Before it detached itself from Los Angeles County to become its own city Nov. 29, 1984, West Hollywood was known as a dense creative mecca. Artists, activists, and progressive minds inhabited this 1.9-square-mile "bohemian haven." So when it came time to coin a motto, the choice was obvious: the Creative City.
People who craved change and questioned the status quo flooded the small but politically expansive town. The city of West Hollywood was founded on the notion of protecting the rights of its residents--renters, senior citizens and human rights in general.
Unfortunately, West Hollywood has put its creative mojo on hold. With a City Council that has reigned for 25 years, the future of the Creative City and all it stood for is dwindling away. The current power base has entrenched itself in creating an "overdevelopment" playground within the city. Power is concentrated in the hands of five people who have made it their mission to give over the Creative City to developers, corporations, big business and their own self-interests.
"There is no cultural buzz in the city. The businesses currently flooding the city are all corporations and developers," said Hassan Sayyed, a resident and creative director of West Hollywood-based apothecary line Maison Hassan. "Frankly, let's face it, developers are not creative."
West Hollywood has more than 35,000 residents but only 18% of those people turn out to vote. What has happened to the once politically minded residents who inhabited the city, claiming what was rightfully theirs?
"There is no reason to get involved. There is no vested interest for anyone in the city to do so anymore," Sayyed said. "Our current leadership has given us no interest to get involved."
We can drive through the city and see historically important buildings that have shaped the city's identity, such as Mary Pickford's studios known as the Lot; the Formosa Cafe and the Sunset Tower Hotel; and the homes of Hollywood legends Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, the Barrymores, and Jim Morrison's last known address, but one has to wonder what will become of these structures?
The residents of West Hollywood have lost, or are in the process of losing, architectural gems such as famous wardrobe stylist Edith Head's home, the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip and the former Elixir Tea Garden.
"The city of West Hollywood is the Creative City with a lot of impactful, historic architecture, yet residents of the city have allowed a non-creative City Council to demolish historic buildings," said resident Barbara Robertson. "That is not what a creative city does. We need to care about our architecture, we need to care about our culture because it shapes the foundation of our city."
So, as the reader, I challenge you to ask yourself and others if we call ourselves the Creative City and we truly are a city of creative people, why is there so much apathy? Why are we not caring about our local politics and the issues that directly affect us? Could it be because the majority of the people within the city are renters? Could it be because there are a lot of residents who are new to the city? Could it be because this is a transient city, where people move in and out constantly?
I challenge you to take a stand. I challenge you to vote. I challenge you to read news regarding the city of West Hollywood and its politics. Log onto the city website and attend the next City Council meeting. Know your neighbor because West Hollywood is a community. Refocusing on the ideals that the city was founded on will bring about change again. There is power in numbers, and the time to act is now.