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.