Opinion Sunday: Who pulled the strings at City Hall?

steve martin
Steve Martin

Back in November, 2017, I supported the City Council’s adoption of the long anticipated Cannabis Ordinance. The process was convoluted and lead to some rather unexpected results but I supported the Council’s efforts because, as then Council member Lindsay Horvath said, the Council wanted to create a ordinance that took as much discretion away from City Staff and City Council so that the licensing process would not degenerate into a corrupt process influenced by lobbyists and campaign contributions. The process was supposed to insure that decisions regarding in issuance of licenses was above board and not politically influenced.

The fear was that the rush to of applicants for licenses would result in a tsunami of campaign contributions that would have a corrupting impact on the selection process as well as skewer City Council elections. The City wanted to maintain a sense of integrity during the licensing process, something at odds with City Hall’s reputation for “pay to play” politics.

The process of getting the Ordinance finalized was not perfect. Ultimately the public was pretty shocked that the four original license holders did not qualify. Eventually that was remedied resulting in an increase in the number of licenses and a cut in the marijuana sales tax. But the City Council still seemed committed to keeping the process open and free of outside influences and for the most part contributions from our local marijuana entrepreneurs have been relatively modest.

Which brings me to Monday night’s meeting of the Business License Commission. The Commission will be asked to consider item 7(a), the application of for a consumption lounge by “Where Eagles Fly”, which will be located at 8811 Santa Monica Blvd., the former venue of Flaming Saddles on Santa Monica.

When the Marijuana Ordinance was passed in 2017 a map of the city was attached reflecting areas that were within six hundred feet of a “sensitive use” zone, such as a day care or youth center. Under this map, the location of the former Flaming Saddles was just within a such a prohibited zone as it was within six hundred feet of West Hollywood Park.

Apparently the combination of a politically well connected commercial landlord and a celebrity who is fronting the business was sufficient for City staff to take it upon themselves to “re-interpret” the map that the City Council had adopted. The map has now been revised so that rather than being six hundred feet from the edge of West Hollywood Park, it is six hundred feet from the West Hollywood Library. So not only is the Flaming Saddles site qualified, so is a large swath of Boys Town is now open for marijuana retail.

City staff’s position is that the original map was somehow wrong and that the lines should have been drawn in a more conservative fashion. Marijuana retail was to be banned six hundred feet from schools, day care centers and youth centers. While nothing was specifically said regarding parks, the City Council drew the original map starting at the boundary of West Hollywood Park.

You would think that when the City Council approved the original map that it should be respected; after all the map reflected the will of the City Council. But I don’t get why describing the Library as more youth oriented than the dog park or the basket ball courts in West Hollywood Park, means that the line should be rolled back. On some levels it just seems like an arbitrary decision based upon the needs of the applicant rather than the needs of the residents.

On a personal level I don’t have an ax to grind as to the opening up of Boys Town, but you can be sure that applicants that have located further away in order to comply with the original map are now feeling cheated. They could have applied at a number of more lucrative locations had the map been “properly” drafted in the first place. Instead of another restaurant at the former location of Café E’toile, there could have been a consumption lounge; Block Party could have applied. On the other hand, allowing for expansion of marijuana retail into Boys Town will exacerbate the issue of commercial rent inflation and put stress of existing businesses. So this decision by staff may have all sorts of unintended consequences.

Given that the City Council wanted the issuance of marijuana licenses to be done in the light of day, it seems odd that City staff should take it upon itself to essentially change the rules without any sort of public notice or public hearing that there was going to be a major change made in the map of where marijuana retail can be located.

So while the City Council is telling the public that they are committed to maintaining the rule of law as it where, City staff is busy undermining the law. There was no reason given in the Staff report as to why the application was not simply rejected outright when it did not conform with the map the City Council had originally approved. Why was this application given such obvious special attention? Just because Patricia Arquette is associated with the project should not carry any particular weight, after all we are not star-struck bumpkins.

So who pulled the strings at City Hall?

If you want to be heard on this issue, you can send your comments to City Hall to the City Clerk on item 7(a) of Monday’s Business License Commission.

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Sinking ship
Sinking ship
28 days ago

Your so right Steve this is city hall failing the residents.

Randy
Randy
28 days ago

The business license commission stopped them dead in their tracks.

https://wehoville.com/2021/06/28/business-license-commission-passes-the-joint-to-city-council/

Randy
Randy
28 days ago

I’m not pleased that it is re-opening as a lounge, mostly because it was a great configuration as a bar. Regarding the 600 feet, no, the city shouldn’t break their own rules. However, I don’t understand the logic of having bar after bar after bar, within 600 feet of West Hollywood Park, but somehow marijuana is going to be a problem? Marijuana is safer than alcohol. In fact, it is medicine for some people. What are people afraid of happening? Minors walking past bars, but, somehow, they are are going to be influenced by walking past a marijuana lounge? They… Read more »

No, No, No
No, No, No
28 days ago
Reply to  Randy

“it is the medicine for some people”. Yes, convenient as a short term crutch but simply another addiction.

Look further.

Concerned Weho Resident
Concerned Weho Resident
22 days ago
Reply to  Randy

Exactly, at least someone see’s the hypocrisy of that cannabis business endure when dealing with buffer zones. Further more I’m sure when city planning was setting definitions for buffer zones within the city, it was designed to be inclusive of the various bars and restaurants within the vicinity of the park. And the irony is not lost that somehow the park can be used to exclude cannabis uses but the the various bars which are closer….

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
28 days ago

Very sad that the City has become so obvious at corruption and self interest at the expense of residents

Tracy
Tracy
1 month ago

City hall doesn’t work for the people it works for the employees and the personal interests of council member. I’m so sorry that I voted for one of these change candidates.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

Check the council members contribution reports. And isn’t one running for a higher office right now? Hmmm.

HuskyHal
HuskyHal
1 month ago

Hmmm. Great questioning, Steve. Who makes these decisions? Time to interview the heads of the Facilities and Planning Depts, Larry?

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

Makes one wonder who is actually in charge in our fair little hamlet. It’s wild west governance.

TomSmart
TomSmart
1 month ago

SO EFFEN SHADY!! Thank you Steve and Larry Block for bringing this to our attention. It shall be interesting to see how they spin this pathetic and embarrassing ordeal. Will Mayor Horvath put out yet another press release with a statement?

TomSmart
TomSmart
1 month ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Council Donations and celebrity will get you EVERYWHERE in this town.

Manny
Manny
1 month ago

Thanks Steve Martin for a very clear analysis. What a mess this little city has gotten its self into Lucy.

Let’s see how the Deer in Headlights BLC stumbles through this one.

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
1 month ago

When special interests rule City Hall and Residents Voices are not heard, then decisions are made not for the common good, and corruption prevails, old story with new players.

No, No, No
No, No, No
1 month ago

Some city staffer will offer up a lame mea culpa, and all will remain the same. Better to ask for forgiveness that ask for permission/do it correctly to begin with. Staff thinks the city is full of distracted ignorant folks. That is partially true and with more cannabis they will be permanently zoned out and easier to maneuver in a city that stinks to high heaven. Utopia!

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