Concerned about the closing of long-term businesses and the relocation of non-profit organizations that can’t afford the rent, the West Hollywood City Council has asked City Hall staff to research what other cities are doing to preserve those so-called “legacy” businesses.
The proposal was brought forward by Council members John Duran and Lauren Meister. Duran said he was especially concerned about the loss of non-profit offices that moved because of rent increases. A memo presented with the proposal noted that Jewish Family Services’ food pantry and PAWS/LA had both moved out of West Hollywood because of high rents.
The memo also cited the moves or closing of commercial businesses such as the House of Blues, French Market, Hamburger Hamlet, and the Palm Restaurant, which relocated to Beverly Hills.
“The intent behind the establishment of a legacy business program is to recognize these long-time, community-serving businesses, and nonprofit agencies as valuable cultural assets and to provide them with some type of assistance in order to encourage their continued viability and success and help them remain in the city,” says the memo to the Council. It said that assistance could include educational, promotional, or financial incentives.
The memo proposed that the incentives be provided to businesses that have operated in West Hollywood for 30 years or more, have contributed to the city’s history or the identity of their neighborhood and are committed to maintaining their distinctive traditions.
The proposal got pushback from Councilmember John Heilman. “I’m sure all of us have seen businesses that have been here 30 years or more that we would like to see leave,” he said.
Heilman also said he was concerned about the subjectivity of the decision-making process and that it would inhibit the development of new businesses that might be seen as legacy businesses in the future. He cited the Connie & Ted restaurant and the Tom Tom bar as examples of good replacements of former businesses. He also noted that the House of Blues would not have been built if such a program were in place when it was built in 1994.
The proposal, which Mayor John D’Amico and Councilmember Lindsey Horvath voted against, will have city staffers return to the Council with suggestions based on similar programs in other cities.