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Council Finalizes El Mirador Agreement

The City Council agrees to the development agreement for the historic El Mirador apartments on a 3-2 vote.

West Hollywood’s City Council finalized its approval for the rehabilitation of the historic 83-year-old El Mirador apartment building at its Tuesday night meeting, but not before debating the merits of the agreement during a protracted hour-and-a-half long discussion.

At its for the seven-story, 32-unit Spanish Colonial Revival apartment building on the northeast corner of Sweetzer Avenue at Fountain Avenue to convert to either an urban inn or condominiums. (For a more ).

Councilmember John Heilman and Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land were opposed to the agreement, saying while they wanted to see the aging building restored, they were fearful of setting a precedent that other landlords of aging historic apartment buildings might later try to use to get a similar deal.

City Attorney Mike Jenkins assured the Council the development agreement was written in a way not to create precedent.

Mayor Jeff Prang called the agreement a lose-lose situation for the city and a win for the building’s owner, Jerome Nash. To reiterate that it was not establishing precedent, Prang said, “Nothing like this will ever come before the Council again and get my vote.”

Councilmember John D’Amico said the vote wasn’t the beginning of a precedent, but rather the end of an era because circumstances like this would never happen again.  

Councilmember John Duran said the situation was the convergence of land use, historic preservation and rent stabilization policies, each of which has different priorities. Duran said the Council was struggling because it had never before had to determine how to balance all three concerns.

Which Use for the building?

The Council seemed most concerned about how Nash intended to use the building once it is rehabilitated at an estimated $4 million to $5 million price tag – condo, apartments or urban inn.

(Since Nash used the Ellis Act to evict the building’s tenants in September 2010, state law requires the building must remain empty for five years before he can return the building to the rental market at market rates; if he re-enters the rental market prior to that, he must first offer the units back to the Ellised tenants at the same rents they previously paid).

The Council wanted to lock in which of the three options Nash would use with approval of the agreement, the Council favoring the condos the most and the urban inn the least.

Jenkins said there was no way of predicting what the market would be like once the restoration is complete, explaining that the condo sales might be off, so Nash might have to explore other options. Thus the need for multiple options.

. Jenkins also conveyed to the Council that the urban inn was Nash’s desire.

Fees waived

Part of the development agreement includes waiving of almost $1 million in fees, $924,000 of which would have been paid into the city’s affordable housing fund.

The Council was unwilling to forgo that amount of money if El Mirador became an urban inn, a commercial venture. Since the Council was not keen on that option to begin with, it decided to create a disincentive for the urban inn.

The Council inserted language into the development agreement calling for Nash to pay the $924,000 into the affordable housing fund over a 15-year period if he chose the urban inn option.

The Council then approved the agreement on a 3-2 vote. Land and Heilman voted against it.

opinion September 06, 2012 at 06:36 AM
"artisan made" by Marvin Windows, one of the largest window mfrs in the US.
Paul September 06, 2012 at 06:53 AM
Is the building safe? It may need to be up graded to code regarding earthquakes. It is a beautiful building and restoring it to a boutique hotel would be lovely!
Manny September 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
That's your "opinion" but it's incorrect. If you were at the Sept 4th City Council meeting you would have heard the city attorney and planning dept say that an application to change the windows was never submitted.
Manny September 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Makes you wonder why he didn't submit an application to the city.
Isabel September 06, 2012 at 03:37 PM
And installing water sprinklers throughout.
opinion September 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
@ Manny: Choe's narrative isn't perfect, but it's very close. An application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the windows was indeed submitted. It was not approved, but it was submitted.
Chloe Ross September 06, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Thank you "opinion".
Manny September 06, 2012 at 04:33 PM
@opinion, If you're interested, go to the video of the Sept 4th council meeting posted on the city's website. The time line of the application discussion is two minutes long and it starts at 01:12:23. There you will find that an application was never submitted.
Chloe Ross September 06, 2012 at 05:18 PM
First: In 2007 the glass fell out of a fourth floor window of the El Mirador. WeHo Code Compliance cited Nash and told him to fix the window. Rent Stabilization gave tenants a rent reduction. Should have ended the problem. Wrong. 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.
Chloe Ross September 06, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Second: When Nash spoke this summer to the CC after his intial solution was denied in a previous meeting, he spoke regarding his proposed solution - demolish the building and move on; this is what was said. 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 during 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.
Chloe Ross September 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Last: 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. And this was the nice part. So if he never applied why did he have replacement windows custom made that someone in a position of authority at least saw at City Hall and told him no. Is it incumbent on hte porperty owner to first apply, spend the money on examples of the proposed replacement and then be told no. I know someone in CH saw the windows. Where mistakes made? You betcha' - But why make Nash the villain when his best and vested interest in El Mirador as a rental property was to his benefit. Sounds personal to me.
long time resident September 06, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Regulations, burocracy,rentcontrol. Three elements to destroy a building. When the city forces owners to rent for way below what it costs to upkeep, buildings deteriorate.This luxury building was considered affordable housing??? What a crock. Regulators made their bed now they have to sleep in it!!!!
michael September 06, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The Heilman super brain......a West Hollywood treasure.
Manny September 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Sunset Lanai is looking a lot like El Mirador.
Brian Hamilton September 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Manny: why can't you stick to the subject being discussed, rather than attempt to create a distraction with term limits as a strawman argument?
Brian Hamilton September 06, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Question: if Nash chooses the "urban in" option, what sort of parking space requirements are included in that arrangement? 24 parking spaces for commercial establishments of that size would not be tolerated anywhere.
Brian Hamilton September 06, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Chloe: your summary and opinion seem plausible and accurate. Nash was backed into a corner by the City, so he used his trump card. What a fine mess. I'm not sure if this agreement is a solution.
Chloe Ross September 06, 2012 at 06:40 PM
More's the pity.
Lynn Russell September 06, 2012 at 09:00 PM
It is always amazing to see such an acute grasp of the facts on this and so many items of greater and lesser import. You must be buried in document heaven reviewing all the pesky details of myriad issues.
joninla September 06, 2012 at 10:18 PM
You may be a 'long time resident' but ... Please don't confuse the reader ..... "Regulators" have nothing to do with the rental problem for landlords, tenants and the residents who call weho 'home'. To politely correct you, to place the blame correctly, the problem was caused by and continues with the entrenched on-going decisions of The West Hollywood City Council and City Manager. But that too is misleading. I don't know where you came from before weho, but sometimes NAMING NAMES is necessary to know who is screwing everyone (landlords and tenants alike) in our city. John Heilman (and Abby Land who's vote is in lock-step with Heilman after he purchased her in exchange for a job and salary for Ms. Land exceeding $250,000 a year at the Trevor Project) working privately and secretly with our City Manager to maximize profits (far above normal averages for investors) for new private developers who have 'made contributions' to campaign funds is responsible. Heilman/Land have been telling a story about putting renters and their protection as the top priority while destroying the inexpensive or low to middle class rental units in favor of NEW very high end rentals and condos. The 'victims' are really the landlords doing nothing wrong. This El Mirador case is a good example of the problem, the lies, the hiding of truth, blaming the victim, and completely neglecting the city and the lives of the residents affected.
joninla September 06, 2012 at 10:22 PM
@ Chloe Ross EXCELLENT CHOLE! Great factual information and probably one of your best and informative (among many) writings here on Patch. Most of your 'facts' I too have independently learned and can confirm are correct. Thank you for doing the work and sharing your information. :)
Chloe Ross September 07, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Is that directed at anyone in particular Lynn. I read a great deal about almost everything, have an excellent memory and am fascinated by a wide array of subjects. The devil is in the pesky details - and it's usually smarter to be aware of the devil you know than the devil you don't. Cuts back on pesky surprises. than the devil you don't. Thanks for your comment. And to joninla. Thank you very much for yours.
Manny September 07, 2012 at 01:40 AM
The one very big detail that you have left out in your chronicle of events is that the landlord did not submit an application to put in new windows. Even after the HPC denial he was instructed to file an application but chose not to. Was the HPC decision the final word?
Chloe Ross September 07, 2012 at 04:06 AM
The city saw the windows and dismissed them before an application was filed. Why would any savvy real estate bizillionaire spend additional filing fees to be shot down. It seems to me he acted prudently since it had been made abundantly clear the windows would not pass muster. Apply for what, Manny - another kick in the teeth. Jerome Nash is widely held in low esteem throughout the city. I suggest - but with nothing but a suspicion - that this had more to do with hating Jerome Nash than it did new windows. I believe the city did not, in its wildest imagination, expect Nash to Ellis the building and he called them on it. I have heard both sides of the story - directly from Nash and from the CC chambers - It took the threat of a wrecking ball to settle the matter. on whose shoulders does this detail rest? If you were being really candid - all you would have to say is - I believe the city and I would accept that. It's honest and I would not attempt to dissuade you. You are entitled to your opinion and I to mine. I am very fond of facts - not excuses or minutiae. I believe Nash far more than I do the CC. Both sides made mistakes along the line.
Chloe Ross September 07, 2012 at 04:16 AM
And FYI - Jerome Nash and I are not friends. I spoke to him one time near the end of this ordeal. Once.
joninla September 07, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Personally I am very pleased to see I am not alone and I think others too had developed a totally incorrect belief, feeling and opinion(s) over time which have recently (when put in context over such a long period of time) changed a full 180 degrees about the saga of the El Mirador and the Charterers we've followed. MR NASH - was wrongly maligned and to such a terrible degree, I think there is merit to a possible defamation of character against the known false creators of untrue formal allegations about a businessman's profession and professionalism within his specialty, residential apartment ownership and development in this case. Everyone was harmed to some degree by the City's actions over this intentionally drawn out saga. The now gone tenants were the most obvious big losers. But all people living around the El Mirador were affected, and the cost and The WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY by the City over this story (and however many real issues never made it to the active agenda) is a good reason why so many people are expressing their feelings with the term limits petition that even if not effective in forcing change, it is making a clear statement about both the feelings of the residents towards City Hall AND the lack of any other means of expressing that feeling in a group voice. Thanks Chole. Some people can't comprehend facts, so I wouldn't bother, but like people actually voting Romney, need to be addressed for stupidity.
opinion September 07, 2012 at 06:26 AM
For someone who so often questions things that are said at Council meetings, you're awfully ready to believe that question and answer in the video. Consider the possibility that the question was answered wrong. Because it was. And then consider that it wouldn't really serve the City's interest to correct the misimpression.
opinion September 07, 2012 at 07:06 AM
"Even after the HPC denial ..." OK, here's a question for you: denial of what, if not an application? If there was a formal HPC denial, there was obviously a formal application to deny. Yeah--there's the problem. And HPC is never the final word. Any commission's decision can be appealed to Council.
Frank Parks September 07, 2012 at 11:25 AM
sure, a boutique hotel with no parking in a residential area, near a street that is about to be made less tolerable by adding bike lanes, sure, great idea...
Frank Parks September 07, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Manny, seems to me like you are just here to create problems, why don't you move on over to another patch?

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