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Residents, Property Owner Discuss Opposing Views on Condo Project

The property owner, architect and residents meet to share views and concerns about plans to build a condominium complex on Palm Avenue lots that are currently occupied by vintage Craftsman bungalows.

West Hollywood residents met Wednesday with the owner of three vintage homes on Palm Avenue who seeks to replace them with condominiums.

More than 20 residents filled the front yard and porch of one of the bungalows. Many voiced their opposition to demolishing the homes to make way for two four-story buildings, while others said they hadn't formed an opinion on the matter and welcomed information on the proposed project.

Giovanni Uriu, the project's architect, said his design calls for 12 units in each building, which would require the city to approve a "density bonus" because the area's zoning code allows for a 10-unit maximum.

The height of Uriu's building design is 45 feet, which is the zoning code's height limit. The front setback is 18 feet, which is two feet less than the city's requirement, and 19 feet in the back, which is four feet more than the code's minimum.

Each building also will have one unit of low-income housing.

Property owner David Vayner currently rents the Craftsman homes at 923, 927 and 931 Palm Ave. that were built in the early 1900s.

"You're going to build a monstrosity right behind my home when there's already one to the south and one to the north," Josh Geller, a homeowner who lives on Betty Way, told Vayner. "If you were in my shoes, would you want that?"

Vayner replied, "I understand your concern, but unfortunately we can do nothing about that. Look at the buildings around you," he said, pointing to the other large housing complexes on Palm Avenue.

Uriu told Patch he attempted to create a design that would be "minimally intrusive" for the neighbors on Betty Way who live behind the property.

But after hearing lots of staunch opposition to the project, he commented "it looks as if no matter what we do, we won't be able to satisfy them."

Geller and other residents also expressed concern about an additional large building's impact on parking, traffic flow and increased noise.

"Those are my interests," Deanna Linz told Patch.

"There are different people with different interests," she said. "I respect them all, and I respect our process. If people without a lot of money want to have a voice, they need organization and they need numbers." 

Jeffrey Janis took a neutral stance on the project compared with other residents in attendance.

"I'm here to learn more about what this project is to be able to form an opinion that is based on the truth and both sides," he told Patch before the meeting began.

Some residents suggested that Vayner refurbish the existing houses and rent them at a higher rate.

He dismissed this idea, however, claiming that aesthetic improvements wouldn't justify enough of a rent increase that could compete with the profit from the condominium building.

"I used to live on this block, I've seen [the Craftsman bungalows], I've walked by them and think they're wonderful," West Hollywood resident Manny Rodriguez told Patch. "It's too bad that they're not going to be here forever, apparently."

Rodriguez added that unless the vintage homes are legally protected by the city, Vayner "has the right to do what he chooses to do" as long as the project complies with the city's building code.

Vayner, who proposed a similar project in 2005 that city rejected, told residents "we hear your concern, and this time we try to do our best ... as much as possible."

Mayor Jeffrey Prang told Patch he attended the evening meeting, which the city requires as part of the project application process, to learn about the project and hear residents' views on it.

"This will be coming before the City Council at one point or another, and I want to make an informed and researched decision," Prang said.

Allegra Allison said the century-old bungalows are "a part of our history, and there's very little of it left in this portion of town."

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me November 29, 2012 at 06:09 PM
congrats to allegra and others for trying to preserve weho history!!!!....to me it's a no-brainer; why doesn't the council want to as well???.....not to mention, there's a whole lot of ugly that should be torn down so why not put up your condos on those properties??
joninla November 29, 2012 at 10:17 PM
QUICK - this is the very beginning stage. Anyone (not me personally) who is seriously concerned about preserving these old dilapidated small homes, OFFER THE STRUCTURES TO ANYONE WHO WANTS THEM FOR FREE - IF THEY PAY ALL COSTS TOO MOVE THESE BUILDINGS TO ANOTHER SITE FOR PRESERVATION. I was walking by yesterday and as usual questioned when they would get rid of those rat traps (literally). PRESERVATIONISTS (not me) try contacting 'Heritage Square' off the pasadena freeway or perhaps put an offer on craigslist. I think this should be one project, a roll model, for no delays for meetings about preservation when they are going to go eventually.
Krisy G November 30, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I was at the meeting last night at 923 Palm Ave. I talked to a lot of people there. I didn't meet a single 'Preservationist'. I met renters and owners from Palm Avenue and and the surrounding streets. People who's lives and home-value will be impacted by the proposed project. But something I heard at the meeting was the current owner saying he has owned the 3 homes for 20 years and has not and will not do a single thing to their exteriors, not even buy a can of paint. Anything structure that sits for 20 years with no up-keep will look run-down - if a brand new home sat for 20 years with zero up-keep, that brand new home would look run-down after 20 years. Something I learned recently is that the area around the 3 homes is officially known as the Old Sherman Thematic District. 'Sherman' referring to WeHo's original name and the man (Moses Sherman) who built a large railroad yard where the Pacific Design Center sits. The town of Sherman grew up around the railyard. So, in a way, where the 3 homes sit right now is a kind of 'heritage square'. These turn-of-the-century California Bungalows are part of the Arts and Crafts Movement. They're built to last. And they're part of the original American Dream (and the California Dream) of owning a well-built, affordable home with a little garden and a car parked in your own driveway. Look across the street from the 3 homes,behind the hedges and white fence, you'll see an example of what these homes can look like.
Krisy G November 30, 2012 at 01:27 AM
For one example of how hot West Hollywood bungalows can be, check out this former LA Times Home of The Week: PHOTOS: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-0529-home-of-the-week-pictures,0,6982820.photogallery ARTICLE: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/29/business/la-fi-home-20110529
Wesley McDowell November 30, 2012 at 02:13 AM
I was at the meeting and was struck by the utter disdain the owner showed towards us. He's not the least bit interested in West Hollywood, it's heritage or any alternate suggestions for the property. He's only interested in the $12M +/- he's going to get. This is based on the estimated construction cost of $6M and the sales price of $800K. Was anyone else surprised that the architect didn't know what it would cost to build? The owner knew, or should have known, that there would be folks present who were against his project. He did nothing to explain what the project is, how long it will take, what mitigation steps would be taken. NOTHING! The whole event was very strange, starting with standing outside in the dark and not being able to hear. I like the folksy nature of being outside, but surely someone could have done a presentation that was helpful. This owner does not deserve to have a project like this approved. As for the upkeep of the current houses, he repeatedly said that he gets nothing out of doing anything. He thinks the paint and roof are fine and will only repair the roofs when they collapse. When he said this to me I realized that nothing could get through to him. I even said that painting preserves the wood. He wonders why the tenants don't do it! While it's probably true that this project can be allowed, it sure would be great to see something done which is creative and interesting. West Hollywood used to claim to be The Creative City!
joninla November 30, 2012 at 02:16 AM
@Krisy G The financial realities are pretty clear. imagine .... however wonderful a restoration is done, there is no buyer willing to fork over a million dollars plus for a tiny single family home on Palm, surrounded by probably the densest street in weho in terms of large mulit units buildings running the whole long block. Waste of time,effort or worthiness for these old houses.
Kate Eggert November 30, 2012 at 02:18 AM
That West Holllywood bungalow is a PERFECT example of what these houses could look like - even after the current owner's constant neglect. These homes were built to last, they were practical, they were for working class families in a new and exciting area called Sherman. 100 years later, they are still standing with as much charm. Now someone needs to come along and make these homes their architectural and design project.
joninla November 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM
The owner here is apparently just a landlord and not a resident. He is a business man with the sole (appropriate) motive is making a profit on his investment of these properties. Free market system at work. However much disdain there may be for this owner, compared to the kind of perfectly legal profiteering in our Stock Market, this guy is just trying to get as much from whatever he happens to have. That doesn't make him a bad person, just an american doing what everyone does to try to make money.
Kate Eggert November 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM
@joinla - Look at Betty Way. Look at any bungalow in West Hollywood and they're going for over 1 million.
Krisy G November 30, 2012 at 03:21 AM
@joinla - There's nothing personal against the owner. And, yes, he's in his rights to simply want to make as much profit as he can. And, we are in our rights to express ourselves. Both are American traditions.
jose November 30, 2012 at 05:45 AM
That's the problem, some condos around here are too "creative".....This one actually looks good and sensible. We don't need any more "creative" condos, we need good design and practical living spaces.
jose November 30, 2012 at 05:51 AM
.......you can express an all american traditional bye bye to those cottages.
judson greene November 30, 2012 at 08:07 AM
While the owner can do what the City allows, the City is hearing blowback to what's been going on. Term limits was and is the first salvo fired across the bow of council members who've overstayed their welcome. The insanity of piling in more people, cars and condo units has got to stop. You have to prove there's water. We all know we are in severe shortage of water. You have to prove there's power. Well we all got to know about Path 15 not able to pump any more power to us. And, this is still one of the oldest areas of the local power grid. Traffic increases? Well, we all know that miraculously car counters are placed in the summer time when less traffic is here so as to tweak the numbers. My support goes to the neighbors who've said no more. If I can be of any help to you folks over there count me in! I've said it once if not a million times I am sick of living defensively against a council at war with the citizens of West Hollywood! We have god knows how many square feet of development coming on line with projects switching CUPs, the City making sneaky deals in facilitating this crap. And most of all, it's time to shut down Mike Jenkins as the City Attorney from aiding and abetting the legal smoothing out of deals we don't want!! Fair enough?
Ali December 01, 2012 at 01:47 AM
I'm not certain, of course, but you might find one less than 1 mil on the east side. There are some beautiful Craftsman and other styles of bungalow here.
me December 01, 2012 at 04:50 AM
chrome says the website has malware krisy
Krisy G December 02, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Great points, Judson. We'd like to keep you the loop of our progress, please contact us at deadhistoryproject@gmail.com (We're working on the issues with the website....)
Krisy G December 02, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Great points, Judson. We'd like to keep you the loop of our progress, please contact us at deadhistoryproject@gmail.com (We're working on the issues with the website....)
michael December 02, 2012 at 06:44 PM
What's all this crazy uproar about......The owner has every right to do what he wishes with this property as long has he follows the city building codes and law....... Seems like grown up bullying to me.
me December 02, 2012 at 07:27 PM
sure, why not???....lets tear down those pesky old buildings along fountain and crescent heights as well as "the lot" film studios (santa monica/formosa), the formosa bar, the old churches from the 1920's, schindler house, barney's beanery, emser building, the first national bank of sherman (aka eleven bar), sunset tower hotel and others....AND JUST SLAP UP A BUNCH OF UGLY LOOK-ALIKE BOXES TO HOUSE PEOPLE AND BUSINESS LIKE WE'VE BEEN DOING!!!!!!!.....to hell with our history, right???
jose December 03, 2012 at 05:53 AM
That's your response to the previous comment?....lol....LAME!
Ali December 03, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Jose, can't you recognize sarcasm?
jose December 03, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I sure do Ali....Nothing more lame than using sarcasm to prove a lame point.
me December 03, 2012 at 06:10 PM
UGH, whatever josie!!!....your one sentence comments lack intelligence
joninla December 04, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Thank you for the rational statement. Too bad it will fall on deaf ears.
bud Lockhart December 07, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I'm with joninla! Those old homes are eye sores on Palm. Let them tear them down and build something attractive and with a higher tax base.
joninla December 08, 2012 at 04:02 AM
@ bud Lockhart Thank you - I live on the next block, an have thought the buildings were a blight on the street and time was past due to tear them down and build a structure like the rest of the stree has. It's not the kind of situation worthy of peservation (this particular case).

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