Update: several readers have informed WEHOville that this protest has been cancelled, but we are unable to get confirmation of that from its organizer.
Anti-development forces will rally at the Sunset Tower hotel tomorrow to express their opposition to John Heilman’s campaign for West Hollywood City Council.
A group that calls itself “Our City Is Not for Sale” is organizing the 8 a.m. rally. It is calling the event “Protest Developer Fundraiser for John Heilman.”
Heilman, who served on the Council for 30 years before losing in the March 3 election, is one of four candidates for one seat in a special election on June 2. Two of his opponents, Heidi Shink and Cole Ettman, have worked to portray Heilman as a supporter of overdevelopment and housing density in West Hollywood, which is opposed by some homeowners.
A group of Heilman supporters including Steve Afriat, Jeff Seymour and Jim Arnone will be hosting a fundraiser for Heilman inside the Sunset Tower hotel. Afriat and Seymour are lobbyists. Arnone is a lawyer with Latham & Watkins who represents several developers involved in West Hollywood.
Heilman is being backed by an independent expenditure committee whose donors include developers such as Townscape Management and Venice Investments. As of April 14, that group had raised $40,000 to promote Heilman’s candidacy. By law it cannot coordinate its efforts with the Heilman campaign.
As the campaign moves into its final weeks, the focus seems to be on restricting development, which is likely to appeal to many active voters in an election where the turnout is expected to be small. For example, Shink on Monday backed away from her support for a proposed 44-unit residential building at 826 Kings Rd. that she voted for as a city Planning Commissioner. Her decision, which she announced to the City Council, has angered some of her fellow Planning Commission members who see it as politically motivated.
Neighbors opposed to the 826 King Rd. project have put together an aggressive campaign to fight it, which will include a meeting at the Charlie Hotel, 819 N. Sweetzer Ave., at 3 p.m. Sunday to further strategize. They have organized as a group called United Neighbors for Responsible Development (UNReD). The City Council will hear an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision to authorize the project at its May 4 meeting. The United Neighbors group is basing its appeal in part on an argument that more housing will create greater use of water during the drought. Perhaps more controversially, it is arguing that West Hollywood does not need more housing for low income people, saying that it has “far exceeded the construction of 77 units of affordable housing required by the State Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan.” Now, it says, developers should “turn their attention to the remaining ‘great unmet need’ (for affordable housing) of the rest of Los Angeles County.”
The campaign against increased development and increased housing density poses a conundrum for Council members such as John D’Amico and Council candidates who profess to support more affordable housing in West Hollywood but oppose what they see as overdevelopment. Currently the city has in place regulations that require developers of a project of a certain size to include affordable housing units. Restricting development will mean that fewer affordable housing units will be built.
According to a study by the state Legislative Analysts Office, building less housing than people demand makes housing more expensive. The study, “California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences,” cites areas such as Los Angeles County where it notes that “community resistance to housing, environmental policies, lack of fiscal incentives for local governments to approve housing and limited land constrains new housing construction.”