A Planning Commissioner Nominates Himself In a Gender-Divided Vote

In a meeting filled with technical problems, Thursday night’s teleconferencing meeting on Zoom of West Hollywood’s Planning Commission saw the commissioners send an apartment project back to the drawing board for revisions. Meanwhile, after an unprecedented move of a commissioner nominating himself to become the new vice chair, the Commission voted along male-female lines with the man winning.

During its annual rotation of leadership, the Commission unanimously elected Commissioner Adam Bass to move up from vice chair to become the new commission chair for the next year. He succeeds Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro who has served as chair for the past year.

Lynn Hoopingarner and John Erickson

However, when it came time to select a new vice chair, an unusual male-female partisanship emerged. Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner was next in line for the vice chair position in terms of seniority. The Commission typically adheres to seniority in determining who will be the next chair and vice chair. Thus, Hoopingarner was duly nominated for the vice chair position by Commissioner Stacey Jones, with Commissioner Sue Buckner seconding the nomination.

However, in a never-before-done move, Commissioner John Erickson then nominated himself for vice chair. Commissioner John Altschul seconded Erickson’s nomination. When the votes were tallied, Erickson won by a 4-3 split with all the male members of the commission voting for Erickson and all the female members voting for Hoopingarner.

This is the second time Hoopingarner was bypassed for the vice chair position. Last year when the Commission voted on chair and vice chair, Hoopingarner was next in line for vice chair in terms of seniority (she was appointed to the Commission by City Councilmember Lauren Meister in May 2017) but the commissioners opted to skip her and elected Bass (who joined in June 2017 as an at-large appointee) to the vice chair position instead.

Before the nominating process began, Hoopingarner suggested that Carvalheiro and Bass continue for another year as chair and vice chair, respectively. However, commission bylaws say the chair cannot serve two consecutive terms.

Erickson is a candidate in the City Council election being held in November. An appointee of Councilmember John Heilman, Erickson joined the Planning Commission in Nov. 2018. He also is the president of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

8760 Shoreham Drive (architect John Mebasser)

8760 Shoreham Drive

The Commission voted unanimously to send a proposed 11-unit, three-story apartment building known as Shoreham Lofts on the southwest corner of Shoreham Drive and Sherbourne Drive, just north of Sunset Boulevard, back to the drawing board for revisions.

Replacing a two-story Spanish Revival duplex built in 1938, the project will have studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. However, it will not have any units set aside for low-income residents. Owner Shoreham Capital LLC is opting to pay the city’s in lieu fee rather than have “affordable” units on site.

With large balconies and lace-like wrought iron railings, the building, designed by Santa Monica-based architect John Mebasser, has a European feel. The Commission was very pleased with the design, Commissioner Adam Bass calling it “fantastic.” Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner encouraged the architect to “come back to design more beautiful buildings for our city.”

Despite being impressed, the Commission rejected the project because of modifications it was requesting. City regulations dictate that units have a maximum average unit size of 1,200 square feet, but this project requested a six percent modification to allow units averaging 1,276 square feet. The developer said the lot is narrower at its southern end forcing several units to have extra-long hallways resulting in underutilized or “dead” space.

The Commission rejected this idea saying the architect could simply redesign the layout of the units so long hallways and dead spaces could be avoided.
“There is so much space outside of the seating area that is underutilized and not programmed that I think there is a lot of surplus area that can be better programmed and create interesting spaces like [architect Mebasser] already has,” said Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro.

Hoopingarner noted the architect is clearly talented and should be able to redesign it easily.

The project will have 23 parking spaces in a subterranean garage, but it requested a parking modification allowing nine parking spaces to be just 16 feet, 2 inches long rather than the standard 18 feet the city requires. The Commission also rejected this idea, noting the parking was already haphazard with several spaces that would require four-point turns to get into or out of. Again, the commissioners felt the garage could simply be redesigned to address the problems.

During the public comment period, resident Elyse Eisenberg, who lives nearby, praised the project, saying it was beautiful and would be a “nice addition to the neighborhood.” Meanwhile resident Barry Scott was disturbed that proper notification about this hearing was not sent out and that his email to Planning Department staff went unanswered.

Several other residents complained about construction disrupting their lives in terms of noise and dirt/dust being stirred up.

The project will return at a date yet to be determined, likely in the fall. Commissioners John Altschul and Sue Buckner recused themselves as they both live within 500 feet of the project.

Technical Problems and Potential Brown Act Violation

Thursday’s meeting also had major technical issues. As the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., the public viewing on WeHo TV or YouTube could only see a black screen and could barely hear the audio feed that was apparently on extreme low volume. That problem was finally fixed by 7:05 p.m. with audio and video restored to normal.

However, about 7:20 p.m. the YouTube streaming died, never to return. Viewers were forced to move over to WeHo TV on the city website to watch the rest of the meeting, while others moved to the Zoom platform (provided they knew the person to contact to get the Zoom login info).

The YouTube streaming is the more desirable way to watch the live stream of a city meeting because the video can be paused and even rewound as needed. When watching on WeHo TV, it is not possible to pause or rewind the video. The Zoom platform also does not allow for rewinding or pausing.

Monday’s Public Safety Commission meeting allowed the commissioners to see and hear one another with a video and audio connection. However, members of the public weren’t allowed to see the commissioners, only hear them. And even then, the audio was sometimes not clear and people speaking did not identify themselves to the listening public. It isn’t clear why the public wasn’t provided video access to that meeting given that seeing as well as hearing a speaker makes it easier to understand what is being said.

This was a potential violation of the Brown Act which requires the public be allowed to participate in governmental meetings. The social distancing required because of the coronavirus pandemic has led local governments to move to teleconferencing meetings so that members of the public can see and hear the proceedings on their computers, tablets or TV.

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