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Residents Speak Out About General Plan at Final Workshop

Attendees say they are not interested in taller buildings or in increasing the city's population.

More green space, shorter buildings and additional parking were just some of the requests made by West Hollywood residents at a town meeting held Monday night regarding the General Plan.

About 100 people gathered in  for the two-hour meeting. It was the final workshop before the City Council votes on the plan in September, and one urged by Councilman John D’Amico.

The city’s first meeting regarding the General Plan was held in February 2008, with 200 people in attendance. Subsequent workshops were held in November 2008, January 2010 and July 2010. Additionally, the city conducted focus groups in March 2008 and held several neighborhood meetings in September 2008. 

After a short presentation, residents broke out into four groups—eastside, mid-city, westside and overall city—to talk about their concerns. After 45 minutes of discussion, each group reported back to the rest of the residents.

Residents have their say

Residents are happy with the city the way it is, they said. They like the urban village nature of the city and do not want to see that altered by taller buildings along Santa Monica Boulevard. Three stories, possibly four, are as high as they want to see them go. “Five is too high,” said one resident.

They say taller buildings will block the views of the hills and create shadows on the streets.

Attendees worried that if the city clusters new and taller buildings along major transportation corridors (La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega), the other parts of town will suffer.

Residents are not especially concerned about increasing population density. “We’ve lost over 2,000 residents in the past 10 years. There are lots of condominiums sitting vacant. Why do we need to add more?” said one resident.

The city was severely criticized for not improving infrastructure, especially creating more parking. “How can we be talking about adding more people when those who are here can’t find places to park?” asked a mid-city resident.

Residents also want more green space in the city, some suggesting creating parks on the tops of parking decks. They also want to see more trees planted along Santa Monica Boulevard.

Spine of the city

The main focus of the meeting was mixed-use buildings—retail and residential in the same building—along Santa Monica Boulevard. As D’Amico told residents in his opening remarks, “Santa Monica Boulevard is the spine of our city. It’s our backbone, so we want to get it right.”

Current zoning laws allow for 45-foot tall buildings (four stories), but if developers meet certain other requirements, they can get a “bonus” allowing them to go as high as 70 feet (six stories).

One alternate proposal for the General Plan as currently written would see eight- and 11-story buildings along La Brea, five and six stories on Fairfax and Crescent Heights.

About 25 percent of those attending said this was their first meeting regarding the General Plan meeting. They said they came out because they care about the city.

City Planning Manager John Keho initially sat in on the groups, but stepped away when he found people looking to him as running the group. “It’s empowering to let them reach a consensus on their own,” Keho said.

Other ideas

Other ideas mentioned in the various groups include creating bike lanes by eliminating parking along Santa Monica Boulevard, starting a free or low-cost trolley to run the length of Santa Monica Boulevard and charging a toll for cars using the street.

Some residents also encouraged the city to create incentives for landlords to improve existing apartment buildings, rather than tearing them down to build luxury condominiums.

The question of how affordable housing would be affected by the General Plan was raised. D’Amico responded that affordable housing is based on the projects built, not where they are built.

D’Amico’s reaction afterward

After the meeting concluded, D’Amico told Weho Patch, “Tonight was the best of what West Hollywood has to offer, lots of people participating and making. This a really great city,” he said. “It’s very exciting for me that people really like to participate here and that they’re not afraid of their points of view.”

D’Amico also urged residents to contact each city council member to make their views known. “In the next 45 days, we’re going to pass this General Plan,” D’Amico said. “This is their last chance.”

Councilwoman Abbe Land was in attendance for the first portion of the meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang was there for the entire meeting. Mayor John Duran and Councilman John Heilman did not attend.  

White paper presented

Immediately before the meeting began, former City Councilman Steve Martin held a short news conference to present a “white paper,” a position paper suggesting changes to the proposed plan.

“There’s a lot of talk about what we want West Hollywood to look like, but a lot of what we have in West Hollywood now, we want to preserve and that’s not happening in the current General Plan,” said Martin speaking for a coalition of residents who worked on the position paper.

“The current General Plan is going to encourage a lot more density along Santa Monica Boulevard, a disregard for existing housing and exacerbate the issues of traffic," he added. "What we tried to do is come up with different ways and different suggestions to help the City Council craft a document that we can all live with.”

Many of the suggestions in that white paper were what residents mentioned later in the meeting. Other suggestions in the paper included mandating green construction for all new buildings, requiring solar panels on buildings over two stories, and having tighter parking standards for new buildings (no tandem parking at residential buildings, no “shared parking” at commercial buildings).

Follow West Hollywood Patch on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, tips and news.

joninla August 14, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Spelling: No I am not capable of competent spelling, never have been. As for what to do .... I am not opposed to growth and construction at all. I just think the projects should be both successful (i.e. people want to buy the expensive condos, open new retail on a blvd that is already full of empty retail - though it seems to finally be getting a little bit better) as well as provide the Residents of West Hollywood some kind of perk or benefit from the windfall annual revenue that is unique in this economy and being spent on fountains commemorating a person of no significance. I know there is a parking problem and I don't even have or drive a car any more. I do, however walk my dog several times a day and everyday I see people getting parking tickets. Not for expired meters and not because they were trying to get away with parking illegally. I have also seen countless strangers who have returned to their car with a totally unexpected parking ticket and often I see people pull out the cell phone camera and take pictures of the parking sign, their car and the who scene, truly believing they have read and are in compliance with the totally confusing parking sign throughout the city. To now vote to increase the ticket patrol to raise even more revenue, for parking violations is both "wrong" as well as a threat to our local businesses when people finally get so fed up with being ticketed, they shop outside the City.
joninla August 14, 2011 at 02:24 AM
I have many good ideas. When the newly appointed dismissed the much higher crime rate in the City of West Hollywood as 'not a issue because the crime comes form the weeked bar/restuant/club patrons, and it is those tax dollars that give West Hollywood its Tax Base relatively HUGE every year (good or bad economy). We, the residents get both the beneifts of what I think is a wonderful place to live in LA, as well as Serious Potential Crime, along with the noise, traffice and whatever the tax paying weekend visitors make. In fact I think new construction is great, but to build yet another 'community meeting room' or a solution to the parking problem that will cost $13 million dollars, not provide a single daytime parking space for non-city hall use, and is the OPPOSITE of what is necessary in terms of the traffic problem in West Hollywood. More city hall parking spots, means more cars every day coming and going to and from city hall. That intersection is "the bottleneck" causing traffice backups to BH and beyond and FEWER cars should be going to City Hall, rather than more. A 'Free To City Residents' bus/trolly bus that goes up and down the Blvd would make it possible and encourage more residents 'hop on the trolly' to get to Trader Joes or the gym, rather than add to the Traffic and then have to deal with the parking problems which are and will always be a situation of simple not enough space for the cars.
joninla August 14, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Another sad problem I have noticed is the number of people who were 'dog friend' - neighbors I knew well, but only from talking when walking our respective dogs - many of whom told me they were laid off after the economy tanked. The number who just have now vanished (move out of weho) is really high. With everyone hurting in this economy, the $13 to $16 million dollars for a robotic garage could be better used as a 'local stimulus' for the residents of the city. To some $350 could be just enough to prevent eviction. A godsend to the elderly who can not afford their prescriptions. Needed help for those laid off/hours cut who are still in WeHo but just barely getting by. And for those 'well off' it can be spent on "HIGH GAS PRICES" (which were recently all everyone was concerned about). The lack of 'infrastructure" from a money 'had out' actually will do more for the city than a garage because much of the 'stimulus' money would be spent in the city. That would help failing shops, increase employment and provide a revenue stream from the tax back to City Hall. The economic health of the City Residents affects everyone's life from property value for sellers of property, to safety and crime prevention that is growing worse as the homeless population grows and has so many empty store front doors to sleep in. The library is a GREAT example. A project that Benefits The Residents. A crazy garage or empty new condo benefits none of the residents, other than Council Members.
joninla August 14, 2011 at 02:51 AM
AND THIS IDEA JUST CAME TO ME YESTERDAY - SO HERE'S ANOTHER POST: With the idea, desire and need to find more ways to save energy - along with the desire to the City to be a "Leader" with a newsworthy City Green Project .... I realized looking at my phone and it's wifi connection the unbelievable number of individual WiFi routers people have (myself included). Each one uses power and causes numerous overlapping signal issues. With Starbucks and many other local retailers providing free Wifi to attract customers, I noticed one can walk down the Blvd and have full free WiFi access almost about 50% of the time on a long walk. For a relatively nominal cost, a solar powered system providing free WiFi signals for WeHo All Residents would benefit everyone. All those thousands of Personal Routers could be unplugged and replaced with one solar powered array. Residents get 'a perk' which is fair in light of the nightlife hassles/noise we live with, the signal will be better without so many overlapping individual routers, the signal would attract customers to ALL West Hollywood business and IT COULD MAKE THE NATIONAL EVENING NEWS ALLOWING THE CITY COUNCIL TO GET'S IT MUCH DESIRED PUBLIC PUBLICITY FOR "GREEN FORWARD THINKING, COST CUTTING AND ENERGY SAVINGS" for an entire city. Daily life will be better with the new library. However the plans for Walgreens, if built will have many negative impacts on daily life.
joninla August 14, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Any other proposed/partially completed projects like the Library? Most seem to be projects that will be just like the existing failures (I use Hancock Lofts for its blatent example of a well constructed, but horribly designed, so much so that they could sell a single condo and there remains empty retail storefronts I don't know how many years now since completion. The Library is a unique project with respect to the positive impact to the city, its residents as well as local property values and the desirability that will draw renters to fill the high vacancy rate the broken economy caused.

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