City Council took up discussion Monday night about “privately owned public spaces,” a new initiative that would allow the city and property developers to create mini-parks, rooftop terraces and other recreational spaces that are accessible to the public.
Councilmember Sepi Shyne tried to clear up some confusion regarding the policy.
“Rooftop public spaces will not apply to residentially zoned projects — only the mixed use and commercial projects, where there is the possibility of public access to a roof,” she said. “These spaces would only be developed if the property owners wanted it, so there’s no city requirement. There were some comments submitted that had that assumption that anything in a residential zone would likely have limited hours just like our city-run pocket parks, like Havenhurst for example, which closes at dusk.”
Shyne suggested staff do outreach and education on the item before any zone text amendment is brought forth.
“We envisioned green spaces because what we found out was that in the city, most of our trees for example are in the single-family neighborhoods or in Plummer Park — not in multi-family buildings,” Councilmember Lauren Meister said.
“We are not looking at incentives that would create more density, mass scale, height … we are looking at incentives, for example, swapping out personal private or common space for green space outside that other people can enjoy. And the benefit of something like that could be that by not having terraces on the sides of a building, the mass and scale of the building actually might decrease and there would be privacy for the neighbors as opposed to having someone looking out their terrace into their window.”
WeHo resident Charles Jasper voiced concerns about increased crime in these types of spaces, and he wondered who would ultimately be responsible for maintaining them.
“Most residential buildings in West Hollywood don’t have 24-hour security or maintenance on hand, whereas in a commercial or mixed-use building you are more likely to find that. So I would urge you to amend the staff report and to reconsider putting these public access spaces in mixed use or commercial buildings, where there is an expectation of public access, but not in purely residential buildings.”
City Architect Ric Ambramson thinks most of these issues can be addressed.
“In most multi-family housing there are significant common open spaces that already have to be maintained by HOAs. There are third parties who are already under contract that know the protocols to keep them safe and secure. So we think through a combination of mindful and thoughtful design and careful operational protocols, these could be fairly successful spaces and really add to that green space component that we’re very short on the city.”
Councilmember John D’Amico brought the discussion back to a more basic concern.
“It would be helpful to define what public space is, and does it exist only in the three-dimensional realm? Is there a digital public space that has some agency, in this case, if a building provided free wi-fi … we need to allow the market to to drive what it is that we think of as public space.”
Mayor Lindsey Horvath said that with so many ambiguities remaining, it was too early to proceed with a zone text amendment.
City staff were directed to plan a symposium in which members of the community would have an opportunity to provide feedback.