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City Council Rejects El Mirador Plan

The City Council denies a proposal to turn the historic El Mirador apartment building into an urban inn or condominiums, but invites the owner to resubmit a new plan incorporating its suggestions.

The West Hollywood City Council denied a plan for rehabilitating the historic apartment building during its Monday night meeting, but invited the owner to resubmit a plan taking Council comments into consideration.

Built in 1929, the 7-story, 32-unit Spanish Colonial Revival building that sits on the northeast corner of Fountain Avenue and Sweetzer Avenue has been vacant for the past two years.

Jerome Nash, who bought the deteriorating building in 2002, tried for four years to do renovations, but said he was continually thwarted by various city regulations and commissions. Frustrated, Nash evicted all the tenants under the Ellis Act and went out of the rental business in fall 2010.

Since the city doesn’t want to see El Mirador deteriorate further while its sits empty, the city and Nash worked out a development agreement to rehabilitate the building and then reopen either as an urban inn or condominiums.

The Council began hearing this proposal when it couldn’t reach a consensus.

Council Comments

Councilmembers John Duran and John D’Amico were in favor of working out some kind of agreement for the property saying they didn’t want to see this “jewel” deteriorate further and possibly face the wrecking ball.

Councilmember John Heilman and Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land didn’t want to see El Mirador demolished, but also worried about setting a precedent since there are other historic apartment buildings which may want the same deal.

Mayor Jeff Prang, who had to leave early, said the city shouldn’t be creating solutions for a single property and needed to establish a uniform policy for all historic properties.

D’Amico, who is an architect and has helped rehabilitate other historic buildings, said the city must act quickly because El Mirador will likely only last another 12-18 months before the roof collapses.

Parking requirements

Parking became a central point of debate as El Mirador only has 24 parking spaces in its parking garage. If approved as condominiums, the city zoning code would require it to have 63 parking spaces – 2 spaces per unit. If approved as an urban inn, the code would only require 16 spaces – .5 spaces per unit.

Prang said he didn’t feel an urban inn was appropriate for that location, even if the parking did work for the urban inn plan.

While the Council was more open to the condo conversion idea, it was reluctant to put an extra 39 cars on the street in an area of town that already has a shortage of street parking.

In the end, the council voted 3-2 to deny the request without prejudice. D’Amico and Duran voted against it.

By denying the request without prejudice, Nash can return to the Council with a new proposal without going through the application process again. The Council encouraged Nash to come up with a proposal that combines the condo and urban inn ideas that works out to 24 parking spaces.

Manny July 03, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Can this building go back to being a rental? Maybe the City needs to reevaluate the regulations that frustrated Mr Nash and drove him to the Ellis Act. As I recall, he wanted to replace the old windows with new ones and that was a major bone of contension. Can that be reassessed? Seems to me this building is best suited as a rental.....as it's always been.
joninla July 04, 2012 at 09:27 AM
Interesting question. If he 'went out of business' in 2010, doesn't the Ellis Act prohibit re-entering the rental business for ?? 2 years ?? Perhaps all the delays are in sync with the owner's plans to re-enter the rental business once the legal time requirement has been met? It's hard to tell who the favors when making their decisions. As for 'setting precedent' - the rare and unique gem that is the El Mirador would not be setting precedent for any other building since none other are like this truly unique building (the good and the bad).
Todd Bianco July 04, 2012 at 03:12 PM
In WeHo, I think there is a 10 year period after a building has been withdrawn from the rental market under the Ellis Act in which if the landlord does go back into the rental business, the units have to be rented at the rates that were in effect at the date of withdrawal plus MAR adjustments. If this landlord does nothing to the building in that 10 year period, it will pretty much just crumble from neglect. And I doubt this landlord wants to go back to renting this building in WeHo. How about just letting him make it into condos; however, if the building doesn't meet current code parking requirements, NONE of the new residents/owners will be entitled to guest or car-specific parking passes. Disclose that to prospective buyers and see how well those units sell. You know, let the "free market" work for the owner/developer.
joninla July 04, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I would agree - but the neighborhood is already in a street parking crisis, so even if people chose to buy while knowing no parking, it would adversely affect what has been said to be a terrible parking situation for that zone. Having never seen the inside, I can guess only that reducing the number of units by combining/reconfiguring the units to make it a 12 unit building (24 parking spaces, 2 per unit) would seem the only possible condo-conversion possibility. Perhaps a full floor penthouse and then 2 units per floor. I still suggest my original idea that the City buy the property, properly restore and preserve it and then make it low income/affordable housing for existing long term weho residents who have been evicted elsewhere under the Ellis Act and offer them the same rent they were paying to meet the primary goal of the City in protecting Renters. Building new low-income units for non-weho residents is the opposite of protecting the existing long term renters.
Brian Hamilton July 05, 2012 at 05:26 AM
I agree with you, Manny. That seems like the most viable solution.
Chloe Ross July 05, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I suspect if the name Jerome Nash had not been in play - this would not still be an issue.
Weho Resident July 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Wow, I hate to be rude, but please be sure you have your facts right before making pronouncements. As for windows, Mr. Nash wanted to put aluminum sliders of a quality level so poor, they didn't meet code for any building whatsoever. Imagine that gem of a building without those original windows and it's suddenly ugly an awkward and ugly building which provides low quality accommodations. He was uncooperative and inflexible. For all we know he staged the incident as a pretense to empty the building and put it's residents on the street. If Mr. Nash had not been involved, it would still have permitted an enormous problem in parking had it been approved. Perhaps a landlord who hasn't proved to be so harmful to the city and it's residents might have gotten the benefit of the doubt, but it would be an insult the the residents of West Hollywood to reward Mr. Nash for bad behavior. As for whether or not it will last, that would be a tragic consequence of the developments if it is damaged from neglect, but it's the unrealistic and irresponsible behavior of landlords that made owning buildings like this problematic. If he couldn't make money reponsibly running the building at the price he purchased it at, he shouldn't have bought it. We shouldn't be rewarding stupid ownership decisions, either. It's a business and he ran it badly. He has no right to make money this way. Let him sell it at a loss at a price low enough to let a responsible new owner do what needs to be done.
Brian Hamilton July 16, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Hear, hear! I agree 100%.
Stv July 19, 2012 at 06:04 PM
when that building was a rental... i can guarantee you there were more then 16 cars in use for the total building. the others parked on the street. gosh, maybe some of the sunset club goers might have to pay to park at a lot on sunset. what a concept. with all that new parking coming up at city of weho new automated parking garage... whats the problem..... lol

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