Improving Life and Business on West Hollywood’s Eastside

Shops along Santa Monica Boulevard between Formosa and Poinsettia on WeHo’s Eastside. (City of West Hollywood)

The city’s Community Development Department presented to the West Hollywood City Council last night a detailed report on 58 recommendations for improving life and business on the city’s Eastside.

The report is the conclusion of a project initiated in 2013 when the Council created the “Eastside Working Group,” a group of 14 local residents and business owners and other “stakeholders” to work with the city in developing a plan for the area. West Hollywood’s Eastside is bordered by Hayworth Avenue on the west, Fountain Avenue on the north, La Brea Avenue at the east and on the south by Willoughby Avenue from Fairfax Avenue to North Vista Street, at which point the border is along Romaine.

The Eastside has undergone significant change in recent years. La Brea Avenue, which borders Hollywood, once was a place stereotyped by the presence of prostitutes, homeless people and sidewalk robbers and small shops opened by emigres from Russian-speaking countries in the former Soviet Union. Its 340 acres were viewed as the rundown sector of relatively affluent West Hollywood.

Major changes began in 2004 with the opening of the Gateway shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Santa Monica and La Brea. With the end of the Great Recession, development resumed with construction of the Huxley (187 apartments) and Dylan (184 apartments) buildings, which opened in 2014, the Avalon West Hollywood (371 apartments), which opened last year, and the Domain (166 apartments), which opened last month. Adding to that total of 908 apartments is the Angelene, a recently opened building with 121 apartments on La Brea Avenue, just outside of WeHo.

A 2014 study by Rosenow Spevacek Group (RSG), commissioned by the city, called out some of the changes such as growth in the number of young professionals living on the Eastside and a decline in the elderly population and the number of Russian-speaking emigres. It also found an increase in commuting to and from the area, with 94% of residents leaving the area for work. The RSG study projected that the Eastside’s population might jump from the currently estimated 10,060 people to 11,500 by 2020.

The Community Development Department plan presented recommendations of the Eastside Working Group in seven areas, each ranked as either high, medium or low priority initiatives. But those marked as the highest priorities involved affordable housing, reducing and slowing traffic on neighborhood streets, making it safer for pedestrians to cross Fountain Avenue, improving overall public safety on the Eastside and encouraging owners of empty storefronts or building lots to beautify them. City Council members on Monday night stressed that they would like to see even more focus on public safety efforts on the Eastside.

West Hollywood’s Eastside

The recommendations, none of which can be implemented without the City Council’s followup review, are as follows:

Urban Design/High Priority

— Craft design guidelines for the Eastside’s key commercial corridors to encourage high-quality design and “improve the legibility of the urban realm.”

— Develop an incentive or business support program to provide funds or technical support to improve facades for existing retail spaces along the key commercial corridors.

Urban Design/Medium Priority

— Explore opportunities to put overhead utility lines underground.

— Upgrade existing and install new trash receptacles around the Eastside, with an emphasis on the commercial corridors such as Santa Monica and La Brea.

Formosa pocket park (City of West Hollywood)

Urban Design/Low Priority

— Create specific standards for signage on commercial properties on the Eastside.

— Evaluate and clarify the existing outdoor dining permit process to facilitate and encourage businesses to provide outdoor seating areas.

— Develop design guidelines for single- and multi-family residential buildings.

— Study potential historic districts in all R1-zones areas in the Eastside. (The City Council, however, agreed that this would not include proceeding with the Craftsman district study that it earlier had rejected).

Economic Development/High Priority

— Revise parking standards within the zoning code to reduce requirements for small existing commercial properties.

Economic Development/Medium Priority

— Explore implementation of a parking credits program and expansion of public parking supply on the Eastside.

— Review and modify the city’s policy and practices for shared parking in all Eastside commercial areas.

— Identify opportunities and barriers for new creative office spaces on the Eastside

— Develop regulatory incentives or changes in code requirements for older buildings that require renovations.

Economic Development/Low Priority

— Create a streamlined process to encourage more pop-up retail spaces.

— Encourage outreach and networking events to assist small business owners.

–. Support the development of an Eastside merchants association and/or business improvement district.

— Provide mentoring to small tech and entertainment businesses and start-ups that occupy commercial space on the Eastside.

— Develop an information campaign for Eastside small business owners that focuses on how to make space more marketable, perform upgrades, utilize rebate programs and other incentives.

— Work to attract small, boutique businesses, neighborhood services, restaurants and nightclubs to the Eastside through retail referrals.

Housing/High Priority

— Continue programs that preserve existing low-cost housing, and promote new income-restricted housing.

— Explore flexible development requirements for micro-unit housing.

— Develop a package of incentives that encourages property owners of multi-family buildings to upgrade their properties.

Housing/Medium Priority

— Maintain and continue policies that allow for a range of housing types to be developed, including for-sale and rental products that can meet a wide variety of income levels and preferences.

–. Continue to support and facilitate the relocation of seniors seeking accommodating units.

Housing/Low Priority

— Continue to encourage housing development design that reduces household expenditures through shared amenities.

— Continue to ensure that code requirements support evolving needs as residents age.

— Facilitate and encourage the adaptive re-use of buildings to support the development of additional housing units.

— Review the zoning code to evaluate how code requirements are impacting the design of buildings

— Continue to improve and expand access to housing information and programs offered by the city and other governmental agencies.

Fountain Avenue from Fairfax to North Orange Grove (Google Maps)

Mobility /High Priority

— Prioritize implementation of a pedestrian zone and crosswalks on Fountain Avenue, as identified in the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, to improve pedestrian safety and comfort.

— Evaluate and streamline the Eastside parking permit program.

— Advocate for rail service. Continue to advocate for rail service to West Hollywood, with stops on the Eastside.

Mobility /Medium Priority

— Implement the new traffic calming measures that are proposed for the Eastside and streamline the resident approval process.

— Implement East/West bike routes on the Eastside, as identifed in the draft Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan.

— Implement pedestrian improvements identified in the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan.

— Prepare a congestion reduction study. Conduct a citywide study to example ways to reduce traffic congestion.

— Expand the geographic reach of CityLineX pilot program and transform it into a permanent service.

Mobility /Low Priority

— Update the residential transportation on demand management program, which is designed to encourage people to share vehicles or public transportation or walk or bicycle rather than drive, to add new requirements for multifamily residential and mixed-use developments.

— Continue to identify “first/last mile” options at Santa Monica Blvd. with La Brea and Fairfax Aves. that could include bike share stations, additional bike parking, secure parking (lockers) and other infrastructure.

— Expand the car sharing program to dedicate additional on-street and off-street parking spaces for car share vehicles such as Zipcar to promote greater use and more convenient access to these shared vehicles.

— Expand the pilot program that allows the legal use of commercial loading zones by ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft to the Eastside.

— Evaluate current practices or conditions placed on new development projects to ensure pedestrian and bicycle access is prioritized in the placement of barriers or detours during construction.

cyclist, bicyclistArts & Events / High Priority

— Collaborate with local merchants to identify one to four opportunities to host events in the Eastside each year that highlight the uniqueness of the neighborhood.

— Develop an annual open street festival along a portion of Santa Monica Boulevard on the Eastside.

Arts & Events / Medium Priority

— Support the creation of a neighborhood identity program.

— Build on existing public art programs and encourage more public art projects that enhance the culture and history of the Eastside.
— Develop an Eastside walking tour that includes maps and markers of the history, art, unique places and sites of significance on the Eastside.

Arts & Events / Low Priority

— Incorporate the Eastside neighborhood identity into the citywide street media project to create artistic activity hubs in areas with high pedestrian activity.

— Improve the visual appearance of the Eastside by encouraging businesses and commercial properties to take advantage of the existing mural program.

Sustainability & Public Spaces/ High Priority

— Develop an alley improvement program to transform alleys into more attractive spaces and/or create additional people-friendly spaces.

— Undertake Green Streets design efforts for selected residential corridors.

Sustainability & Public Spaces/ Medium Priority

— Continue to promote awareness of energy upgrade programs to residential and commercial properties.

— Expand the number and location of electric vehicle charging stations on the Eastside on both public and private property.

— Implement a comprehensive tree planting and landscape program for the Eastside that includes a target number of new trees and tree type standards.

Sustainability & Public Spaces/ Low Priority

— Revise the zoning code to require or incentivize solar panels on all new multi-family, commercial, mixed use and public buildings.

— Continue to incentivize pocket parks in new developments that meet certain characteristics

— Create a program for parklets on Santa Monica Boulevard

Public Safety / High Priority

— Continue to implement public safety programs that are sensitive to the needs of the Eastside.

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Geoffrey Buck
Geoffrey Buck
5 years ago

The eastside is losing the community garden on Lexington and needs to find a permanent home.
The Formosa pocket park with underground parking underneath is an oasis in the city and should be replicated whenever possible.
Open tree wells should be planted as soon as possible. We should not have to wait for 4 years for more shade.
Sidewalks need to be cleaned with hot water and detergent. Some parts are filthy as we get so little rain.

5 years ago

By the way, the “notorious” 7-11″ parking lot where a “homeless” man struck someone with an axe who was sticking his nose his business and where a man died of natural causes in a car is on the West Side.

5 years ago
Reply to  erik

Again, stop with the east vs west side. We have challenges facing our entire city.

5 years ago

I think it’s about time.
When I spend more time studying this, I can add something more of value.
A very important story. Thank you.

5 years ago

I would be willing to bet that more people have been hurt or killed by being drunk coming out of bars on the West side than have been hurt by the homeless on either side. The Idea that people don’t like how the homeless people look, many of whom by no fault of their own, speaks volumes about the lack of compassion and a lack of problem solving skills and progressive thinking. For me I see the West side as “old school” who is unwilling to explore ideas for change. Eastside is a progressive place for a Renaissance of West… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  erik

OMG. East side vs West Side? This city is 1.8 sq miles! Quit acting like it is East Berlin / West Berlin! I personally am excited for the changes. I enjoy all of WeHo. What i do NOT enjoy is the current homeless situation. They have become aggressive in their panhandling, physical assaults, breaking into private property and sleeping in carports, stealing things, defecating/urinating in public, having sex in public, doing drugs in public: these are all things i have personally witnessed or experienced, all over the city: east side, west side, south by southwest side, everywhere!

5 years ago

I agree with Jerome Cleary . The first step is address the aggressive and frightening homeless situation in this city. Next time there is a Coffee with the Cops, let’s tell all the homeless know about it (free coffee and snacks!) So they show up. This might be an impetus to some action .

Joe Kapsch
Joe Kapsch
5 years ago

Any more plans of placing an auxiliary police station on the Eastside?

5 years ago

That’s great news. I love the Eastside. It’s a refreshing departure from the bar scene and I like the diversity of the demographics too. I live at the Avalon. Everything I need is within walking distance…even a car wash….LOL

Jerome Cleary
5 years ago

Correction: the Eastside is still a place for homeless people and it has gotten worse. One way to ruin the Eastside is never significantly reducing this problem.

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