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D'Amico Proposes City Funding for Apartment Renovations

Councilman John D'Amico says studies show renovating existing buildings creates jobs, helps reduce the city's carbon footprint. Council directs staff to explore options for funding.

City Council voted Monday night to have city staff explore ways to help apartment owners renovate and refurbish their aging apartment buildings.

The item introduced by Councilman John D’Amico would have staff explore financial assistance programs for upgrades and renovations offered by the state and federal government, as well as local nonprofits and utilities.

Citing studies showing it costs more to build new apartment buildings than to rehabilitate existing ones, D’Amico said it would help reduce the city’s carbon footprint by making buildings greener. He also said studies show renovating existing buildings would create more jobs than constructing new buildings does. 

“The majority of small business owners in West Hollywood are apartment owners,” said D’Amico. “This would help with the sad deterioration of our housing stock.”

The Council was in favor of the idea. “We all support the idea of having our housing stock improved," said Councilman John Heilman.

Affordable Housing Trust Fund money

Another aspect of D’Amico’s proposal met with resistance. D’Amico proposed using money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for low-interest loans for apartment rehabilitation.

Councilwoman Abbe Land was adamantly opposed to diverting any of the “precious funds” for affordable housing, even if it was for renovations. Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang also expressed trepidation about the idea.

Heilman was also opposed, worrying about apartment owners using such a loan to renovate a building and then turning around and using the Ellis Act to empty the building. He said safeguards would be needed to protect tenants.

Despite those reservations, the Council agreed to have staff study the idea, D’Amico pointing out that just because they explore it does not mean the Council has to adopt it. 

Another of D’Amico’s ideas was to increase the in lieu fee developers pay into the Trust Fund when they opt not to include affordable units in new buildings. Currently the in lieu fee is $11.51 per square foot of livable area of the entire project 

“We’ve never had in lieu fees that matched the cost of construction,” said D’Amico, suggesting a more appropriate fee would be closer to $200 per square foot. 

Council agreed that the in lieu fee should likely be increased and agreed to have staff investigate it.

Afterward, D’Amico told Weho Patch, “I’m glad my colleagues have agreed to move many of these items forward. We need to fix our housing. Much of our rent controlled housing is in dire straits. It’s time for us to take some action. It’s well past time.”

Repeal Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins Act

In a related matter, the Council also approved a proposal by Land and Heilman to have the city’s lobbyist in Sacramento try to get legislators to repeal the Ellis Act and the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. 

The Ellis Act allows landlords to evict all the tenants from a building and go out of the rental housing business. The Costa-Hawkins Act allows a landlord to increase the rent on a rent-stabilized unit to market rates after a tenant vacates a unit.

D’Amico questioned the purpose of lobbying for something that has no chance of passing given the current make-up of the legislature in Sacramento.

Land acknowledged it was unlikely to pass, but important to try nonetheless.

“I think we owe it to our residents to ask for things we know won’t happen, but we do it anyway,” said Land.

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Riley April 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I don't think the Council & the City should have so totally rejected D'Amico's idea to to open a discussion to help both renters and landlords. I revisited this article recently and wonder why the Council & City never rejected this practice as vehemently. Check it out and ask yourself did we ever get an explanation for this? http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/03/west_hollywood_credit_cards_paul_arevalo.php
joninla April 11, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Riley - EXCELLENT OBSERVATION! The City NEVER explains any of its actions and decisions. Yes most of the time they appear to have an explanation for each issue, but it is always from the dame mantra about the fundamental purpose of the city; Protecting Renters; Protecting and servicing the elderly and disabled ..... And my all time favorite bs explanation THE CITY WOULD LIKE TO BUT DOES NOT HAVE THE FUNDS TO CREATE SUCH A PROJECT. We are now living in a post 125 million dollar boondogle weho government and that 'not enough money' excuse no longer flies for any expense under 10 million .... Or don't build a 13 million parking garage.
Sheila Lightfoot April 12, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Manny, I think if we look at the City obligations under State Law, the City’s rent control laws and the facts in regards to our rental housing in light of the significant role it plays in our City, we can certainly, as a community, have a conversation about whether we can make it work better for the community. In general, I think most policies that have been around a long time need a fresh look from time to time to evaluate them in terms of continued effectiveness or necessity. The way the City is currently providing low-income housing and the price we’re paying in terms of increased height and density at least deserves some review by the public. Surely that can’t be a bad thing.
Sheila Lightfoot April 12, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Unfortunately, City Hall is where good ideas, common sense and accountability go to die.
joninla June 07, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Manny - kind of late post I know ... but .... you say government should not be in the business of subsidizing landlords (who are either property owners paying tax to the city or else resident landlords who both pay tax and have the same rights as all residents) but that is not really a 'business' to correct a messed up marketplace the city caused. Landlord/Tenant agreements are a form of business. Once the City put itself in the middle of the business transactions of the city's landlords and tenants, they really have an obligation (if they had the money - which no city - other than weho - has) to fix the disparity in normal market transactions and their mess around in 2 parties personal housing agreements. "The Business" the City is heavily involved in is subsidizing NEW developers by using city land and city money to build the new 'obligations' the developers agreed to in exchange for getting to build bigger, taller & larger. That's a business and not only shouldn't the City be in business with developers for profit, the giving city land, and spending city dollars to profit wealthy developers is criminal (if there weren't such tight lipped city officials and employees guarding the details of those transactions and residents so sure of their dying conviction to 'build low income housing' as a means of affecting the real lives of evicted tenants)

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