The West Hollywood City Council on Monday adopted a $135 million budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1. In addition to the $135 million in anticipated revenue, the budget includes $130 million in operating expenditures, and $10 million in spending on capital projects, which will be funded in part by approximately $1.2 million in reserves from special funds.
The budget includes a projected $103.5 million in the General Fund, which is a part of the budget used to cover costs not dictated by specific funding plans such as the Housing Trust Fund. That is a represents an 8.9% increase over the current fiscal year’s General Fund budget. The spending increases include:
— A 2.6% increase ($480,000) in the cost of services from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, with which the city contracts for public safety services for $20.4 million. Another increase is the cost of liability insurance covering the Sheriff’s Department. The city’s share of that is $1.6 million, an increase of 10.5%
— An additional $2 million to provide day and night bicycle security patrols in residential neighborhoods and along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. The Sunset Strip bicycle security team, $200,000 of which formerly was paid for by the area’s business improvement district, will cost $525,000, which will be covered by a 30% increase in parking meter fees authorized by the City Council in April. An additional $208,000 will be spent on the Santa Monica Boulevard security team, which will focus on the city’s Eastside.
— An increase of $66,000 to a total of $273,000 to cover security services related to the annual Halloween Carnaval and L.A. Pride parade and festival. The city now provides emergency medical response teams at both events and last year added a second medical tent to the Halloween Carnaval.
— An increase in the cost of city contracts and wages tied to the annual consumer price index for Greater Los Angeles, which increased 2.8% this year.
The budget also includes five priorities for improving services to the community. They are:
— Alcohol Liaison Officer. Adding an “alcohol liaison officer” to the Sheriff’s station staff, for which $264,000 is budgeted. “This officer will conduct regular visits at all alcohol establishments, review new alcohol business applications, track approved enforcement operations, assist in development of conditional use permit compliance standards, and engage with the Code Compliance Division to coordinate responsible beverage service training, among other responsibilities,” says a statement from the city explaining the budget.
— City Parks. Spending $65,000, in addition to another $65,000 authorized in the middle of the current fiscal year, to expand an existing radio system for park staffers, install additional fences and gates at city parks and take other measures to reduce security hazards.
— The Block by Block bicycle security ambassadors noted above.
— The WeHo Smart City Strategic Plan. The budget includes $180,000 to conduct a public safety project that would use video, audio, motion, or other camera and/or sensor technology to improve public safety.
— City Facility Security Guards. The budget increases the number of guards providing security at city facilities such as City Hall and parks from six to ten. This increase includes providing security staff at regularly scheduled board and commission meetings. The entire security guard program will cost $550,000 each fiscal year.
The city is moving its Homeless Initiative program from the City Manager’s office to the new Strategic Initiatives Division in the Human Services and Rent Stabilization Department.
The budget includes $500,000 in funding for a Sheriff’s mental health team that includes i a mental health professional and a specially trained Sheriff’s deputy to respond to service calls requiring mental health assistance The budget also includes additional funding for the Sheriff’s Department to provide more foot and bike patrols across the city to respond more quickly to calls for help.
— Sidewalk Cleaning and Security Services. This program for the city’s commercial areas will include $675,000 spent on enhanced and more frequent sidewalk power washing, sidewalk gum removal and concrete sealing. Also, a porter services program, budgeted at $100,000, will place after-hours contract staff in the Sunset Strip club area and Santa Monica bar area to assist with cleaning during the busier nighttime hours. A $60,000 shopping cart retrieval effort will engage a contractor to retrieve the growing number of abandoned shopping carts found throughout the city. Another $170,000 will be spent on daytime trash and litter collection in commercial streets.
— Sunset Trip Entertainment Shuttle. The Sunset Trip, similar to the PickUp entertainment shuttle on Santa Monica Boulevard, launched in May. The launch is a six-month test to see if the shuttle will increase visitors to the Sunset Strip by offering free transportation on weekend evenings. The city has budgeted $525,000 for it.
— Metro Rail Service. The city has budgeted money to continue funding lobbying and marketing efforts as well as $100,000 for a study to identify potential sources of revenue for construction of a Metro line through West Hollywood. The study is expected to offer proof to the Metro board that West Hollywood is interesting in speeding up the northern extension of the Metro Crenshaw/LAX line into WeHo.
— Home Sharing and Outdoor Dining and Valet Permits. The city will continue working with Host Compliance, a firm that tracks illegal home-sharing, and provides an online site where owners of houses who legally can offer short term rentals can register their units. It also is working with Urban Insight, a vendor tracks permits for outdoor dining and valet parking.
–Eastside Commercial Design Guidelines. The budget includes $150,000 to create new design guidelines for commercial areas and properties on the city’s Eastside.
— WeHo Arts: The Plan. The budget includes money for an artist-in-residence pilot program that will connect artists to social service organizations serving West Hollywood. Artists will receive a monthly stipend and money for materials during the four- to six-month residencies.
— Historic Preservation Consultant. This part-time position would provide technical support in reviewing preservation projects, professional support to the Historic Preservation Commission and training to staff on reviewing alterations to historic buildings. The consultant also would implement and promote the city’s Mills Act Program, which gives owners of historic properties a tax break if they invest the money in preserving and restoring the property.
Capital Project Management
This year, the city’s capital improvement program will be managed by the Deputy City Manager of Community Services, with support from the new Urban Design & Architecture Studio, which will provide technical support for residential and commercial development, manage on-call architectural services, oversee the design and construction of capital projects and act as a liaison between city departments and divisions relevant to the design and development process. The departments of Facilities and Recreation Services, Planning & Development Services, and Public Works will continue to manage individual projects and departmental programs under the leadership of the deputy city manager. Capital projects include:
— Fiber Optic Cable and Wireless Infrastructure. The budget proposes $5 million over five years to continue implementation of Phase 1 of the Fiber Infrastructure Strategic Plan. This includes the buildout of fiber along major commercial corridors as well as the creation of a fiber loop to improve fiber infrastructure.
— Fountain Avenue Safety Improvements. The budget includes $1.1 million to address safety concerns on Fountain Avenue by upgrading wheelchair ramps to meet ADA requirements, widening sidewalks and providing traffic signal and traffic mitigation measures. The improvements will be designed in FY19 and implemented by FY20.
–Parking Lot Construction. The budget includes approximately $375,000 carried forward from fiscal year 2017-18 along with $820,000 in new funding for construction of the temporary parking lot at 8120 Santa Monica Blvd. at Crescent Heights. The project includes the development of design and bid specifications, environmental work, pay stations equipment, public art, bike sharing facilities, and electric vehicle charging stations.
–Digital and Wayfinding Signs. The budget includes $225,000 for creating and installation signs to assist visitors and residents in navigating the city, with a focus on directions to common locations and to public parking. The budget also includes $200,000 for engineering services related to the design and installation of digital welcome signs at various locations across the city.
–Public Meeting Room and Community Meeting Room Upgrades. The has budgeted money to upgrade the existing audio visual systems in the City Council Chambers, the public meeting room at City Hall and the community meeting room at West Hollywood Library.
— City Library. The City Library improvement project anticipates spending $300,000 over three years to revisit elements of design and construction to make necessary upgrades and improvements to library, including enhancing interior/exterior lighting, improving seating, addressing accessibility and usage of the outdoor areas at the coffee bar, and examining the possibility of temporary screening enclosures for the auto-court.
— Plummer Park Parking Lot Rehabilitation. The budget proposes $200,000 for work on the south parking lot. The current parking lot includes decomposed granite parking stalls and requires extensive maintenance. The project will remove hazards associated with decomposed granite and minimize deterioration caused by limitations of the existing material both in the parking lot, and to floors of the community center.
–Koontz Office Space. In April 2017, City Council approved a three-year agreement to lease office space at 8916 Santa Monica Blvd. above Koontz Hardware for city staff while permanent facilities are being developed at various locations across the city. The budget includes funding for the second full year of the lease obligation, as well as required operating and maintenance costs.
Internal Organizational Development
The budget includes money for access to learning opportunities for city staff and management to stay up-to-date on the latest rules, laws and regulations. In addition, the budget includes funding for new technology and software upgrades, new copiers, an electronic public records management system, an electronic insurance tracking software system and the final implementation phase of an electronic timesheet system.
There also will be organizational changes, including:
— Hiring a Human Resources Supervisor, Human Services Division. This new position will provide a higher level of support to the organization which includes additional technical experience, supervision of the division’s day-to-day operations, and support to the director and manager related to implementation of new protocols and processes.
— Hiring a Senior Lifeguard, Recreation Services Division. This additional position will provide the Aquatics Centers with the support needed to meet current services offered to the public while also accommodating staffing schedules and safety requirements.
— Hiring an Assistant Planner, Current & Historic Preservation Planning Division. This position will allow the city to increase walk-in hours for service at the planning counter at City Hall to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while also continuing to offer individual appointments in the afternoon. In addition to staffing the planning counter, the person in this position will be able to assist with other duties including working on planning entitlements, writing staff reports, presenting to commissions, responding to public record requests and performing other duties and research as needed.
Other organization changes that began with the 2017-18 mid-year budget and will continue into the new budget cycle include:
–The Urban Design & Architecture Studio Division. At noted above, it will oversee an urban design studio team, whose members will collaborate with other departments and divisions on a by- project basis. The division includes a new manager level position as well as three members of the capital projects team: the principal planner and associate planner from Planning and Development Services, and the senior project management supervisor from Facilities & Recreation Services.
–The Strategic Initiatives Division. This division will be responsible for the city’s Homeless Initiative, the Aging in Place/Aging in Community Strategic Plan, the Los Angeles County Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Collaborative and the city’s efforts to reduce poverty. The division also will be responsible for providing staff support for the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and the Women’s Advisory Board.
— Long Range & Mobility Planning Division and the Engineering Division. The Long Range & Mobility Planning Division under the Planning & Development Services Department is being renamed to Long Range Planning. The division replaced the vacant principal planner position with a senior planner position. The existing senior transportation planner and neighborhood traffic management program specialist positions, along with mobility planning functions, are being moved from the Long Range Planning Division to the Engineering Division. Long Range Planning will retain responsibility for land use and community planning, sustainability, and related programs. The Engineering Division removed the vacant senior civil engineer position and replaced it with a principal traffic engineer position, which will oversee these two positions and focus specifically on traffic issues.
Sources of Revenue
The budget reflects the city’s economy in many ways. For example, a presentation to the City Council notes that tourism continues to be strong, which accounts for an average daily hotel room rate of $300 and an occupancy level above 80%.
“In the coming fiscal year, the 190-room Edition West Hollywood is expected to open on the Sunset Strip; meanwhile, the Jeremy Hotel will undertake a year-long renovation in order to complete a brand transition,” the presentation notes.
The presentation also states that “property tax revenue continues to show strong and steady gains due to a combination of factors, including rising property values, steady volumes of sales transactions, and the addition of new buildings to the city’s property tax roll; including the Sunset/La Cienega Project and several new mixed-use projects on the east side of the city.”
“In fact, over the past five years the value of property in the city has increased by over $3 billion, and since 2007 the city’s assessed value has doubled from $5.8 billion to $11.6 billion, substantially outpacing the vast majority of other cities in the state and nation.”
The presentation notes that West Hollywood had a net increase in property tax revenue, its second largest source of general fund revenue, in the 2017-2018 fiscal year of 8.3% compared to a 6% increase countywide. The city anticipates an 8% increase in the coming fiscal year for total revenue of $18.8 million.
Revenue from construction permits and planning services is expected to increase 17% to $4.8 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, making it the largest percentage increase in the city budget.
The budget projects that the hotel room tax, which is 12.5% , will continue to be the city’s largest single source of revenue. That revenue is budgeted at $26.9 million, a 4% increase over this fiscal year’s tax revenue. Another 3% is taxed to provide revenue for the West Hollywood Tourism and Tourism Bureau.
Sales and use taxes are expected to grow at a modest 2% to $16.5 million. A big increase (30%) is expected in parking meter revenue, which is anticipated to be $8.4 million in the coming fiscal year. That is largely because the City Council voted in April https://wehoville.com/2018/04/17/weho-parking-meter-rates-climb-33-july-1/ to increase parking meter fees beginning July 1 by 50 cents an hour to a total of $2. That increase was made to cover the cost of increased sidewalk cleaning and security services.
Revenue from parking fines, the city’s fourth largest source, is projected to grow xx% in the coming fiscal year to $ 8 million from $7.2 million budgeted for the current fiscal year. In the last two fiscal years the city reduced its parking fine revenue budget by 20% to reflect an a reduction in fines because of an increase in parking spaces, more parking turnover because of an extension of meter hours and an increase in ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft.