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City Council Approves El Mirador Agreement

The owner of the historic apartment building can rehabilitate the landmark building and convert it to an urban inn or condominiums.

The West Hollywood City Council gave the go-ahead for rehabilitating the historic El Mirador apartment building and converting it to either an urban inn or condominiums at its Monday night meeting. That approval came despite the owner of the building publicly chastising the Council for the five-year process that had led to that point. 

, but city staff brought the proposal back with new options for what to do with the 7-story, 32-unit Spanish Colonial Revival building constructed in 1929.

Following that July 2 meeting, Jerome Nash, who bought the building in 2002, told Weho Patch he intended to on the northeast corner of Fountain and Sweetzer avenues.

Councilmember John Duran said he didn’t want to see El Mirador meet the wrecking ball, calling it “one of the landmarks that define the city.”

Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said the building deserved to be preserved but didn’t think the development agreement for El Mirador was in the best interest of the city or the community. She wanted to wait until the city could come up with a comprehensive plan for rehabilitating the many aging apartment buildings in the city.

Councilmember John D’Amico said he didn’t know what the right answer was, but didn’t want to see the building torn down. He said he was willing to approve either the urban inn or condo option if it would preserve the building, calling it a chance for the Council to “make a mistake or do something great.”

Mayor Jeff Prang said he had agonized over the decision more than any other. He said that there was no good decision, but felt it would be a “tragedy” if the building was demolished. He said as long as the development agreement was structured so as not to create a precedent, he was willing to support the agreement.

The Council voted 3-1 to approve the agreement. Land voted against it. Councilmember John Heilman, who is traveling in Europe, was absent.  

Nash and City Attorney Mike Jenkins will now work out the specifics of the urban inn or condominium plan (or some combination of the two) and bring it back to the Council for final approval.

However, Nash told Weho Patch he was bothered that city staff had not sent him a copy of the proposal the Council was considering, that he hadn’t seen it until Monday morning.

“Obviously they are making a statement that they want to keep the building,” Nash told Patch after the Council’s decision. “But none of the staff options were discussed with me beforehand. That’s outrageous.”

During the meeting, Jenkins publicly apologized to Nash for the oversight.

Nash Gets His Chance to Speak

Prior to the Council approving the plan, Nash was given 10 minutes to speak. He used that time to air his frustrations about the five-year process he had endured trying to get the building rehabilitated.

In 2007, the glass fell out of a fourth floor window of El Mirador. The city’s Code Compliance Department cited Nash, telling him to fix the window, while the Rent Stabilization Commission gave the tenants a rent reduction.

Because the city designated the building a “cultural resource” in 1992, the Historic Preservation Commission had to approve any replacement windows. However, the Commission did not approve that request, saying it did not have guidelines about the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic windows. 

After attempting to negotiate some kind of agreement to get the building rehabilitated without success, Nash used the Ellis Act to evict the tenants and leave the rental business in Sept. 2010. The building has been vacant since that time.

Nash blasted the Council and the city for letting this situation escalate to the point where he felt forced to Ellis the building, a move about which he said he gave the city plenty of advance notice.

“You have done this building in,” Nash said. “I’m a property owner that wants to provide habitable conditions for tenants . . . blood is on your hands for Ellising properties.”

Prang acknowledged duirng his comments later that the city had made mistakes throughout the process, saying the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.

Nash criticized Land, saying he had made many calls to her office over the years trying to work out the situation, none returned until a few months ago.

“This building and the destruction of the building is on your neck,” Nash said to Land.

Land responded in her comments that she had not returned the phone calls because Nash had threatened a lawsuit against the city.  

Nash said Land also had spoken badly of him for Ellising the building, something he considered hypocritical since the city had used the Ellis Act to evict the tenants at Tara (1343 Laurel Avenue; a home donated to the city by its late owner).

Land said she had never attempted to hide the fact she didn’t like him Ellising the building, that she’s unhappy whenever a building is Ellised. She also acknowledged that the city had Ellised the tenants at Tara.

Nash also criticized Heilman, saying he had made almost 30 phone calls to him over the years trying to work on the situation, none of them were returned until after he had Ellised the building. Yet even when he and Heilman had a face-to-face meeting, Nash said they couldn’t come to terms.

Nash, who owns six other buildings in West Hollywood, said he would promise never to Ellis another building if Heilman would resign from the City Council.

“If he wants to show his true advocacy for tenants’ rights, Heilman step down. I will never ever do it again,” Nash said. 

As he was absent, Heilman could not respond to the charges.

joninla August 09, 2012 at 07:33 AM
I don't claim to know the details about the persons and personalities that has caused this clearly historic building to remain in vacant and why replacing non-original windows with new one's that look like the original is grounds for any issue the city must decide upon. As for his property rights, he has the same as all similarly classified 'historic' properties which is arguable more rights than non-historic property since by statute there is the possibility of getting past some of the otherwise fixed zoning and related restrictions. I know nothing about a 'negotiation' the City had but it sounds like if there was a negotiation, the City has nothing to lose and the property owner is being requested to comply with whatever arbitrary rules and restrictions a clearly biased local City Council my feel like imposing. There is nothing more obvious that the WeHo City council does not make planning, building and parking decisions for either the best interests of the City or to be as reasonably cost effective to the large but not unlimited annual budget for the entire city. If the City acted as it says is among its primary goals, to preserve/protect local historic buildings, they would be working to the owners benefit to ensure that the owner is financially motivated to keep and RESTORE historic buildings, not block every attempt while we have seen the building decay for years now.
opinion August 09, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I don't believe any owner of a historic property would agree with your assessment that they have "more rights than non-historic property" owners--just the opposite. You can get some waivers of code regulations, but they're more than offset by the restrictions that historic status imposes. And just out of curiosity, why would the City make planning decisions about private property "to be as reasonably cost effective to the large but not unlimited annual budget for the entire city"? What does that even mean?
WeHo Resident August 09, 2012 at 10:48 PM
This situation brings to light once again the problem of the City of West Hollywood not having term limits. With the exception of John D'Amico, the members of the City Council have served for far too long and made it quite apparent the only people that they are serving are themselves and their cronies, not their constituants. Yes, one can argue that we have open elections and if we want these people out someone else needs to run against them. The problem is they are far too entrenched from being in office too long. As a long term resident of West Hollywood, it is interesting to observe that City Hall has started to resemble a private sandbox rather than the seat of a community government.
Chloe Ross August 10, 2012 at 07:53 PM
He did in fact try to fix the window situation. Only two windows remained from the original building. He had wooden framed windows made to closely conform not only to the spirit and design of the building but would be better for the integrity of the building's leaking and make upkeep less costly and easier. Since the original windows had been replaced many times before Mr. Nash bought the building - the city seems to have singled out this property for whatever reason and would not allow the new windows to be installed. Considering the number of exemptions and exceptions made for other residents and owners - it begs for a real answer as to why WeHo exacted this punitive action on Mr.Nash when they knew he could Ellis the building. I think they didn't imagine he would. He did. Cui bono.
joninla September 04, 2012 at 02:22 PM
SEPTEMBER 2012 - IT'S BACK! Well it is back on the next Agenda. Notice how it was framed .... 1. The cost (loss) to the City of some $900,000 and there will be a recitation of the way the landlord 'Ellised Out the Tenants". Let's not forget ... Mr. Nash made a very credible clarification about the facts. The City Council refused to respond to Mr. Nash until the day after the 'Ellising' was completed. Likewise, let's not forget the City of WeHo attempted to "ELLIS-OUT" the Tenants of TARA, and spent over $900,000 in legal fees for the City alone trying to turn the charitable bequest of the property TO THE CITY over to a 'not for profit' that is a joint venture with the city and the biggest and richest developers in the city. Any 'evil Ellissing' is clearly being done most egregiousness by out own Sitting City Council (i.e. John Heilman, City Manager Paul, Abby's 250k a year vote for anything John tells her and a slew of misinformation about basic facts to the other voting City Council Members (those who even bother to pay attention).

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