I woke up at 3 AM last week thinking about West Hollywood’s title of “The Creative City,” and started wondering if that description really fits anymore.
True creativity doesn’t come down from the City Council dais, it comes up from people who are free to innovate. The West Hollywood City Council needs to create policy that fosters creativity, not assume that its members are the arbiters of creativity themselves.
For instance, this Council must come up with ways to embrace entities like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb rather than create task forces that will try to restrict them. We should give freedom to the hotels by reducing the various taxes and fees so they can compete with the “shared economy” and fill their vacancies more consistently, and find ways to allow the taxi companies to compete. And what should we do when businesses and patrons complain about the extended meter hours and paying for street parking at night? Let’s compromise by conversely making metered street parking free or cheaper when demand is lower, like during the daytime.
I have more examples: We should explore potentially relaxing the burden on landlords so that they have more flexibility in the rents and can afford to upgrade their buildings instead of selling to developers who build expensive condos. We could solve the crosswalk problems and calm traffic on our thoroughfares and neighborhood streets by initiating a contest with a cash prize open to all for the best innovative ideas to create a safer place for drivers and pedestrians. And rather than the city attempting to produce “GoGo Day” and other festivals and events, large and small, we should allow businesses to thrive on our boulevards by reducing the costs and restrictions for sidewalk sales, community festivals, outdoor patios, signage, and outdoor artwork. Let the creative entities take back the streets!
Lift the fur ban, the smoking ban and the plastic bag ban and let businesses and patrons find solutions together that work. And flying a rainbow flag over City Hall doesn’t make West Hollywood a gay city. The gayness of the people who live, work and play here are what make it a gay city! When I walk through North Beach in San Francisco, I’m left with the overwhelming impression that I’m in a section of town that is distinctly Italian, because the sights and the sounds and the smells and the flags flying from the front of the private businesses and residences show the people’s pride in their heritage. San Francisco didn’t necessarily have to make a special designation. It’s just there. The same should be true in Weho. If it’s gay, then the people will organically show their pride. And in many areas of our city that is the case.
So here is the impression I want to leave with the members of the West Hollywood City Council, for whom I have the utmost love and respect: Do not govern as if this Council and city government are the arbiters of creativity and innovation. Govern so that the people are free to foster our own creativity, spontaneously.
That is how we will ensure West Hollywood lives up to its moniker as the Creative City.
Ben Coleman is a West Hollywood resident and public safety advocate via Keep Weho Safe. This opinion piece is based on a short speech he gave at Monday’s City Council meeting.