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.