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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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Larry Gross April 06, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Does West Hollywood City Councilmember John D’Amico’s Proposal to Subsidized Landlords With Public Affordable Housing Funds Indicate He’s the Apartment Association’s New Point Person? Days after West Hollywood Council Member John D’Amico’s shocking proposal to raid the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which provides a resource to create desperately needed affordable housing, in order to subsidize landlords by financially helping them make repairs to their building was firmly rejected by his Council colleagues, D’Amico was the featured guest at a meeting of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) West Hollywood Chapter. READ ABOUT IT >> http://bit.ly/HYKRrp
joninla April 06, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I am not going to read anything else you direct people do in your posts. You have no credibility and only what appear to me to be mislabeled flags about your cause. I hope others don't give this guy any more attention that I personally think he deserves ... Which is zero.
joninla April 06, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I believe that was the case for the City of Los Angeles. I do not know if the City of West Hollywood's rent control was the same and had the same provision or not.
joninla April 06, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I understand your sentiments, but objectively the situation you are in was inevitable in our market system. You may opposes a dime given to your landlord, but how would you feel if the City Paid for (in some manner) the costs to have the needed maintenance and repairs done to your unit - bypassing your landlords wallet? Just a rough thought - I don't know it could work, but would it be as offensive to you if you could get your apartment brought up to a decent standard at no cost to you and no profit to your landlord?
Sheila Lightfoot April 06, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Ali, doesn’t sound like you have a landlord that would ever qualify for a dime from the City since they probably wouldn’t be interested in a compact to improve and extend the longevity of their lower-rent units. But aside from that, you bring up another very good point. With all the bru-hah-hah we always hear from the Council about the need for housing, they have done an absolutely lousy job of code enforcement as regards landlords who have flaunted city codes. Sounds like you may have one of those landlords who selectively withholds maintenance from longer-term tenants hoping they will get fed up and move.
Sheila Lightfoot April 06, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Larry, as most folks who read these comments know, I tend to be very open to what others have to say. I’ve learned a lot from listening to my neighbors. But you, my friend, are so lost and out of touch. You have no clue about the reality in West Hollywood. Spend some time reading, doing some research and listening before you do any more preaching to West Hollywood residents. By the way, where do YOU live?
joninla April 07, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Ali - I think I should be more clear. I was an economics/business major at UCLA nothing to be proud of (even graduating with honors) because after 5 years I realized "Economics" is a total BS 'science' .... with the only exception (or as they say, the classic example of how the free market system works) being that no matter what is done, once you fix rents at a rate below the market rate, the results (no politics, ethics, opinions ... just factually from studies) the market for rental units will become distorted. Price = where the supply and demand meet. If you fix a price, then the supply will have constant pressure to decrease while the demand for lower than market rate rentals increases. It creates a mess. But what I was trying to make as my point was: When WeHo decided to create the city based on Rent Control, these KNOWN ECONOMIC FACTS about what it will do to the city's rental units after 25 years is exactly what we have, HEILMAN/LAND KNEW THEIR DECISION TO GRAB THE VOTES BY GIVING EVERYONE RENT CONTROL WOULD CAUSE THE EXACT PROBLEMS WE NOW FACE BECAUSE THE CITY DID NOT (AND STILL WON'T) ADDRESS THE NOW 'PLIGHT' OF THE REMAINING RENTERS WITH THE SAME DEGREE OF RHETORIC THEY BABBLE ON EVEN THESE DAYS ABOUT BEING A CITY ABOUT RENT CONTROL WHEN SPENDING THEIR MASSIVE ANNUAL CITY BUDGET FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS ON THEIR EGO PROJECTS WHEN IT SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SECURE RENTERS HOUSING AS PROMISED.
joninla April 07, 2012 at 10:22 AM
To try to sum up: D'Amico was actually making a very compassionate (albeit naive to the politics of the city) in actually trying to find a solution to the real problems the renters in WeHo have, especially people like you (and myself) who are on a fixed income (nobody can understand how difficult and scary it is to live with a fixed income unless they have been there). Although I do not believe in Rent Control in general (as being unfair) I do strongly believe WeHo has made a commitment and promise to the renters in weho both the right for rent control and the backing of the city and its political power to protect anyone who tries to deprive existing residents of their 'right' having lived and made decisions for up to 25 years based on that promise of stability. However much you dislike your landlord, keep in mind, there is always some conflict inherent in the relationship. But your highly distressing tension and living with constant worry and concern is not just a function of the 'economics' that can't be changed, but I do see and believe the city has actively sought to increase animosity between landlords who have some valid grounds to be upset and the tenants with the additional by: fees they impose on landlords of rent controlled units to pay an annual fee to the Rent Stabilization fund, and publicly declaring landlords 'enemy #1' to the renters who are victims of the city's failure to make their promises sustainable or even ensure code compliance at the minimum.
jimmy palmieri April 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I have to say, I must be lucky. Our building does regular upgrades and maintenace to our entire building and to each apt. when requested. Our building is maintained and looked spotless and beautiful. I think our management company who is now run by a younger generation of the same "family" realize the better the building the higher the new rents can be . No one here has ever been harassed out of the building. I do imagine however, that since this building was paid off since 1978, with 90 rents coming in, there is enough moneyl. I guess it must be the smaller buildings that are having problems. I am grateful for this apt. I have been here a while, and if not for rent control I wouldn;t be able to stay in West Hollywood. Many tenants may not know that there are maintenance request forms at city hall, that once filled out and given to the buildings owner/manager must be done in compliance with coed, or there will be a mediation . It's fairly simple. No one in my building ever waits more than 2 weeks for anything. Usually it is about 3 days. But then again, I live here......and I have a big mouth....and I inform my fellow renters....and of course the manager..
joninla April 07, 2012 at 08:03 PM
jimmy - thank you for the unspoken part of the issue. I am not a renter, but from conversations with both renters and small building landlords, your situation is very very common in WeHo. There are many small land owners who are upset with Rent Control but not really angry or does it affect their desire to keep their renal property (which they live in as well) upto and better than minimum standards. Likewise, I know a lot of renters who are not in love with their landlords (that's the norm ... Like but not love all but the exceptional landlords) but are in 'like' with them and there is a mutual relatively happy living situation for owner and renter. However the atypical stories is all we ever hear. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM. THERE ARE RELATVELY FEW TERRIBLE SITUATIONS IN OUR CITY .... WE HEAR ABOUT THEM ... AND THE CITY DOES NOTHING (or makes worse) THE STATUS OF THOSE TRULY BEING VICTIMIZED. WITH THE REAL PROBLEMS BEING FEWER THAN THOUGHT, THERE IS NO EXCUSE OG TIME OR MONEY FOR THE CITY TO HELP THOSE TENANTS RATHER THAN CARRY ON THEIR MEETING PROCESS AND ABANDONING THE FEW PEOPLE THAT ARE FACING UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS AT ANY PARTICULAR TIME. MEDIATION & MINIMAL FINANCIAL INPUT IS ALL THAT WOULD BE NECESSARY TO HELP AND PROTECT REAL PEOPLE RENTING AND BEING VICTIMIZED.
Ali April 08, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I should add that my apartment building underwent a "preemptive inspection" this summer that Abbe Land initiated. So my landlord had to fix many code violations in the building and upgrade many floors, etc. He did so with complaints, expecially where it came to my apartment. I had probably the fewest code violations and other problems but he argued over every bit of work he had to do in my apartment, expecially giving me a new kitchen floor. He had to give 4 or 5 apartments new kitchen floors but he only argued about mine, from what I know. He eventually gave in, but not without a lot of arguing. The building only has 8 units too. He gave me a new bathroom floor also even though it wasn't on the list. He gave us travertine tile. He painted the outside of the building also. So my building doesn't look run down from the outside. The problem is that none of the other tenants ever ask for maintenance like painting or window coverings. There are 6 of us that have lived here long enough to request it. One tenant waited over 20 years to ask for paint, carpet and drapes. So, of course, he didn't get a hassle other than the verbal assault one gets when calling.
Ali April 08, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Another didn't ask until I wrote a letter for her (she's Russian). She had been verbally asking for years but I told her they won't do anything until you write them a letter. They gave her some hell, but finally painted her apartment. Her carpet in her bedroom was over 20 yrs old and they wouldn't replace it until she threatened to take them to the Board. They had previously ripped her off and charged her a few hundred dollars for refinishing her hardwood floors when they didn't charge anybody else.
Ali April 08, 2012 at 04:14 AM
But now that the father of the family that owns the building passed away and the son has taken over, his dislike of me (I have no idea why, but it has been going on since his parents bought the building in 1989) has gone viral and his mother makes excuses for him and allows it to go on. This man is in his 50's (my guess, it could be late 40's or it could be early 60's - he always wears the same thing and hasn't changed in all the years I've known him). It has now affected my health. I won't let him win and move out because I can't afford to.
joninla April 08, 2012 at 08:34 AM
Ali - I can explain exactly why you are now suffering from increasing hostility from the son (I'm not justifying it, approving it or even judging it ... It is just human nature in this situation) First: Try to see the situation from the landlords point of view. They are likely very wealthy (not top 1% but probably top 15%-20% in terms of family wealth). Second: from their point of view (don't be offended) they truly don't care about you as a person whatsoever. You are just the intermediate step in their collecting as much money on their investment in your building, along with what I am sure is a diverse and numerous types of investments 'the family' has invested their wealth in as they saw it grow, and grow over the father's lifetime. In wealthy families, children are usually spoiled and have a relatively high standard of living, BUT the kids don't get power and control over the significant money/investments/wealth of the father. They live their adult lives just waiting 'for the old man to die' so they can get to what they have long been told is their large inheritance, which despite how generous the father was, from the adult child's perspective, they have lived their lives having to beg their rich father for every single thing (every new Mercedes, Home, Vacation) they have been given, but under the belief they are entitled. Thus they resent their father, no matter how cheap or generous he was to them ...
joninla April 08, 2012 at 08:43 AM
Part 2 of the Children of Wealth. As society has suddenly changed and people are living so much longer than usual, your landlord living long enough to have a 50 year old son (or whatever age) means the 'kid' in now a mature adult who has still never been given the power and control over what he sees as his right from family wealth and inevitable inheritance. The SECOND they get the full right to use the vast family wealth (after the rich father finally dies) the 'greed monster' is unleashed upon a person who is already furious to have waited their whole life to finally get to 'live the life' the now can, but expected to have been living it 30 to 40 years later. You (in their resentful and now overcome with greed mind) are the one thing (not a person) keeping them from getting even more wealth, having spent a lifetime also listening to his father complain about rent control preventing a bigger return on the family's wealth. He (anyone in his particular lifestyle and situation) will only get more and more hostile at every moment you are blocking what he perceives is his right to all the money he has already waited so long to get. I suggest you not take it personally, understand what he is thinking, then prepare yourself for any and all attempts to try to illegally evict you (it's not personal and he doesn't care what happens to you). Keep a diary of any small incident and know who to contact if they attempt to evict you. Empower yourself if you can..
joninla April 08, 2012 at 08:57 AM
As for 'the list' ... For as long as I've lived in weho 15+ years I've heard about 'the list' and the names that somehow end up at the top each time new low income units are built. Behind the French Market, the 'new' (a few years now) low income project was nicknamed the "Welfare Chateau" by the locals because as soon as it was occupied, it was impossible not to notice the expensive cars (new Mercedes/BMW's with darkened windows) coming and going from the supposedly new 'low income project'. All gossip/hearsay ... but very consistent and well known. Whereas 'the list' has never to my knowledge been made known or anything about who, what, where and how that list is handled. Even if there is an up-and-honest process and some real list with an unbiased fair means of giving these new 'low income units' out .... Even IF .... The 'list' is not limited to existing WeHo residents and is predominantly made up of non-weho residents (the poor among the 7million in all of so cal, not just the poor among the 34,000 weho residents). So even if there was an honest system going on (which it's not) WHY IS OUR CITY PAYING TO HOUSE NON-CITY RESIDENTS IN NEW HIGH END APARTMENTS INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL TAX PAYING AND VOTING RESIDENTS OF THE CITY OF WEST HOLLYWOOD? AGAIN - back to what I now call the "BIG LIE" each time they reference the City's first purpose is to protect the City's Renters & Rents above all else.
Insider April 08, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Sounds terrible. Why would you continue to live under those conditions?
joninla April 08, 2012 at 10:40 PM
To insider: I don;t want to speak for another person, but as an advocate voice for many people, there a many people who are truly living and 'just barely getting by' with cuts to almost everything most people take for granted, that the CHOICE to move is impossible. There is nowhere equally or less expensive, and even if there were, the cost of moving would probably be more than an entire month or even two of a person living solely on a small fixed income. But people living in a situation can try to make things better by getting as informed a possible about the rights and who and where to go the first and every time those rights are violated. Just having that knowledge in place can be quite comforting to a person who is living daily with a feeling of stress and fear inside their small apartment. Likewise, as Ali mentioned, assisting each other out who have the same situation can be helpful to both for the sharing of information and the problem that comes with fixed living ..... extreme social isolation.
Ali April 09, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Joninla, I understand what you are saying, but since I went on Section 8, he is getting market rate for my unit ($1100). There are 3 units in the 8 unit building that are way below market rate. You would think he would be targeting them to get out, but noooo. He has something personal against me. I know for a fact that 2 of the apartments are renting for less than $600 and both tenants are working people. I know my rights, but I lack the name of a good attorney if it gets to that. If anybody knows of a good tenant rights attorney, please send the name on to me via this venue. Just click on my name and leave the names on my page. I would be most appreciative. I am thinking of a preemptive lawsuit based on his harrassment/lack of doing maintenance prescribed by the City/lack of security at the building (no outdoor lighting) and its effect on my health.
Jerome Cleary April 09, 2012 at 03:06 AM
JoninLA are you Jon Lucas?
joninla April 09, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Ali - from my experience there is no such thing as a 'good attorney' and think at least 2 words should be put between the two words to prevent any chance of confusion. LOL I don't rent so don't know what exactly the City does, offer or can refer you to, but I would walk in and ask them. Personally, the rare instances I have gone to city hall for something, the staff who are there for residents needs have always been incredibly friendly, helpful and at least did all they could in terms of giving out what they believed were good referrals to other agencies. I do know that there is a good low income legal service for WeHo residents (and renter's rights among the things they offer) called BET TDZEDEK (I know I miss spelled it, it is hebrew for House of Justice, I think). They are well known, well financed and I have heard a long history of only second hand info that they are a really good service. They are down on Fairfax and 3rd (unless they have moved recently). I commend you for just asking here on PATCH. It's a great resource that I think is being underused. Finally, don't ever take your landlord's hostility personally. What could he possibly know about you or could you have ever done to make 'HIS ISSUES' based on you. He probably has issues with women and you might remind him of someone in his past. Spread the information you do learn with the other people you know in your situation for everyone's benefit and I hope you will be a-ok!
joninla April 09, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Jerome - no. but what if I were? Seriously, I am nobody of any significance whatsoever and have not known or met anyone I've ever seen posting here on Patch. People I know have seen my comments, mentioned it to me in passing, but nobody I know comments back or makes their own posts .... which I always suggest to anyone who wants to make a comment/opinion.
Jerome Cleary April 09, 2012 at 04:09 AM
hey Jon email me when you have a minute: JeromeCleary@aol.com
Manny April 09, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Government shoud not be in business with or subsidizing landlords for capital improvements. It is the landlords obligation by law to maintain their units to code and within already existing guidelines. If anything, the City should amp up it's enforcement to these regulations. As this proposal gets it's review by staff, I think it'll be found to be not practical or fair. But this predicament the City's in is very unfair to all. Unfair to market renters, landlords, the City and, maybe most importantly, to rent controlled tenants who have held themselves and their landlords hostage to substandard housing.
Ali April 10, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Update on my situation: I, without any notice, had a visit from one of my landlord's favored workmen. He came to measure my windows for the new window blinds my landlord owes me. He said he would be back tomorrow (I assume with the blinds). My guess is my landlord got the form from the City following up on our Rent Stabilization Hearing decision. I was told both He and I would get forms to ask if each task was completed. There is still one more item..a plumbing thing that would require tearing a wall in my shower down or at least punching a hole in it...and them re-tiling it. Hmmmmmm. I'm just glad I'm getting the blinds. I asked him if I get a choice of color...the workman asked what color I wanted and he would ask my landlord....I want black and I know there is no way he'll give it to me, but what the hell.....can't hurt to ask..his painters just painted my kitchen red and black blackboard paint LOL
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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