The sitting City Council is granting favors to real estate developers rather than doing its job, which is to protect and advocate for the residents of the city. Time after time, it approves outsized real estate projects that are not in conformity with the law of West Hollywood, as set forth in the city’s General Plan and zoning code. What’s worse, it ignores required procedures designed to give the public a voice in city government.
The 8899 Beverly Blvd. project is a recent, glaring example of government for the developers, by the developers’ lawyers, and of a sellout City Council. The city approved a project to produce luxury condos in the million-dollar range, a project to double the size of a building that was already too large to comply with the General Plan for the city, nonconforming with its zoning, and not within the guidelines set for applying the General Plan. What did your city government do? It simply changed the General Plan, changed the zoning and cherry-picked guidelines to justify the project — everything the developer asked for.
After the city Planning Commission had turned down the project, the City Council played procedural tricks, allowing the developer to bypass the Planning Commission and fast-track the monster project directly through the council. Then when the developer discovered that it had not obtained the rights to take over a strip of dedicated green space it wanted for the project, it proposed that the city give it the rights to use that property for free. The City Council decided that trees and green space had to go and was on the verge of giving the right to use the land to the developer until residents suggested at a City Council meeting that maybe the city shouldn’t be giving the city’s green space away to a developer for free, but ought to get paid for it.
The City Council sent that issue to the council staff to come up with a dollar value for the rights to the green space, and the staff now disregards residents’ requests to provide input on the valuation. They won’t even say who will make the call, or on what basis it will be made. City Council members do not return phone calls related to this matter.
This City Council is working against the residents of the city, rather than for them. It is caving in to every outrageous demand the real estate developers make. It is playing games with the municipal code, state law and with the reasonable inquiries of its residents. It’s time the City Council started doing its job of governing runaway development, rather than lying down on the job.
Richard Giesbret is an architect and president of the West Hollywood West Residents Association.