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Council Tables El Mirador Hearing Until July

Unable to reach a consensus, the City Council votes to table making a decision on a plan to rehabilitate the historic El Mirador apartment building.

The West Hollywood City Council tabled a discussion about rehabilitating the historic apartment building during its Monday night meeting when it became obvious that the Councilmembers were not going to reach a consensus.

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 which the city designated as a “cultural resource” in 1992.

The with the provision that it have final say over the type of windows used for the building.

However, the , saying that it would not be suitable for condominiums as it only has 24 parking spaces, 39 fewer than the 63 required by city zoning ordinances.  

The Commission also rejected the urban inn idea saying that the building does not meet the city’s definition of an urban inn which has a maximum height of two stories and has at least ten percent of its total square footage as a common area for guests to interact.

Council Weights In

While several public commenters discussed Nash’s reputation for Ellising buildings and not doing proper upkeep on his many rental properties, Councilmember John Heilman pointed out that the Council was not there to evaluate Nash, but rather to hear a specific proposal.

Councilmember John Duran said that when faced with choosing between the historic-preservation aspect or the land-use aspect of the plan, he had to go historic.

“This is one of the handful of gems that define the city,” said Duran, noting that he didn’t want to see the building face the wrecking ball. Even though the city designated the property a cultural resource, Duran said that Nash could still fight in court for the right to demolish it. “I don’t want to be responsible for its demolition.”

Heilman said he didn’t want to see El Mirador demolished either but worried about creating a precedent which other owners of historic buildings in need of rehab might try to use.

Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land agreed that the Council couldn’t create a precedent, noting that neither the condo nor the urban inn option were feasible. She agreed with the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the city needs to come up with a comprehensive plan for dealing with historic buildings in need of repair.  

Councilmember John D’Amico said that demolishing the property was unlikely to happen since current zoning regulations would only allow a four-story building with large setbacks from the street.

“There is no financial incentive to demolish it and build something 30 percent smaller,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico suggested approving the building for 24 condos since it has 24 parking spaces and then allowing Nash to create a gym area or meeting space area out of the other eight units. Alternatively, he suggested making the other eight units affordable rental units that don’t include parking.

No Consensus

By this point it was 11:45 p.m. and Mayor Jeff Prang had left the meeting at 11 p.m. since he had an important early meeting for his work. The Council was deadlocked and needed Prang’s fifth vote to break the tie.

Duran suggested they table the matter until the next meeting when Prang could cast the deciding vote. The Council voted 4-0 to table it until its July 2 meeting. Prang will have to watch the video of the meeting to get up to speed on the proceedings he missed.

Although he was present during most of the discussion, Nash walked out before the Council took its vote to table the matter. Nash also left the Planning Commission meeting before it took its vote.

me June 19, 2012 at 06:32 PM
oh give me a damn break!!!...."NOW" the city is concerned about parking???....make them condos already....the buildng has been around that long and somehow managed wih that many spaces all along, so whats new???....the city didnt hesitate to approve the opening of laurel hardware restaurant (opens this saturday we're told) with ZERO parking.....or is there a double standard for residential opposed to business??....also, i don't think many people know that restaurants who create outdoor dining are allowed to have even FEWER parking spaces.....WHAT???....how does this make a difference?....the first question residents should always ask about any newly built development (business or residnetial) is how much parking will there be.....you will be dismayed at how little is required, and parking in our city is only going to get worse so why aren't we planning for the damn future, let alone the present???....UGH
90069 June 19, 2012 at 06:39 PM
D’Amico has the best strategy. Allow the developer to convert to as many condos as the parking requirements can tolerate (maybe even more than just 1 vehicle per condo, I'm not sure what the code is). With whatever is left the developer can turn into affordable housing. As a person who does not like the idea of "affordable housing" this is one of the rare cases it works. The issue is that this property just does not have the parking to be a feasible hotel or fully maxed out condo. That area of WeHo is already congested with street parking. Or the developer can return the property back to market rentals. The developer didn't do his due dillegence when he tried to "flip" this property by getting extra profit potential by selling the land off as condos. It was not developed to make that feasible. The City Council should not feel sorry for the guy...
90069 June 19, 2012 at 06:40 PM
If the developer is upset he can sell the property as it would still fetch a great deal on the market. He just paid too much for a failed flip opportunity.
90069 June 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Restaurants with patio dining promote more local drop-ins, which do not require car trips. There are private parking lots service the Hardware Bar, not so for this building which is in a residential part of town as opposed to fronting ROUTE 66, a major COMMERCIAL boulevard in the city...
me June 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
90069: sorry, but i just dont even understand what you are trying to say about parking for laurel hardware.....this was a hardware store for maybe 60 years with maybe 5 customers at a time.....now the city has approved a bar/restaurant with only on-street parking and a "valet lot" 2 blocks away at hayworth (one stop auto)....if successful, this place will be full of patrons struggling for a parking space day and night.....the french quarter and B of A are off limits, so where will these folks park????....although the "city" may try to con us to think outdoor eating will attract more locals thus less parking needed, i say hogwash!!!
me June 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM
90069: although you may be right about the owners intentions, it's crazy to think there will be more cars with owners (condos) then renters.....to clarify, i mean any BIGGER problem than there already was with renters.....no, i think they are trying to punish the owner of the building....but he shouldn't be able to slap up any old cheap windows he wants on this beautiful historical building either
Todd Bianco June 20, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I live in an historic property and I know first-hand how developers don't care about historic structures. Their preference is to demolish and rebuild and to that end, they often let a property fall into disrepair until the city gives them permission to demolish or cave into their demands. This was what happened on San Vicente Blvd, between Cynthia St & the San Vicente Inn. The result was the poster child for bad development, The Desmond. Sure, those "old shacks" were falling down. The owner allowed it to happen because the land was more valuable to be sold as a large block to a developer rather than keep the quaint turn-of-the-20th-century feel of Old Sherman. I cringe at the thought of the beautiful El Mirador getting some cheap vinyl or aluminum windows that will destroy the look of the building. The City should hold the owner's feet to the fire and lot let it be destroyed, one little cut at a time. I like John D'Amico's idea or approving it for 24 condo units and then letting the owner do what he wants with the extra units. Perhaps a nice private gym for the well-heeled residents or even private office space for owners only. He could also simply increase the square footage of the 24 units to make them more attractive to buyers. Who doesn't like a larger master bedroom and bathroom, right? Or extra closet and storage space. There are lots of possibilities. Just don't make a "special deal" with this one owner/developer.
Truth for the People June 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Or he could repair the damages he caused in the building and keep it as it was intended for ... an apartment building. The city has bent enough rules for this selfish angry man and he still takes advantage of these weak councilmen. I hope John grows balls and says no.no.no.
joninla June 21, 2012 at 10:02 AM
I agree with your suggestion about Reconfiguring the existing units so that the number of units for sale would match the existing parking spots (opposite of normal planning - but with the fixed ratio problem, the only solution would have to come from changing the number of units. A high end condo with large units would likely sell. Expensive small units without adequate parking tend not to sell well.
joninla June 21, 2012 at 10:10 AM
AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE CITY IS PROTECTING RENTERS: The so maligned 'Ellis Act' is not something evil, but affords at least some monetary compensation to renters who are forced out because that is the right of the property owner under State Law. Without the 'Ellis Act' there would be unlimited ability for property owners to evict tenants without any compensation or the mandatory waiting times. But so may renters have been evicted and the City has failed to maintain the promise to the voters, this now provides a excellent opportunity for everyone's benefit. The City should buy (at fair market value - under eminent domain if necessary) the property to protect and preserve it's historical value to the city. Then refurbish the building and make it available FIRST to WeHo Residents who have been evicted from what the city calls an 'Ellis Eviction' and provide rental units at the same rate as the long term tenants who were evicted paid. There will be an income stream to the City from the rents to defer the cost to purchase and rehab the building, and the Cost will be born by the City which is primarily founded on Protecting Renters. (and not developers - Robo-garages and the pockets of City leaders being filled behind closed doors.)
long time resident June 23, 2012 at 05:27 AM
The building was obviously Ellised out, because the allowable rents did not cover the expense. There is no easy answer to this problem
Truth for the People June 23, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The building was Ellised by a greedy angry man ... who owns many buildings in the LA area and beyond. The El Mirador was making money until Nash bought into it. He housed empty apts and used just the income of the Rent Controlled tenants as sole income, yet more than half of the units sat empty which is not vacant would have been more than enough income to make all repairs. He used the Ellis Act to evict tenants that he didn't personally like. This isn't right to the city or the former tenants of El Mirador. This isn't about allowable rents as it is about reasons beyond the rents and loses.....
joninla June 23, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I don't argue the man's greedy intent. But in all ways (for good and bad) we live in a market economy and some people choose to make excessive greedy (but legal) profits from the stock market, and some people choose with the same intent to profit, to invest in property of all kinds, including residential apatment buildings. It leaeds to huge profits for some and those who do ofent get their reward from the poorest, weakest, vouceless people living in our society. If there were problems (which I've heard were ongoing and endless) with the owner while the apartment was being rented out, the City and its declaration of protecting renters should have long ago stepped in and assisted the existing tenants with any and all failures of the owner to maintain the building per code and statute. Now that the City (and its entire Rent Stabilization Board) has let the old tenants of the El Mirador suffer for so long AND THEN GET EVICTED it is hypocracy (and just wrong to point the finger everywhere but upon the City and its failure to protect the old long term residents of the great El Mirador. They spent close to a million dollars in llegal fees to try to destroy Terra but what did thety do/spend to protect the now evicted renters who voted for them because of their promises to protect?
joninla June 23, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Along the same lines, the public speaker at last monday's meeting who made it known (if the city didn't already know) that the same man has purchased another old buikding in the area. The City is on notice and I hope that speaker will seek the assistance at the very first violation of any kind this same landlord may do to this other building. Likewise from the first violation and unceasingly to protect the renters, the City must be involved and not just 'receive' any complaints from the renters, but do whatever is necessary, inckuding providing for and paying for any necessary legal representation the renters need to protect their rights while the new owner pushes all limits of the rights he does have as a property owner. don't let the city let this happen again then only blame the landlord. perhaps Mr. Arevalo's 'study' costing $220‚000 to investigate the 'feasibility' of moving city hall to the site of the current sherrif's station.
judson greene June 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I hope you folks know that the Ellis Act came about because of this landlord. The weekend following his invoking the Act I was at the book fair and talked with at that time Mayor Heilman. For 45 minutes we discussed really the only true intention of Mr. Nash. It was always about turning the building into a hotel. Assured by the Mayor it would never happen as there was no parking and no zoning for that to happen I'm sure John H. will stand by those reasons for it not to happen. John D. you ran on a platform and won Lindsey's s council seat to protect specifically those folks that were displaced. You should probably stick to something John D. You already backdealed our requests to place on the planning commission a person capable of sitting there without excess baggage and an agenda we wanted for the future.
joninla June 24, 2012 at 11:29 PM
First - I would hesitate before accepting any explanation about legal issues or a law from Heilman, based entirely on his repeated misrepresentations about several laws (for example the Brown Act, The Ellis Act, the undisclosed "law" requiring WeHo to increase its current density, the 'law' requiring 'the city' to pay for and build low income housing units for non weho residents). In fact at Monday's meeting, Chloe Ross tried to call out the City Council on their misrepresenting to the community the restrictions The Brown Act imposed on the Council supposedly prohibiting them from commenting during the only opportunity the public has to ask a question of our City Leaders. If you missed it, it was terrible but with tragic comic irony how John Heilman would not respond while she spoke, then made a stupid explanation why he 'chose' not to respond to ms. Ross, and on second public speaking, Ms. Ross what cut off before she could complete a sentence with an intense reaction from the Council - saying too late/wrong topic/can't discuss that now. It was shameful. Secondly, after what you report, I am more concerned as to why the City failed to assist the now evicted tenants from the landlords failure to maintain and leading to eventual full evictions given how familiar and knowledgeable Mr. Heilman is about that owner. Where was the City Created to Protect Renters? Spending money on vanity projects and ignoring renters being mistreated?
joninla June 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM
To clarify my opinion about Mr. Heilaman ... I don't know him personally, and whatever negative comments people have expressed about him, I will reject and point out any incorrect negative opinion that states Mr. Heilman is 'stupid'. That is one thing he is definitely NOT. From his education, experience and natural talents, he is extremely intelligent and knows how to not say things in such a way that it often gives a totally different 'take away message' from what was really said. That is actually true of most Lawyers when they are questioned about an issue they don't want to discuss or deal with.

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