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Rift Develops Among City Council Members Over General Plan

Newly elected Councilman John D'Amico favors clustering mixed-use developments, but colleague John Heilman opposes the idea, saying the General Plan is already in its final stages.

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. 

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Ali May 05, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I don't believe you are using the term "mixed use" in the way the City has in mind - I believe they are thinking residential units above retail so none of the examples joninla just set forth qualify. The relatively new project on Santa Monica and Sierra Bonita qualifies as mixed use though...and I believe the storefronts are empty. Personally, I wouldn't want to live on Santa Monica Blvd. Any project that goes up there should have double pane windows, but that means you really can't open a window without being bombarded with noise. Day or night. Especially if they go through with the Karl's Jr project on Santa Monica and La Brea. Buses and homeless and noise right out your front door. And I'm sure the rents will be high on any new projects with few units set aside for lower income people. Definitely not my cup of tea.
Jerome Cleary May 05, 2011 at 12:46 AM
yeah but these mixed use units are one million to 1.5 million dollar lofts or condos, we don't need more of this as there is a glut of empty condos for sale in our city and homes too
joninla May 05, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Good Point - But what exactly does the city mean by "mixed-use". From what I understand there is a mathematical type of "definition' about number of square feet MUST be allocated to: Residential, Low Income Housing, Retail, Residential Parking and Retail Parking (and I think public parking) Then they have a maximum height per lot size but as Hancock Lofts (I actually was surprised how high quality the construction was and the features of the units) is a PERFECT DISASTER of what the "FORCED FORMULA" causes. Any unit is nicer than my home, but who on earth that has a million dollars (half a million these days) and would choose to spend it on a 'nice condo' with the options of being right over the bus stop, the car wash, the restaurant exhaust or the florescent lights and music (now gone) of the News Stand. My point was just by example "CREATING THE INTENTIONAL MIXING OF TRADITIONALLY SEPARATE PROPERTY USE" .... On purpose, does not seem to have any history of working well in the general West Hollywood area. Add Condo Housing to the mix clearly makes undesirable living spaces, undesirable retail space and unappealing curb appeal. West Hollywood 'Intentionally Doing this BASED ON AN ARBITRARY AND FIXED SET OF RULES - THAT THEY REFUSE TO EVEN CONSIDER REVIEWING 'What has already been written down by the poor city staff' is SCREAMS OF IMPROPRIETY to me. I was just wondering if anyone has noticed a recent SUCCESSFUL major West Hollywood Project :)
joninla May 05, 2011 at 12:54 AM
I whole heartedly agree. I don't understand why they continue to build these projects and NOW refuses to even consider looking over the 25 year Master Plan. There is no rush. Nobody is in a hurry to start a new building project these days. Well nobody who isn't getting 'something on the side' to approve these unsold blights on the neighborhood community and commerce. Why SUCH REFUSAL TO LOOKING AT THE POSSIBILITY OF CORRECTING THE EXISTING PLAN (rhetorical - I think the City Of Bell is NOT the only small city with questionably legal money/favors passing around in the back rooms)
Jerome Cleary May 05, 2011 at 02:57 AM
One way to accomplish this is to collect signatures to put this on the ballot for our November 2011 election to ask residents/voters to vote for a brand new General Plan with new community input
joninla May 05, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Well that is how the system was designed to work. But you may have noticed the daily youths around , ALL with Petitions to sign to SAVE THE WORLD in one way or another. I personally NEVER sign, since the cost for a Ballot Initiative is so astronomical, that almost all petitions are worded to sound good, the Youth are trained to appear energetically enthusiastic and are in it for nothing more .... than the dollar value they get paid for each signature they collect. I don't know how the City differs from the State Process, but anyone willing and able to (cost and time) to set up the petition and get the signatures .... More Power to them. I don't want to imply that I have anything close to average levels of initiative or ability to do it myself, far far less and decreasing daily (lol) but I would congratulate anyone devoted enough to get it done. I don't want to be a wet blanket, but once elected into West Hollywood City Hall .... it is clear from history that there is little we residents can do to affect our city for the benefit .... if it is not what the City Counsel Members own personal agendas. My opinion about why we are stuck arguing over weather after finally getting a voice of reason elected, the argument is weather to even bother to consider looking over the current existing finalized plan for the possibility that the "GREAT" plan (even assuming good intentions for the sake of the argument) is actually NOT GREAT and by examples already is BAD FOR THE CITY.
Grant Taylor May 05, 2011 at 04:47 PM
I'm so glad that John won the election and is following up on his promises. Refreshing to have him aboard.
joninla May 05, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I share with your sense of John's Reelection in both his winning, and his being as your said "ABOARD" Finally - He is aboard and at the helm to answer the serious issues, concerns, complaints, misunderstandings and just what was done with the community feedback that was "RECEIVED" for this master plan and all the other noticed meeting the truly concerned residents living in West Hollywood have and think will be addressed and not just received and dismissed. I just hate it when people are finally made aware of an incumbents history of action and true intent for the future - just after they retire or do not win reelections. BUSH II - out of office and happily avoiding all public contact and national issues (and his own record) We are lucky John is still here, elected and prepared to stand up to his absurd excuse that it will be too much effort, in fact I believe he thinks it is truly "UNFAIR" to have them review and possibly correct any problems, errors and/or change of circumstances for the City's 25 year master plan, for his staff to have to do it all over again. Good input I hadn't considered. :)
Barbara Robertson May 05, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Tonight at 6:30pm at West Hollywood Auditorium, 647 N. San Vicente is The Planning Commission Meeting. PLEASE come and speak your allotted 2 minutes regarding all we have discussed here. See you there!
Michael Stone April 01, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Craig Charles was "appointed" to the Historic Preservation Commission. What a joke. He is a criminal defense attorney who works for John Duran. He does not work in preservation or real estate. I guess working for the mayor has its perks. It doesn't hurt that D'amico is in John Duran's back pocket.
MarkD April 01, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Wow, way to be current and up-to-date there, buddy. I'll take D'Amico and Duran any day over Heilman and Land.
michael stone April 01, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I don't disagree with your preference but cronyism is cronyism and should be disparaged whenever discovered.
joninla April 01, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I understand the timing of your comment. It is not at all late since I gather you were directed to this old article from a current article. That's one flaw with what I otherwise think is a really great source of local information and discussion that PATCH offers and provides. I think your timing and opinion are very germain to the problems weho ha today/currently. Rather than being mocking critical of a residents serious opinions because it appears to be way too late, I wish the people who are concerned and want action about today's imminent big disaster in announcing the final approval and commencement of the robo-garage .... I would rather the people who just blindly wonder how the city is able to do this .... would realize that people who would be as vocal or even more so than the current opinion .... BUT HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE UNTIL TODAY, AND BEING INTERESTED ENOUGH TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON WHAT APPEARS TO BE A TIMELY TOPICAL RELATED ARTICLE ... SHOULD POINT OUT HOW FEW PEOPLE EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE ROBO GARAGE OR CONSISTENT HISTORY OF BAD DECISIONS BEING MADE BY OUR CITY LEADERS.
michael stone April 01, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Thank you John and that is part of the problem. When you question too often you get maligned. Weho is blessed with talented people who are educated in various disciplines. So when there is an opening on the Historic Preservation Commission how about appointing an architect or someone with experience in the issues coming before the committee. I don't know Craig Charles. He may be a very nice man. However he is a criminal defense attorney who works for the Mayor John Duran in John's private criminal law practice. Surely there are better choices and this appointment needs to be questioned for the self serving cronyism it typifies. It does not best serve the residents of the City. I support John Duran but even someone you support can make bad decisions that should be questioned. The timing of the action is irrelevant.
michael stone April 01, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Thank you Johninla and that is part of the problem. When you question too often you get maligned. Weho is blessed with talented people who are educated in various disciplines. So when there is an opening on the Historic Preservation Commission how about appointing an architect or someone with experience in the issues coming before the committee. I don't know Craig Charles. He may be a very nice man. However he is a criminal defense attorney who works for the Mayor John Duran in John's private criminal law practice. Surely there are better choices and this appointment needs to be questioned for the self serving cronyism it typifies. It does not best serve the residents of the City. I support John Duran but even someone you support can make bad decisions that should be questioned. The timing of the action is irrelevant.
joninla April 01, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Just to let you know what I only learned myself when discussing issues. Both the WEST HOLLYWOOD HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMITTEE; AND the WEST HOLLYWOOD PLANNING COMMITTEE, Are the 2 most powerful Committees in WeHo and each are made up of 7 members who are appointed as follows: Each of the 5 elected city council members get to appoint one person of their choice and sole discretion. The remaining 2 seats are filled by the majority vote of the same 5 elected city council members. There is zero community involvement, participation or accountability of the 7 appointees other than the council member who chose them. In a perfect world, these two committees are nothing more tan proxy votes made by the city council but voted on in a public forum by people who appear to have some reason to act for the city's best interest, and not just vote as the city council wants them to vote. Since the 25 year incumbancy of the majority of the city council is so closed and corrupted on so many levels, the recent decisions to declare an already designated historic and protected land/building as NO LONGER HISTORIC, while at the same time the slow formally declared "slow growth low and renters protection" is buildimg a tall massive parking structure, cutting down an entire parks spectacular old trees to build an under ground parking garage and at the same time two giant new mixed use developments have broken ground (carls jr and jons market site).
michael stone April 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Thank you again Jon. I knew some of that but not all of it. Other cities allow city council people to make appointments at their sole discretion. The difference is in other city's the choice gets questioned. Can you even imagine a mayor of another city appointing someone who works for him as a criminal defense attorney in his private law practice to a committee like the Historic Preservation Committee without it being questioned. That is the difference. Not that someone with no expertise in the field can be appointed but that when the appointment is made it is not questioned. Absolute discretion to appoint does not mean the public cannot debate and question an inappropriate choice. Someone who works for the mayor's law firm is probably an inappropriate choice to begin with. When you add to it the fact that the person works in an area totally unrelated to the commission he is appointed to it makes it far more inappropriate.
MarkD April 02, 2012 at 01:06 AM
As a good journalism mentor always told me, "If you're mother tells you she loves you, find a second source." I'd suggest finding at *least* two other sources for *anything* you "learn" from comments in Weho Patch, Michael. You'll soon learn that very few of them are trustworthy, and some (Wendy comes to mind) would do better under the care of mental health professionals than trolling the comment threads online.
Emma Peel April 02, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Joninia-I emailed all 4 City Council member about several issues-one being the automated parking garage awhile back. Prang was the only one who responded. If you (or anyone else wants to see his response-email me). I'm <emmapeel54-confidential@yahoo.com>. (It's too long for a response here.)
MarkD April 02, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I'm assuming you meant that you contacted all FIVE city councilmembers. (Or I'd love to know which one you left out and why.)
michael stone April 02, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Thank you Mark. That is a good point about double checking sources. I did not study journalism and am not a journalist. However I did a little research. Craig Charles is a criminal defense attorney who works for John Duran. Craig Charles is also a member of the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Committee. Every other member works in fields related to the committees' work...architecture, city planning, etc. The first thing you see on John Duran's law office web page is that they specialize in criminal law and in large print that John Duran is the mayor of The City Of West Hollywood. He has one other attorney working for him, Craig Charles. Charles was appointed to the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Committee and Mr. Duran presumably signs his paycheck. I am much more involved in politics at the state an national level. On those levels we worry inappropriate connections before or after an elected official leaves office. I think in this instance at the local level there might not be enough separation between the private and public sector while an elected official is in office. I appreciate that the members of the Weho council and the mayor are not paid that much and need to have other jobs. However perhaps there should be a wall between their two worlds and appointing their ongoing employees to public positions is not appropriate particularly where those employees lack the appropriate background.
michael stone April 02, 2012 at 02:23 AM
To be clear I also do not wish to overly disparage John Duran. I just think his actions in these instances are not appropriate.
MarkD April 02, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I'm speaking specifically of information you might learn from other Patch comments. As for Craig Charles, I don't know his resume. I do, however, believe that one's job title doesn't necessarily capture the entirety of one's expertise or experience. It's really difficult to make a judgment based on the limited knowledge I have of Charles. I think referring to D'Amico as someone "in Duran's back pocket" is pretty inaccurate and disparaging.
joninla April 02, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Michael - yes the city council members are only paid a very small stipend monthly. The amount is even smaller and more nominal when compared to all of the salaries of City Hall Employees, which are at leasy double the income that the same position pays for the City of Los Angeles.(the high saleries were a recent discussion, but I think irrelevant since changing/lowering any public employees salary is next to impossible. However, never more than recent times does the city councils almost non existent compensation SCREAM of a blatent attempt to 'look honorable' but obviously means they receive a lot lot of undisclosed income/personal benefits from the absolute power to appove or reject the very high end commercial projects which are the soucrce of weho's continued annual bidget while the other citied, calif and the entire us economy is teetering on collapse if the other unstable world economies collapse. Yet weho is spending more than ever and have very large campaign funds securing their reelection to an office that officually pays nothong. The council seets have much more personal value to the elected member than any salary could be. If you are looking for local corruption, there it is. And like al capone, if nothing lse, they either had to report the improper income or are guilty of tax fraud.
joninla April 02, 2012 at 03:19 AM
SIDE NOTE: You don't need to be a journalist to check the information in these posts. I usually include links when I bring up a point (but I am on a limited mobile today). But I have made many statements a few of which I was corrected by other poster who had actual professional knowledge on particular topic, or else corrected my inaccurate reference if I made one. I think the exchanging of both opinions and facts of law or actual events is what makes PATCH such a wonderful community resource. So long as people are able to stand for correcting their own misinformation without getting personally offended, in the process of you own learning, all of us other readers learn what we never knew we were ignorant of in the first place. It still surprises me how often neighbors will comment to me in passing about one of my posts. A lot more people read the cfomments than you might think. As for emailing the city council: I don't need to because they read and pay attention to all the opinions posted here on path. Several times there have been actions/changes/statements made that address a unique new idea posted only here by someone with a good idea.
Emma Peel April 02, 2012 at 03:29 AM
John, Abbe, John, Jeff, and John-sorry-may have been wishful thinking...
M Stone April 03, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Well if you watched the city council meeting this evening on the 47,504 square foot 8801 Sunset Boulevard project you would have heard Craig Charles who is a criminal defense attorney working for John Duran and was somehow appointed to the City's Historic Preservation Committee as the sole member of that committee who does not have a position in a related field defend the project because "West Hollywood deserves a Dan Barton Gym". There was no mention of the impact of another huge project on the city, the size of the project or any issues that one might expect a member of a historic preservation committee to comment on but then this appointment was seemingly never about historic preservation. Rather it was cronyism at its finest and we get to live with the results.
jimmy April 03, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I watched the meeting. OK, i'm convinced, David Barton is a great gym, and we should all try to live healthy lives. Unfortunately, those issues are not what was up for debate. What was being considered was if the project was legal, and it clearly wasn't. And the one the only speaker who had a valid point about anything was the guy almost killed by a distracted river who now has 6 discs in his back. And their four massive billboards would surely have been a public safety hazard. All the rest of the discussion, and i mean all of it, was nonsense.
jimmy April 03, 2012 at 03:12 PM
And those residents of Horn knew there was a big lot there that could one day be developed, and the developer had no right to think he could buy that property and build a place solely for the purpose of housing illegal billboards. I don't think any of the office space would have been rented, and the gym would go out after a year at most. But the developer would still make tons of money just on the illegal billboards alone. Let's be honest: the developer bought a property, the economy changed, and he couldn't legally make his money back. He should suffer and lose money just like all the other risk takers did who lost money on investments. John Duran, as usual, with his "let's party all the time, and f**k the neighbors", is a public safey hazard.
joninla April 04, 2012 at 04:38 AM
jimmy - I think let's party is not accurate. It sounds like you are saying John Duran wants us all to party or party with hom. He is only into himself. Likewise, he wouldn't use profanity towards reidents. He thinks too little of the people to ever get that bothered. He just ignores with annoyance any resident who have any concern. And to be fair, we do know he reserves his public outbursts with profanity for people / situations when someone with power says to to Duran. He is a bigger safety hazard when he does speak on an issue and far less dangerous when he is keeping his mouth shut. Unfortunately he seems to have a thing for the taste of feet, since he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth so oftn.

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