Councilmember Lauren Meister Reveals Rift Among the Five City Council Members

Lauren Meister

UPDATE: Mayor Lindsey Horvath texted WEHOville a response a few hours after the initial publication of this story. The story has been updated to include Horvath’s comment. That comment can be found about halfway into the story; precisely four paragrahs before the beginnng of the italicized text, which is where the text of Meister’s comments start.

West Hollywood’s new City Council, just two weeks old, is already showing signs of cracks in the veneer and potential problems to come.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Lauren Meister revealed a rift among the five WeHo councilmembers. Her comments left some residents buzzing, others wanting to know more.

The rift regards actions by Councilmember John Erickson and Mayor Lindsey Horvath, which apparently deprived the city of a seat on the Regional Council of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

SCAG is the largest metropolitan planning organization in the United States, representing six counties, 191 cities and over 19 million residents. SCAG makes regional transportation decisions, determines housing quotas and makes climate change policy recommendations, among other things.

The Regional Council is SCAG’s 86-member governing board which makes policy recommendations, studies specific issues/problems and directs the action of the agency. A voice on the Regional Council can influence growth and policy decisions across the entire Southern California area.

During her councilmember comments on Monday night, Meister provided a detailed explanation of what happened in an election held during a Westside Cities Council of Governments (COG) meeting held on Dec. 17. The Westside COG is made up of councilmembers from West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Culver City and Santa Monica.

The COG election was to choose a representative to serve on the SCAG Regional Council. Meister was one of three people who was up for that seat. The other two were Alex Fisch, the mayor of Culver City, and John Erickson, the newly sworn in West Hollywood councilmember.

On the first round of the election, Meister won ten votes, while Fisch got seven and Erickson got three. Since a majority was needed to win, another round of voting occurred. This time, Meister and Fisch both got ten votes, while Erickson got none. Then a runoff was held to break the tie. Fisch ended up winning with 12 votes to Meister’s eight.

Meister is disturbed because two of her West Hollywood colleagues voted against her, thereby preventing the city from having a place on the Regional Council

In the first round, Mayor Lindsey Horvath voted for Erickson and Erickson voted for himself. In the next two rounds, Horvath and Erickson both voted for Fisch rather than Meister.

Meanwhile, Meister’s other two colleagues, Councilmembers John D’Amico and Sepi Shyne, voted for her in all three rounds.

It should be noted that two of Fisch’s four Culver City colleagues – Albert Vera and Goran Eriksson – voted for Meister in the first two rounds. However, they changed their votes to Fisch in the final round to break the tie.

The video of this election is rather boring, but if anyone is interested, it is available by CLICKING HERE. The candidate speeches start at the 19:30 mark. The voting starts at the 27:30 mark.

Neither Erickson nor Horvath responded to Meister’s comments during Monday’s Council meeting. D’Amico and Shyne also did not address it in their councilmember comments.

When WEHOville spoke with Erickson, he declined to comment on the matter.

Likewise, Shyne also chose not to say anything when WEHOville contacted her.

D’Amico did respond, however, and texted WEHOville, “As a council, we missed an opportunity to put one of our own into a position of leadership that likely would have benefitted the city. I hope we won’t make this mistake again.”

Horvath texted WEHOville her response on Thursday morning, a few hours after initial publication of this story. It reads, “This seat represents the entire westside region on housing, transportation, and other important issues. This was not only about our City; this was about issues that impact all residents from West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, and the westside of LA. I am supportive of creating affordable housing, increasing access to regional transportation, and improving the overall quality of life for westside residents. That’s how I voted.”

Clashes among the members of the West Hollywood City Council are nothing new. Former councilmembers Steve Martin and John Heilman had an adversarial relationship; D’Amico and Heilman had a rather chilly relationship; Horvath and Meister have an oftentimes tense relationship.

If what happened at the COG meeting is any indication, we’re in for more tension among the WeHo City Council members in the coming months. What is most surprising is that this tension has emerged so early into the tenure of a newly installed City Council.

Below is the full text of Meister’s comments on the matter, made at Monday’s City Council meeting:

I attended the Westside Cities Council of Governments meeting last week as the city’s representative. There was an important election, in which councilmembers from the four COG cities, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Culver City, and Beverly Hills, participated. The election was for a seat on the Regional Council of the Southern California Association of Governments or SCAG. The Regional Council is SCAG’s 86-member governing board that has general authority to conduct the affairs of the larger regional body.

For many years, Santa Monica held the regional seat for the westside cities, and most recently, it was held by a Culver City council member. The City of West Hollywood has never held the seat, meaning we have never really had a voice on the Regional Council.

Having been a delegate and alternate delegate to the Westside Cities COG for five years, with two plus years as the COG’s appointment to SCAG’s Community, Economic and Human Development committee, I was uniquely positioned to run for the seat.

In the first round, I received 10 votes out of 20; with my two opponents, Mayor Fisch from Culver City and Councilmember John Erickson from West Hollywood, getting seven votes and three votes, respectively. Unfortunately, 11 votes was needed for a majority, and I was one vote shy of the City of West Hollywood getting this important regional seat.

This was an unfortunate missed opportunity for the City of West Hollywood. The Culver City council member who ultimately won the seat after several rounds of voting did so because his colleagues changed their votes to avoid a stalemate. And while he is very bright and affable, he is also known as someone who advocates for many of the state mandates that we, as a city, have not fully supported.

Tonight, I’d like to thank Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Bob Wunderlick, Council members Lili Bosse and John Mirisch, Santa Monica Council members Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre, and Culver City Council members Albert Vera and Goran Eriksson, for their support.

And I especially want to thank my two colleagues, Council members John D’Amico and Sepi Shyne for your support. Thank you for making the City of West Hollywood your priority. Sometimes, at this dais, we will agree, sometimes we won’t, but I know that the love we have for West Hollywood is what will unite us. It is unfortunate that our other two colleagues chose not to support our city’s chance to be at the Regional Council table, where critical discussions about transportation, climate, and housing are deliberated.

Regarding housing, I’d like to thank Councilmembers D’Amico and Shyne for bringing forward item 2Z, directing staff to conduct a housing capacity analysis of West Hollywood-owned properties.

The City of West Hollywood has always made housing a priority and will continue to do the best we can, no matter what our RHNA allocation, no matter what the state mandates.

My priority, to be clear, is to make sure that the housing that the City advocates for is quality affordable housing… housing that is not only affordable, but green, universally accessible, and most importantly, livable. People are not sardines, so let’s not pretend that people with lower incomes have lesser livability needs than any of us.

My priority is to make sure that the city establishes partnerships with creative housing developers that are in it for the people, not the profit.

My priority is to protect the rent stabilized, affordable housing that already exists and not allow it to be replaced with commercial ventures or rich private schools that could go anywhere, but choose to buy residential property and evict our residents because it’s cheaper than buying commercial property.

My priority is to protect the unique character of our neighborhoods and to make sure that new development is of good design, and sensitive to that unique character as well as to the neighbors with whom they will now be sharing a neighborhood.

My priority is to protect the integrity of our General Plan, because that is what our citizens expect of us after spending five plus years attending meetings and providing their input. And they expect to have a say when there are proposals to amend it.

My priority is to protect local control because that is why our citizens voted for West Hollywood to become a city 36 years ago, and, that is why councilmembers are elected to represent them.

My priority is to continue doing what I’ve been doing and stay true to why I was elected: to look out for the people who live and work in our city. Housing, social services, public safety, green space, and economic development are all important needs and priorities for our constituents. However, we must have a balanced approach to competing needs and priorities, because focusing on one at the expense of the others makes for a nice sound bite, but it does not make a sustainable city.

Lastly, many of you know that I am a homeowner. Having grown up in an apartment, I worked very hard to purchase my home, and I was incredibly lucky to have purchased it at a time when West Hollywood was much more affordable. Let me be very clear, I could not afford to purchase my home in today’s market. So I am keenly aware of affordability issues in our city and the region. My priority is to represent all of our citizens, and that’s what I will continue to do.

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Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
18 days ago

Horvath’s response? Tone deaf. She voted AGAINST the interests of our city. It was purely personal. And Erickson joined her.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
18 days ago

It’s saddens me when intelligent debate is marred by reliance on anecdotes (faulty by nature) combined with generational divisiveness.

Déjà vu All over again
Déjà vu All over again
18 days ago

@Karen O’Keefe. I just have one question. All you seem to advocate for is the young people wanting to live here, and up zoning (SB 50) to accommodate them. Given that West Hollywood is the densest city, west of Mississippi, (approx. 19,000 people PER SQUARE MILE) just how many more people do you want to cram into our 1.9 square miles? (Stress on our infrastructure!) Yes, there is no question that we need moderate income housing, but the last time I inquired, I was told that our city council cannot dictate rents to developers. Years ago when the building boom… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago

Actually the City can dictate the amount developers charge for rent for their affordable units; as a result we often see that these units are often as not “moderate” rather than the much needed “low” and “very low” income units. Allowing more moderate is a nice perk to give to developers who contribute to Council races. But I am aligned with what you are saying; we need to figure out some sort of “fee” on luxury housing as it is far more lucrative than building moderate housing; it may be the only way to incentivize the construction of moderate rate… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Excellent.

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
18 days ago

If you read my comments, you would see that WeHo is actually NOT that dense compared to neighborhoods in our region of comparable size. Koreatown and Westlake are more than 2x as dense, for example. We’re the 18th densest neighborhood in the county, according to the LA Times reporting. https://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/population/density/neighborhood/list/ I don’t have a magic number, I just know we have stretches that have exclusionary, single family zoning that is drives up costs and drives down availability. That causes people to live in crowded conditions, far from jobs, and in misery and destitution. I believe all non-sprawl/central areas of LA… Read more »

Virginia Gillick
Virginia Gillick
19 days ago

I am appalled by the many of the comments I have been seeing here. I have lived in West Hollywood since January, 1989, I am 76 years old, I moved into a market rate apartment in WEHO 4 years ago after selling my WEHO condo. I sold the condo so that I would have the capital to continue to support myself. I do not believe that there are loads of elderly people unfairly retaining apartments so that the younger people who want to live here have to live in garages. I just have to take issue with this idea and… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago

Who said the elderly were hoarding apartments? Please quote where that was said. My complaints were: 1) Local failures — including restrictive zoning for single family homes and parking minimums — prevent the creation of enough housing so that younger generations, workers, etc can afford it. They also drive up prices of housing and screw over younger generations and workers. 2) Meister opposed SB 50 and similar state mandates, which would step in and upzone, to prevent the massive, well documented housing shortage that is screwing over the younger generation, workers etc. 3) Meister’s proposed solutions seem to ONLY benefit… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago

I left out a 0. WeHo’s affordable waiting list is 1,000s long.

“More than 4,145 people responded to the City of West Hollywood’s outreach in November to those interested in joining a list for consideration for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families..”

That was in 2019, pre-pandemic. It’s surely worse now.

https://www.wehoville.com/2020/01/15/more-than-4000-people-applied-to-wehos-affordable-housing-wait-list/

Vigilant
Vigilant
18 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

Naturally most of the people responding would be interested but the city is advocating for something they cannot deliver aside from the few examples WeHo has partnered in with WH Community housing group. This “list”/”lists” apparently is/are open to folks far and wide and are not exclusive to WH so the entire concept appears distorted. It has always been the same story…at least for the past 15 years. Rather than utilize city owned property which they appear to be warehousing, how about putting their philosophy into action without disrupting settled communities of single family homes under the assumption their owners… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
17 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Should have referred to Cannabis in this comment to be truly hip and happening.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen
19 days ago

Part two @Karen O’Keefe Meister and Shyne voted to appeal the RHNA numbers because of the over abundance of units built in Weho for the last period. If things are to change there will have to be major policy changes to force developers to provide more “moderate income” housing. They, primarily build Low income housing and luxury housing with nothing for the average person in between. I believe someone already asked you where the people in Weho are who live in garages, and in squalor and destitution. I, too, would like to know specifically where they are. If you are… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
19 days ago

Thank you for responding to Karen O’Keefe’s comments as the points you illuminated were disturbing and show an absence of reason and social awareness. There is a particular hostility evidenced when she appears challenged by simple questions. Knowing of a person’s life experience can give an ideas about how their attitudes are formed but as far as that question went…..”not that it’s any of your business” was juvenile. It didn’t seem worth expounding the energy today dealing with an unproductive confrontational attitude that expands to concepts concerning bicycle policies, marijuana and homelessness.

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Fascinating how you think you’re entitled to all my geographical background when you don’t even use your name ….

Vigilant
Vigilant
19 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

I don’t recall mentioning or giving the impression of being “entitled” to your geographical background. It’s a reasonable question as it is one of the ingredients that shapes a person.

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

So is the question of who you are? Who are you then? What’s your background?

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

Though I am mirroring your question by asking even more basic info about you than you asked about me (who you are), it was really just to show the irony of you asking for my background while hiding behind anonymity. But, I actually think your focus on background is to distract from policy arguments. It seems designed as an ad hominem attack, which is a logical fallacy: Ad Hominem (Attacking the person): This fallacy occurs when, instead of addressing someone’s argument or position, you irrelevantly attack the person or some aspect of the person who is making the argument. The… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
18 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

Did I expect your response? Of course. I’m not the one postulating the information I questioned. However, the geographical background relating to my family life, education and series of professions have been united by thoughtfulness based on logic, reason and ethics…it’s in the family DNA and I appreciate sharing the approach in whatever interests me.

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago

The RHNA guidelines were pathetically low last time — at a mere 77 units over 10 years — so it wasn’t hard to overshoot them. WeHo has only increased its population by 1% since 2000 — while the county population went up by 5%. We had more than 4,000 people apply for our affordable housing waiting list. https://www.wehoville.com/2020/01/15/more-than-4000-people-applied-to-wehos-affordable-housing-wait-list/ We are not housing enough people. Though we’re in the heart of the county, where we should build up. I responded on a separate thread about people living in squalor and destitution. They are on our streets. Have you not seen them?… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
19 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

Twice you have commented about people who questioned your statements regarding people living on the streets. Clearly there are observant folks living in West Hollywood other than yourself who recognize that this is a complicated issue which few in Weho have tackled with any perceptible degree of regularity. Rather than being a solution minded individual your confrontational remarks often come off as extreme.

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
18 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

If you’ve read this thread, which you clearly have, you know I’ve talked about a lot of solutions. The #1 being — BUILD MORE HOUSING, particularly in places like WeHo that are centrally located. Policies we need include: – our local officials stopping resisting state mandates that are necessary due to local failures to build enough housing. — build more housing, especially building UP/ up-zoning (or de-gentrifying) in areas like WeHo — getting rid of parking minimums which drive up costs of housing — get rid of exclusionary single family only zoning, that is the most logical place to build… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Karen O'Keefe

Karen you need to remember there are lies, damn lies and statistics. We have constructed thousands of units over 20 years so you need to look at that 1% figure with a more cynical eye. But also remember for all that new construction, some of it demolished affordable rent controlled buildings and replaced them with luxury housing with few total units. Some of us think preserving rent controlled housing is a more effective way to preserve affordable housing than demolition and new construction. By the way, when I moved to West Hollywood in my 20s I rented a crappy single… Read more »

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen
19 days ago

Part One: @Karen O’Keefe I suggest you look at TransparentCalifornia.com when you talk about the employees of the City of West Hollywood, many of whom could easily afford to live in Weho, having to drive long distances to get to work because they can’t afford to live here. “Total city employee compensation $39,553,717 for 382 employees (203 full time) Median pay and benefits for full-time, year-round city employees $167,470” I would hazard a guess that the seniors you mention living for years in their rent stabilized units are NOT wealthier than young people with their student debt. I have no… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
Karen O'Keefe
19 days ago

There are definitely several seniors in rent stabilized housing who it is a godsend to. And who even that rent is hard to make. I’m so glad RS housing allows them to continue to live in dignity and in our community. Of course rent stabilized housing is not means tested. There are also lots of people who benefit from lower rents than their younger neighbors who have comfortable jobs and money to travel, etc. (I’m among them.) I talked to a WeHo resident who bought a small property from his landlord that he lived in, which came with two tenants… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
19 days ago

Horvath’s late addition to the story highlights the worst of politically disingenuous commentary. The cynic in me, combined with the chronology of her delayed responses (when she actually deigns to comment or reply to press inquiry or direct constituent questions!) make me question the authorship of some of her responses. One wonders how Horvath and Erickson would have voted had Heilman been on the ballot for this seat–remember that he voted for the RHNA appeal, and stated his opposition to the state taking away local control. This was a nakedly political act cloaked in specious “policy differences.” Bullpucky.

Pat Dixon
Pat Dixon
19 days ago

This was a very disturbing article to read. For Lauren to lose a seat on the Regional Council of SCAG because two of our own councilmembers decided not to vote for her is appalling! John Erickson is doing to her what he did to Lynn Hoppengarner on the Planning Commission, and we are the losers. Lauren deserved to be on the Regional Council. And John Erickson does not deserve to be on our city council.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
19 days ago

Why is Lauren Meister talking about policy when this is clearly just about politics? Horvath and Erickson have ambitions to move up the political ladder and making an ally in Culver City makes good political sense when your primary focus is about what is best for your own political career. When John Heilman was on the City Council he kept tighter control over his minions and something like this would not have happened. I guess we still need an adult in the room to keep a veneer of civility in the Council play pen.

Vigilant
Vigilant
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Credibility and authenticity is putting values of the community one serves first. This is not rushing an adult sorority. At this level one should know how to moderate policy in the political arena.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
19 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Well put except describing the wannabe new clique as an “adult sorority” is being very charitable.

Vigilant
Vigilant
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Let’s try the fastest recall in history before John Erickson has an opportunity to poison the well. Hopefully someone will appoint Horvath out of our immediate orbit and Weho may have an opportunity to appoint a new council member that is invested in the life and credibility of the city.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
20 days ago

Meister is the only serious person on the city council.

BrownEyedBoy
BrownEyedBoy
21 days ago

She/Her Horvath literally said this is not about our City!

Intentions are clear—until you run somewhere else honey, it is about our City.

Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
21 days ago

part 2 ounds like the new members have entered, untainted with so many efforts to subvert the CA Brown Act, made because small Cities, like WeHo and the rest, ran them less like a Democraticlly elected City and more as the big donets big money, let crooks control the Council Members and this the city. CAN MS HORVATH BE REPROGRAMMED FROM THE CULT LIKE TEACHINGS TO KEEP THE LAST GENERATION OF NEWLY ELECTED COUNCIL MEMBERS FROM BEING ABLE TO EXECUTE THEIR SMALL CITY POWERS AND NOT LET THEM INTERACT WITH RESIDENTS, INSTEAD OF FALSE THREATS THAT VIOLATING THE BROWN ACT… Read more »