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Public Meeting on Palm Ave. Condo Project Set for Wednesday

The property owner and architects will discuss their proposal to build condos over existing vintage bungalows.

An information session about a proposed condominium development project is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m., according to a public notice from the city of West Hollywood. The meeting will take place in the front yard of 923 Palm Ave.

The meeting, which the city requires project applicants to host, is open to anyone interested in learning about the property owner's plans to demolish three vintage bungalows that were built in the early 1900s and replace them with two four-story, 12-unit condo complexes. In addition to 923, 927 and 931 are the two other Palm Avenue properties that may face demolition.

Property owner David Vayner, a West Hollywood resident, has attempted to gain Planning Commission approval for the condo project since 2005. 

"Financially it's not supporting itself ... it's very old," Vayner said of the Craftsman homes.

"It's a very, very beautiful project and it's good for everybody—for the city, for the neighborhood and for us also," he added.

Some residents have expressed opposition to demolishing classic Craftsman architecture. 

"Looking at these houses, we get a glimpse into the world of what [the city] looked like at the turn of the century and the beginning of modern-day West Hollywood," said Kate Eggert. "There's no need to tear down these houses."

Allegra Allison said she didn't understand why the homes were not included in the city's last survey of historic building.  

"I believe that two of them were in the original survey," Allison said. "Are they less historic now? If, as according to the assessor's maps, the houses were built in 1902, they are certainly historic."

Eggert said two of the homes were built in 1902 and the third was built in 1913.

Jennifer Alkire, an associate planner with the West Hollywood Community Development Department, said the plans that Vayner and architectural firm Uriu & Associates have submitted for consideration are "extremely preliminary."

Community Development staff and the project applicants are "still working on hammering out what would go forward to the Planning Commission eventually," Alkire said.

Todd Bianco November 27, 2012 at 02:47 PM
The City permitted the destruction of an entire block of these lovely old homes when The Desmond was approved in the late 1990s. That was a big mistake as The Desmond is now the poster child for bad condo development. The building is cheaply built and has been plagued with problems since it opened. Not to mention its unattractive "luxury" "Spanish Courtyard" architecture that is built too close to the street. At the time, one owner of several of the houses had deliberately allowed the properties to become rundown so people would want the new development. However, intentional neglect is not a reason to permit destruction of these buildings. Why should an owner be rewarded for allowing property to fall into disrepair simply so it can be sold to a developer or developed by the current owner into another "luxury condo" building? I drive Palm Avenue several days a week and the only time it's good to drive is on a street sweeping day when cars are absent from one side or the other. Palm Ave is already an over-developed hodgepodge of condos and apartments with not nearly enough parking for the density. Like Allegra Allison, I'd like to know why these buildings aren't on the City's last survey of historic properties. They should be and they should be saved.
Robb November 27, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I agree. I lived at 939 Palm avenue and that street is way overcrowded, has no parking and is a driving nightmare. Further more I'm not sure it will attract the savvy homeowner. Palm Ave is currently a haven for the younger set who can't really afford to live there, and so live 3,4, 5 deep to an apartment. The commotion and noise are intolerable.
jose November 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
you're both asking "why, why, why" a little to late.
Joel Quaresimo November 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I live on kings rd , where the city allowed a developer to demolish two beautiful homes from the twenties , for a 24 unit apartment building . There is no parking pn the street as it is . the footprint of the building is redicuious !! I hope this project gets stopped in its tracks , This city council is out of controll , Thank god we got the Plummer Park project stopped !!
Wesley McDowell November 27, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I live at 939, also, and walk by these houses every day. There has been little or no effort at keeping them in decent shape in all the years I've lived here. The last time anything was done was a few months ago when some landscaping work was done at 927. However, the roof is in shambles and none have been painted in years. Obviously the owner doesn't want to do anything more than is absolutely necessary to rent them. It would be a real shame to destroy 3 of the remaining houses in this area. I do question the "low income" aspect. Just how with that work? Will they put them in, rent them for short time then sell at market rate? Probably. As for the parking situation, why should the city care? They've allowed this building to have 3 bedrooms converted to 3 with no increase in parking. I see tenants parking on the street all the time. Besides all that, the city has done nothing to stop traffic from using Palm as a cut-through from Sunset to Holloway via Cynthia and Palm. Some days we can't even get out of the garage to the street, especially if you want to go north. Those traffic circles at Larrabee just have not helped, and won't.
A different Paul November 27, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I was just admiring those houses last month when I was waiting for a friend who lived nearby. It would be a shame to see them torn down. They are nice pieces of architecture and I would think that if fixed up would have a good bit of value if sold or rented. Maybe not the same value as building condos, but perhaps that should have been confirmed before buying the properties. It doesn't make sense that the properties can't support themselves if properly cared for and priced accordingly.
Stephanie November 27, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Just so everyone knows...it is supposed to rain tomorrow evening. Is there an alternate meeting place than in the front yard? Somewhere in side out of the rain?
Profes Shivers November 27, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Seriously??? Beautiful old buildings allowed to rot just so some idiot can get rich while ruining the landscape with tall, overcrowded buildings? This city has way too many cars on the roads as is. Call his bluff, lettem bulldoze worst case, and NEVER allow him to put anything at all there. AND any city councillor voting for this needs to have his/her home picketed even before elections. We've had ENOUGH!!!
Stephanie November 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM
HERE is the historic preservation section in WeHo's Municipal Code. Read it..the City seems to bend the rules to suit their insatiable desire for big development, Bigger, Faster, Louder. http://qcode.us/codes/westhollywood/ 19.58.010 Council Findings. The provisions of this chapter, which constitute the City’s Cultural Heritage Preservation Ordinance, are adopted based on the following findings by the Council.. A. Threatened Structures and Sites. The Council has determined that the character, history, and spirit of the City, State, and nation are reflected in the historic structures, improvements, natural features, objects, sites, and areas of significance located within the City and that in the face of ever increasing pressures of modernization and urbanization, cultural resources, cultural resource sites, and historic districts located within the City are threatened with alteration, demolition, or removal. B. Preservation of Structures and Sites. The Council has further determined that these threatened structures, representing the City’s unique cultural, historical, and social foundations, should be preserved as a living part of community life and development in order to build a greater understanding of the city’s past and to give future generations the opportunity to appreciate, enjoy, and understand the city’s rich heritage. " There is more to this. Please go and read it. It is really important.
Lynn Russell November 27, 2012 at 11:31 PM
How about some teeth in the code providing for serious measures against property owners who allow benign or purposeful neglect of a building. This is a major thorn in the complex issue of aging housing stock, rent stabilization, historic preservation and code compliance. These ordinances need to operate effectively in some type of balance. The city should be on the hot seat to remove this perpetual problem rather than make lame passes at a cure. That means city departments and their heads. You can't always lay the blame on the council. This is our little "cliff" in West Hollywood.
Wesley McDowell November 28, 2012 at 01:52 AM
So let's all be sure to show up: outside, in the dark and maybe in the rain! That sure is good planning. Who's bright idea was that?! Palm is already overrun with multi-story buildings. We can't change those, some of which were build before West Hollywood was incorporated, but maybe we can stop this. What a travesty to allow these houses to run down. There should be an ordinance against this. I bet Mr. Heilman disagrees!
Kate Eggert November 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Lynn - I totally agree. There needs to be some serious measures on keeping houses like these properly maintained.
Lynn Russell November 28, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Mr. Vayner could choose to become a community hero for Historic Preservation if he put in the time and effort to undo the neglect and reburnish the buildings. Although I don't know how long Mr. Vayner has owner the property, some illumination of his tenure as a property owner should be known. If is has been a long time, he should not be awarded the opportunity to destroy and develop based on neglect or deferred maintenance. If on the other hand he recently acquired the property as a development opportunity, perhaps he could choose more wisely in the future and not operate under the premise that "it's old", wipe the slate clean and let me put in my idea of what fits as long as my investment is protected and maximized. Affecting neighborhood context of an in place community is problematic on many levels. If the code were more closely followed primary attention to context would be a vital point of consideration Otherwise a community's architectural heritage dies by a thousand cuts.
Krisy G November 28, 2012 at 07:28 PM
The green bungalow at 8924 Cynthia St, at Hilldale Ave, is, in my opinion, an excellent example of how an owner/developer can preserve and improve upon a historical residence while maintaining the appearance and integrity of the original structure (and while adding monetary value!!). Walk/drive by it (at the corner of Cynthia and Hilldale, one block west of San Vicente). The two story addition at the back and the carport were added in the last decade or so. Old homes? Yes. But look at any design, living or architectural magazine, 100-plus year old homes regularly grace their pages. The 3 old homes on Palm Ave have the potential to be that beautiful, admired and valuable.
George Martin November 28, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Not everything old is historic. If the community as a whole feels that a property is so historic it deserves preserving, what is the rationale for making the property owner bear the entire burden of providing that value to the entire community? Does the community bear any shared responsibility for that preservation? Why are property owners always the villains? Without so-called "greedy" property owners, we'd all be living in city-owned housing projects AKA slums. D'Amico has proposed a low-interest fund to help property owners maintain their buildings. Would that be a practical solution, or would it just be more emotionally satisfying to keep punishing them?
Krisy G November 28, 2012 at 09:03 PM
The 3 bungalows have been researched. And they are of historic interest to West Hollywood. No one's talking about punishing any one. D'Amico's proposal, as GM stated, sounds like a good enough starting place. John was personally contacted and made aware of the situation (and we'll continue to keep him in the loop), we're hoping he'll step up with more help and solutions.
Lynn Russell November 28, 2012 at 09:23 PM
It would be emotionally satisfying to find a viable solution to the complex issue I referred to. If the historic properties provide a value to the community, that should be brought into the picture. I personally took several months to get a grip on all the moving parts and advocated in public and private with numerous individuals on council and city staff to come with a comprehensive study. Various entities including John d'Amico and Jeff Prang have put forth ideas of their own as has Community Development and the Planning Commission. In my humble opinion understanding how all the ordinances interact or don't requires great effort so one can come forward with a range of practical solutions. I'm skeptical of this happening on a piece meal basis but every idea may fit in somewhere. Recently, John Heilman advocated the requirement of true, verifiable financial hardship information claimed by the property owner, hopefully vetted by an impartial party, to be in place prior to considerations given by the city in development agreements or other applications. Study groups including members of the community might not be a bad idea as one never knows where the next great idea or solution comes from.
Lynn Russell November 28, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Oops, that comment was intended as a reply to George Martin.
Samantha Powers Jolt December 24, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Maybe it's because Duran and that flat chested things bank account is running low:)
Samantha Powers Jolt December 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM
We need more bland white people in West Hollywood, at least that is what the 80 fashion refugee said to me on the dance floor in North Hollywood. By the way shes spastic.
Kate Eggert February 02, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Todd - Krisy Gosney and I are working on getting these properties saved. The first HPC meeting was this past Monday and Feb 25th will be the conclusion. Are you the one who did the HP application in 1999? We'd love to talk to you about your research. Do you have a copy of the 1987 HRG Survey? Also, the reason why 927 and 931 Palm Ave were not on the 2008 ARG Survey was because according to the survey - "All properties previously designated or denied local cultural resource designation at the local level. as well as properties constructed after 1960 are not included in this current survey effort."
Kate Eggert February 02, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Lynn, thank so much for speaking at the Jan 30th HPC meeting - what you said was really moving and went right to the heart of matter. For the recent write-up from the Weho Patch go to http://westhollywood.patch.com/articles/residents-ask-city-to-preserve-vintage-bungalows and we hope to see you at the Feb 25th meeting! Thanks again.

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