One has to give kudos to those who are willing to serve on one of West Hollywood’s 15 commissions and advisory boards (not to mention the various task forces and committees). It takes time to digest agendas, attend meetings, listen to opinions from the public and craft suggestions for City Hall and the City Council.
But apparently there are times when those boards and commissions need to be reminded that they exist to serve the residents of West Hollywood. One of those times was last night at the meeting of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Nearly 60 people showed up for the meeting, an unusually large turnout, with most hoping to speak about hotelier Jeff Klein’s proposal to redevelop the dilapidated San Vicente Inn into an attractive urban resort. But that crowd shrank when the preservation commissioners flipped their posted agenda to postpone the matters of greatest interest to the public so that they could have an incredibly tedious and arcane discussion with a city attorney about how their opinions and decisions should be conveyed to the City Council. And then there was the commission’s approval of the minutes of two previous meeting, a lengthy process that involved commissioner Gail Ostergren nitpicking over the meaning of words and the placement of commas in a manner that brought to mind Voltaire’s wise statement that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”
It was nearly three hours after the beginning of the 7 p.m. meeting when the commission voted to approve a revised plan to merge Irv’s Burgers with Beach Nation (with Ostergren continuing to express concern about the use of stainless steel counters at the Irv’s kitchen instead of the original tile) and then to approve Klein’s plan to turn the dilapidated San Vicente Inn into a luxury urban inn (with Ostergren questioning the appropriateness of using metal railing on the stairs of one of the historic bungalows).
Remarkably, about 40 local residents stuck it out. Also remarkable was that all of them were in support of Klein’s proposal. When public hearings attract a crowd, it’s usually to express opposition to a development plan.
Lt. Dave Smith of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station noted that Klein’s ownership of the San Vicente Inn, once known as a center of prostitution and drug dealing, already has resulted in a 75 percent drop in calls to the Sheriff’s Station about activities there. Jen Dunbar of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, which keeps an eagle eye on proposed renovations to historic buildings such as the Shermanesque bungalows of the San Vicente Inn, also spoke in favor of the project.
So last night the kudos went not to the members of the Historic Preservation Commission but to the West Hollywood residents who had the patience to sit through hours of procedural questions by the commissioners, who seemed oblivious to the crowd of people who sat before them as they nitpicked over details. Let’s hope the successor to commission Chairman Danny Castro Jr., whose meeting last night was his last as he moves to a new job as community development director for Sausalito, will help focus his or her fellow commissioners on what really matters.