Planning Commission Votes Down Condo Conversion

City panel finds a zoning loophole to deny request to turn apartment building under construction into condominiums.

After serious debate and some legal maneuvering, the West Hollywood Planning Commission voted Thursday to reject a plan to convert a four-unit apartment building currently under construction into condominiums.

In 2007, the city approved an application to build a three-story, four-unit apartment complex on the northeast corner of Orlando and Rosewood avenues. That building is partially built, but the owner of the property now wants permission to sell the units as condos, saying that is what he wanted to do all along.

Since the city wants to encourage the building of rental units rather than condominiums, it's easier for proposed apartment buildings to get approved. The Orlando Avenue building project was approved by city staff and never came before the Planning Commission.

If it had started as condominiums, it would have gone through a different approval process, one that included the Planning Commission from the outset.

Members of the commission expressed anger at the property owner's attempt to switch to condos “at the 11th hour,” as Commissioner Marc Yeber phrased it.

Commissioner Roy Huebner said he was uncomfortable with how the property owner was handling the conversion request, especially given that he said it was his intention all along.

Since state law says a city cannot compel anyone to be in the rental business, the commission initially felt it had no choice but to approve the condo request.

West Hollywood Assistant City Attorney Christi Hogin said developers frequently use this legal maneuver to switch from apartments to condos at the last minute. “We know it is a problem, but we can’t punish those that take advantage of it,” Hogin said.

However, the commission got creative and found a loophole to deny the request. In 2007, that parcel of land was zoned for three-story buildings. Since the passage of the new General Plan, it is now only zoned for two-story buildings.

The commission said none of the project’s construction permits would be good since they did not meet the current two-story zoning requirements. Consequently, the commission voted 5-2 to deny the request.

Commissioner Donald DeLuccio, one of the two who voted to approve the request, told Patch after the meeting he felt the commission had a good argument about the permits, but was stretching things to deny the request.

Commissioner David Aghaei cast the other vote to approve it. Aghaei told Patch he felt the issue before the commission was more about how the land was being recorded in public documents as opposed to the process through which the application was handled.

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Wendy February 09, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Everyone is dumb except you right????????????? I would like to take a look at your command post lol
joninla February 11, 2012 at 01:21 AM
I walk by the project today and there is much more to the situation than the article reveals.
Ken C June 05, 2012 at 06:25 AM
The appeal was understandably approved by the city council this evening. I was in opposition until I heard that the person who owns it now is not the same person who applied for this development to be apartments in 2007. The new owner bought this development in 2010 and is now requesting the change to condos. Since city codes are the same for apartments as they are for condos the only difference is that there will be owners instead of tenants living in the dwelling. Had the council not approved the appeal, it would have opened the city to a law suit that the city could not win because state law is on the owner's side.
joninla June 05, 2012 at 07:32 AM
This is just an intellectual discussion (I don't live near or care - I just saw the previous meeting by mistake, thinking it was a different project) but it is actually a very disturbing example of the type of improper use of elected power of office, the local process and appointee's duties. The City Council and Planning Commission are on the smallest scale of our system of government, the 'executive' branch for our small local jurisdiction. They are not in any way empowered (and specifically separated from any ability) to also act as a review or "judicial branch' of a government of 'checks and balances.' It was clear from the well spoken deputy city attorney that the word 'discretion' as used in the law did not mean, or in this case, give the Planning Commission any legal/appointed/authorized ability to vote using any discretion at that vote, to deny what was just a procedural properly filed step in what was a properly executed project to date. They knew it would expose the city to a law suit, but intentionally voted using powers not anywhere close to their appointed authority as sworn to uphold as official Planning Commissioners. They would have to approve it now, but in the mean time, they improperly and with no power chose to impose a financial penalty to a person who followed the law. There was additional costs from the delay, loans, interest, layoffs ... which was an illegal pecuniary fine 'because they judged him 'not nice'' Separation of Powers?
joninla June 05, 2012 at 07:35 AM
(not to mention the additional costs to the City for holding yet another public noticed hearing on this project - knowing it was a 'penalty delay tactic' for a very common and legal (according to our City Attorney) process all developers have always had the option to exercise - lie or no lie. In this case, he didn't even lie - he was open about the procedure he was going to follow from the outset.


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