in the near future, and where is the “incentive” for nonexistent film production to use the Ramada or Grafton?

    2. Heilman is also asking that the city work with the West Hollywood Travel + Tourism Board to create a “staycation” campaign to encourage local residents to vacation at West Hollywood hotels. 

    *Residents can’t pay rent, but Heilman suggests they have “staycations” at the Andaz.

    There are no miracles, but there are realistic solutions for actionable issues. In other words, measures that can be implemented in real-time to offer immediate relief.

    Here’s one from a civilian, not a politician who is running for City Council:
     Offer Hotels a 1-Year moratorium on “TOT” (Transit Occupancy Tax), deferring the 12% hotels charge to guests and pay to the City of West Hollywood. The City has ample reserves to maintain essential services and float this loan. And Hotels could use the savings to offer better discounts and encourage tourism to return to West Holly wood.

  5. One day at an early meeting about “Robertson Lane” Mr Heilman made the comment “after walking the project with the developers I requested the design change to include the open space connecting Robertson and La Peer” it was clear to me his involvement was deep, and in my opinion illegal. Then Robertson lane was approved a NINE story hotel across from the busiest bar in the country with pole dancers and loud music and worse yet a children’s park. ( I would rather keep the bar and lose the hotel )
    Ironically the Robertson Lane approval came just days after the Las Vegas route 91 shooting disaster. Anyone else think this is a disaster in the making ? ( no need to send the FBI I dont have any guns and think most of the pole dancers are kina hot)

    If all this energy and dollars had gone into compact housing to bring young people back to the city and in an affordable fashion where would we be today ?

    USC students, UCLA students Entertainment Dreamers Very few can afford to live in the city anymore and more dont want to thats sad, I waited a long time to be able to live in a city friendly to my world and others.

    I once sat through a planning summit for a full day about future of WEHO development and it was a unanimous request even by developers but never adopted. Hmmm Why? 11 hotels approved subsequently.

    Some of our leaders have a vision of a west coast NYC when we should have our own creative vision and that which includes balance in development, low cost housing for people that work and socialize here and quality projects that maximize returns for property owners like the Grove but provide an inviting place to want to live, work,visit and invest.

    Now we want to bail out the hotels ? Well while I am on my little soap box I dont know about you but nothing made me angrier to hear that some of the richest people and businesses in this city took handouts from the federal government. I am sure there was little effect on their own day to day lifestyle. SAD LEADERSHIP

    1. Who is “bailing out the hotels?” He’s simply introducing incentive programs to help them survive. Like them or not, they are the core revenue source for this small city, and most residents benefit from that, with amazing services to our Senior and HIV+ community, free nighttime shuttle, upgrades to our parks, etc..

  6. John Heilman is just grandstanding to get re elected.

    News for Heilman: The Sunset Tower has had discounted weekend or limited stays since May with social media aimed at West Hollywood residents. Advertised and directed by social media to WEHO residents. It’s probably one of the few hotels that feels like a private club! I stayed there many times before moving to West Hollywood. South view rooms give you a feeling of escape. Since Heilman advertises himself as a philanthropist on his website, he could contribute to qualified residents stays in hotels for weekend breaks.

    As for movie shoots, ask any location scout and they will inform you West Hollywood’s choices are slim. I did hear there was a film to be shot in WEHO before the virus, #WARLOCK, but they ended up going Santa Barbara because there were no restrictions.

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