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.
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.