Push Underway to Have West Hollywood Library Named after Former Councilmember John Heilman

West Hollywood Library as seen from the courtyard of the Pacific Design Center.

UPDATE: There is a competing effort to have the West Hollywood Library named after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On the just released City Council agenda for the Dec. 21 meeting, Councilmembers Sepi Shyne and Lauren Meister are sponsoring an item to have the library named after Ginsburg. The city has a different policy for naming city-owned properties and buildings.

Should the West Hollywood Library be renamed in honor of former City Councilmember John Heilman?

A movement is afoot to make that name change happen. WEHOville received numerous phone calls and emails regarding it on Tuesday.

Heilman left the City Council last week after being defeated in the Nov. 3 election. Heilman was first elected to the City Council in 1984, in the same election where voters also approved the creation of the city of West Hollywood.

In his 36 years on the Council, Heilman accomplished a lot including writing the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and creating the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation which creates “affordable” housing for lower-income residents.

John Heilman at his final West Hollywood City Council meeting on Dec. 7 with the library as his Zoom backdrop.

Heilman is also the person who pushed the city to build the new library as part of its redesign of West Hollywood Park. The city’s current 32,000-square-foot library opened in Oct. 2011, replacing the 52-year-old 5,100-square-foot library, designed by noted architect Edward Fickett, which was demolished in Sept. 2011.

Former City Councilmember Abbe Land is rumored to be the person spearheading this effort to get the library named for Heilman. However, Land denies it. In a message to WEHOville, Land said, “I’m not spearheading, but I do think it’s a good idea. Glad to know many community members agree.”

Land served on the City Council with Heilman for 23 years (1986-1997 and 2003-2015) and was his political ally. The two shared similar views on how the city should be run and almost always voted alike.

City policy does allow for naming memorials “in honor of a person(s) or organization(s) who have served the nation, the State of California and/or the City of West Hollywood in an exceptional and distinguished manner – and where such action is warranted by a contribution of service which is deemed to be of major significance.”

Heilman would appear to fall into that category.

However, the city also had a policy which prohibited creating a memorial for anyone until five years after their death.

That city policy read, “Memorials in honor of deceased persons shall not take place until five years after their deaths. This particular policy guideline is not intended in any way to reflect on the merits of any deceased individual who may have been a prominent civic leader. However, it is felt appropriate to establish such a waiting period to ensure that an individual’s accomplishments or contributions will stand the test of time and that decisions shall not be made on an emotional basis immediately following a person’s death. Memorials will not be named after living persons.”

This provision of the policy, which has been in place since Sept. 2004, would seem to have prevented the library from being named for Heilman until after his death.

However, the City Council voted last week, at its Dec. 7 meeting, to eliminate that provision about not naming memorials for living persons.

With the elimination of the deceased requirement enacted last week, Heilman is eligible to have the library named for him right away.

Elimination of the being deceased requirement was the only major change to the policy regarding memorials. However, several other minor revisions were also in the item, including now referring to them as “commemorations” rather than “memorials.”

The item revising this city policy was sponsored by Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Councilmember John D’Amico. It was approved unanimously on the Council’s consent calendar without any discussion.

To read the original policy and all the changes made to it, CLICK HERE.

Horvath did not respond to WEHOville’s request for comment.

However, D’Amico did respond. Despite sponsoring the item, he is opposed to naming the library after Heilman.

He texted this response, “Doesn’t seem appropriate to name anything in our city after any living, past or present, Councilmember. We already have our names on the plaques that are installed when the buildings are opened and John’s is on all of them. And let’s not forget we are all paid for our service. This just seems desperate to me. And unnecessary.”

That D’Amico is opposed to naming the building after Heilman is not a surprise. He campaigned for office on a platform to eliminate the “entrenched elite” on the City Council, which included Heilman.

In fact, in a 2010 speech, D’Amico referred to the then-under-construction library as the “John Heilman Memorial Book Museum.” To watch the video of that speech, CLICK HERE.

Since his election to City Council in 2011, D’Amico and Heilman have had a generally frosty relationship, although at times it might have been considered lukewarm.

Although Heilman was defeated after 36 years, he could still serve one more term on the Council, if the voters put him back in office.

The term limits which the voters approved in 2013 say a councilmember may serve three four-year terms (any portion of a term counts as a full term). Terms limits were not retroactive, so the clock only started ticking in 2013.

Thus far, Heilman has served two of the three terms he is allowed. So, if he chooses the run again and the voters choose to put him back in office at some point in the future, he could serve one more four-year term.

CLICK HERE to read an op ed suggesting the City Council move cautiously on this matter.

CLICK HERE to read an op ed supporting the idea of naming library for Heilman.

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Leo
Leo
1 month ago

What the hell is wrong with the name WEST HOLLYWOOD library? Egoism and this constant meism in this town knows no end.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
2 months ago

A wasted effort right now! How about keeping businesses afloat instead? People are out of work and there are vacancies everywhere and this is what the Council is worried about?!

Jason K
Jason K
2 months ago

Do we have to name something after Duran too. Maybe we can rename one of the bathhouses.

Marco Colantonio
Marco Colantonio
2 months ago

In 1380 Chaucer said: “It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.”
Later interpreted by a 19th century politician, “let sleeping dogs lie”
How about Abbe Land stops stirring the Calderon and leaves well enough alone. Let sleeping dogs and politicians lie”! The $70 Million spent on the library has been the source of enough discontent. Let’s finally close the book and begin a new chapter in West Hollywood.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

Is stirring her calderon a reference to McBeth?

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago

The New York Public Library received an original grant from Samuel Tilden, a former governor of NY, funds from Andrew Carnegie and was designed by Carriere & Hastings selected from 88 possible architects. Advocates for renaming the WH Library might have a better perspective if they looked into those individuals. Most folks should know about Andrew Carnegie but Samuel Tilden is an interesting story particularly in light of our recent presidential election fracas. And the “Lions” might not even consider the WH Library as a suitable snack so let’s keep things in perspective. Lastly WH was very quick and shortsighted… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
2 months ago

A friend called me yesterday and told me he thought the library should be named after one of the biggest developers that have donated the most money to steer the planning commissioners and the city council to vote on their projects that came before them. LOL!

Alison
Alison
2 months ago

As someone who has lived in WeHo since before Cityhood (and therefore has seen all of Heilman’s hijinks), I say NO to naming the library after him. The library is part of LA County’s system of libraries and it is fine with the name it has: The West Hollywood Library.

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
2 months ago

The RBD idea is a great competing thought

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
2 months ago

Sorry RBG, and yes anonymity does breed contempt

Robert Switzer
Robert Switzer
2 months ago

The person who is repeatedly overlooked despite being known as the “father of West Hollywood” is the late Ron Stone, who led the successful effort to incorporate our city. If anyone deserves to have a building named in his honor, it is he.

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Switzer

Best suggestion yet. I agree 100%. Stone was then called “The Father of West Hollywood” & it was indeed he who sewed the seeds of cityhood. I remember it all very well

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Switzer

I thought there was a Ron Stone Building, but i can’t find it online or on google maps. I thought it was near the June Mazer Archives (maybe that building?). Anyone know what I’m talking about or am I making this up?

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
2 months ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

There may be, but I seriously doubt it

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago

Aspiring to have a building named after one whether directly or indirectly is the antithesis of public service. The value of true service is exemplified by satisfaction In that one saw a need and responded for the benefit of others.

Admirable Service.
Admirable Service.
2 months ago

The Woody guy left 8 comments- Steve Martin 6 comments, the James 4 and an Alan 2 equals four total people leaving 20 spewing negative comments and nothing positive- Get a life guys! Seeing this crowd makes one appreciate John Heilman putting up w these people for 36 years even more admirable.

Greta
Greta
2 months ago

Get a life?? And you’re spending time counting comments on this site?? WHO should get a life??

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago

Once again, WEHOville’s “policy” of moderating comments and asking that commenters not attack each other is clearly ignored. One commenter, comfortably ensconced in anonymity, is able to call out four people (who always comment with their full identities) as needing to “get a life.” I now have three comments, and I own them with my real identity. Anonymity breeds toxicity. I once thought that debate was a valued part of democracy, but in a increasingly intolerant world it has been lost to the debate by hashtag, meme and soundbite. If one were to read my commentary in full, one would… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Alan Strasburg
Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

However Mr. Strasburg, where is the critical thinking you mention ? Can you be urged to tap into that? Sound principles Hopefully breed sound principles whether they be anonymous or not.

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
2 months ago

I left three comments (now four) and am disappointed you did not skewer me. You seem to miss the point of “letters to the editor”: free expression in an open space.

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
2 months ago

Wow! So many things to say here: First, can we stop the fear-mongering here? Should a building ever be named after someone (dead or alive) and sentiment about that individual’s history or actions turn negative after time, the name can be changed. (Look at all the schools that will be getting name changes throughout the state – even “Lincoln”) Second, WeHo does not have a policy against naming something after a living person, it has a policy that says IF you’re going to name something after a dead person, it cautions against acting out of emotions and requires a “calming… Read more »

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