Monday’s City Council meeting saw the first signs of discord among the panel's members, with a discussion on updates to the land use element of West Hollywood's General Plan.
Newly elected Councilman John D’Amico expressed opposition to parts of the plan, which would guide development for the next 25 years. His concern is the emphasis on more and larger mixed-use developments along major transportation corridors such as Santa Monica Boulevard—the city’s “Main Street.”
During , D’Amico repeatedly said the city needed to re-evaluate its policies on land use. He also said that although he was not opposed to development, he had serious reservations about increasing the height of buildings in the city.
With the General Plan in its final stages, Councilman John Heilman said it was unfair to staffers who had already submitted a housing plan to the state for "mixed use along the boulevard." He noted that an “extensive amount” of input from the community had been received, as well as recommendations from the council and Planning Commission.
D’Amico suggested clustering mixed-use buildings together in certain areas, especially on the central and east side. “I’m trying to make neighborhoods,” D’Amico said.
Heilman countered that clustering mixed-use in just half the city was not wise. Councilwoman Abbe Land added, “If we only allow mixed use clustered in certain areas, it puts tremendous pressure on them.”
The city is required by the state of California to increase density. Mayor John Duran wanted to know the exact number of residential units the state is demanding, but no one could answer that question. The discussion was then tabled to a future date.
Automated parking structure
The meeting also saw approval of a $2.6 million bid from Unitronics to build an automated parking garage behind . The garage would have 200 spaces of underground parking where a state-of-the-art automated system would park and retrieve staffers' and visitors' cars.
The current parking lot behind City Hall has only 68 parking spaces. Many of the more than 200 city employees have to park at the Kings Road parking structure two blocks away.
D’Amico agreed to serve on the committee that will implement the automated system. The computerized parking system would be paid for out of the city’s Parking Improvement Fund.
The council also approved moving forward with the next phase of the renovation. That phase would see the old torn down once the new library opens in the fall. Additionally, the basketball courts would be moved to the north end of the park. The auditorium and swimming pool would remain in place during this phase of the renovation.
City Clerk Tom West, who is retiring after 23 years with the city, received a special accommodation from the Council. His last day is May 12.
Finally, D’Amico named more appointees to the city’s various commissions. Russian-born artist Yelena Zhelezov, who attended Cal Arts with D’Amico, was named to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission.
Former Weho Chamber of Commerce head Joe Clapsaddle joins the Business License Commission. Friends of the West Hollywood Library public information officer and Women’s Advisory Board member Marcy Norton joins the Public Safety Commission.
Craig Charles was appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission and David Warren will serve on the Transportation Commission.
At the May 16 council meeting, D’Amico is expected to name his appointees to the Human Services, Public Facilities and Rent Stabilization commissions. At that same meeting, other council members are also expected to either reappoint their existing commissioners or name new ones. Duran indicated he would change almost all of his appointees.
Council members are allowed one direct appointee to each of the city’s commissions. Most commissions also have two at-large members who are approved by a majority of the council members. Each commissioner serves for a two-year term beginning June 1.