‘Privately owned public spaces’ spur many questions

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.

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RobbyDobby
RobbyDobby
1 year ago

This Article in Slate, for example, offers innovative ways to build community green space on a private high rise apartment building. This is the kind of thinking our city should be looking at when thinking about increasing green space in West Hollywood. Green space doesn’t have to mean “publicly accessible rooftop terrace”…

https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/11/bosco-verticale-vertical-forest-by-stefano-boeri-architetti-is-voted-ctbuh-2015-best-tall-building-worldwide.html

Vigilent
Vigilent
1 year ago

Just a suggestion …white papers are not the equivalent of ideas & concepts not fully thought out. When Council Members bring issues like this to the public not fully developed by Staff, one would think there would be firm arguments and illustrations so the staff could follow the channels pro and con. At some point it may be ready for community engagement and consequently avoid hair brined schemes like “Out on Robertson”. In order for the Council Members to appear competent, it does not require producing ideas to bolster their personal profile. Competence requires taking care of elementary issues and… Read more »

Enough.
Enough.
1 year ago

I would not buy a condo in this city if the common space was open to the public. There are too many crazy people wandering the streets. One more headache an HOA would have to deal with. We have public parks for anyone that needs more room to breathe. Private property is not a commune. Give incentive to builders to provide more open space within their plans and increase the landscaping requirement.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
1 year ago

The same folks who complain about having to step over the homeless occupying public spaces in the city will likely be the same ones lining up on opposition to this. Yet places such as The Grove are very successful because they have public, outdoor space yet have private security and limit access to the space to those who are behaving ‘in an orderly fashion’. Government does not have the right to limit access only to those ‘behaving’, yet many people are rightfully fearful of being in the middle of a misbehaving group of strangers. We’ll ultimately see and hear the… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 year ago

Councilman D’Amico, as I live and breathe.
”…we need to allow the market to to drive what it is that we think of as public space.”

That is absolutely the last thing we want *the market* to do.
Wow…
We know what are public spaces, for crying out loud. And we want to keep them public.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 year ago
Reply to  Joshua88

I think I made an error.
Oops!

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 year ago

It would be interesting to see what insurance underwriters would have to say about this issue.
Quasi-public “roof top gardens” have morphed into restaurant space and have eliminated opportunities for solar panels.
Sepi’s direction for more public input and investigation of the plus and minuses of the issue was smart policy.

William Seegmiller
William Seegmiller
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Good on our council members who insisted on more study before moving forward!

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
1 year ago

Interesting idea would like to see the outreach research

Enough.
Enough.
1 year ago

like they did when they closed off Robertson? No outreach is the new outreach.

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