OpEd: Corruption continue in WeHo over teardown of Viper Room on Sunset Strip

The Viper Room opened in 1993 and was known as “Johnny Depp’s joint”. The world famous club has hosted Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stone Temple Pilots, Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Kravitz, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello, Pearl Jam, Iggy Pop and Sheryl Crow. But the history of the site goes back 100 years to 1921 when it was a small neighborhood grocery story. In the 1940’s, it became “The Cotton Club” on the Sunset Strip advertising itself as “Harlem In Hollywood”.

It was a strip club called “Last Call” in the 1950’s. And then it became the “Melody Room” in the 1960’s with performers and gangsters hanging out there. In the 1970’s, it became Filty McNasty’s and then “Central” where you could bump into Ricki Lee Jones or John Belushi. And of course it was the site for the death of movie star River Phoenix after leaving the Halloween party at former Councilman John Duran’s apartment on Larrabee. Phoenix was hanging out at the Mediterranean Village with Kathy Najimy and Jason Gould at Duran’s Weho apartment before he died on the sidewalk outside of the Viper Room.

All of this incredible West Hollywood history is about to be lost if the developers get their way to build a 15 story building on the block in the historic rock and roll district where San Vicente Boulevard meets Sunset Boulevard. The 8850 Sunset Development is owned by Silver Creek Development Group and Charles Essig – who are major contributors to the campaigns of councilmembers Lindsey Horvath and John Erickson.

Neighborhood opposition is expected to be fierce by those who live nearby on San Vicente, Clark, Larrabee, Palm streets and the Norma Triangle. Building a new hotel or office complex is tough anywhere.

But trying to cram it all into one block in the neighborhood which is part of the history of numerous rock and roll generations – is highly problematic.

And in this pandemic era where half of the office space on the Sunset Strip has emptied due to COVID – building an office tower and tearing down the incredible history of the Strip – is very short sighted. So what did the developer do? 8850 Sunset Development has hired a new “project team” which demonstrates the continuing nepotism and corruption in the City of West Hollywood. The team sent out a “dear neighbor” letter signed by Republican consultant Scott Schmidt, Democratic strategist Barbara Grover and former CSW President Estevan Montemayor.

If you don’t follow the local politics of West Hollywood, you may not realize why these characters were cast in the role of “project team”. Barbara Grover is the past consultant for Lindsey Horvath, John Heilman and Abbe Land. She was a former partner with Parke Skeleton in Santa Monica, California. Skeleton and Grover ran the campaigns of Abbe Land and John Heilman for years.

In 2019, Lindsey Horvath requested $15,000 from philanthropist Margot Siegel for a donation to SEE (Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs) to pay Barbara Grover to record West Hollywood’s history stories. In 2019, Barbara Grover also received $27,000 from a political action committee called West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico.

Estevan Montemayor is the current Rent Stabilization Commissioner appointed by Lindsey Horvath. He was the past President of CSW who made the decision to remove the gay pride parade and festival out of West Hollywood.

Since the removal from West Hollywood (and due to COVID), CSW has yet to produce any meaningful pride festival or parade ending 50 years of LGBT history on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. Montemayor was the Communications Director for defeated Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu. Unemployed due to the election defeat, Montemayor turned to his friend Lindsey Horvath for help. Now, Montemayor is a paid consultant to get this development approved – while he is still serving as an appointed commissioner of Lindsey Horvath.

Nepotism is defined as patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship – usually in business and politics. It may not be illegal – but it is considered highly unethical.

This difficult development project has hired consultant Grover closely tied to the campaigns to re elect Lindsey Horvath and hired one of her appointed commissioners Montemayor. The optics are horrible for West Hollywood. If you have a difficult project, give money to the consultant who helped elect Horvath and one of her sitting appointed officials Montemayor – and then watch the project sail through with the support of Horvath and her protégé John Erickson.

It is unclear whether the project will get the support of Mayor Lauren Meister or councilmembers John D’Amico or Sepi Shyne.

It is hard to stomach and watch this level of corruption as Horvath and Erickson and their consultants and appointees scoop up developer money to fund their campaigns and in the case of Grover and Montemayor – their pockets – while the incredible history of West Hollywood gets destroyed. Horvath, Erickson and Montemayor – all part of the same team destroying West Hollywood heritage and history – while doing the bidding of UNITE HERE in ordinance after ordinance harming our hotels and small businesses with minimum wage increases.

Follow the money. It all flows to benefit Horvath, Erickson, Montemayor, Grover, UNITE HERE and their maids who do not live in West Hollywood.

And who pays the bill? The residents of West Hollywood in increased costs of goods and services to cover minimum wage increases – and a loss of rock and roll history. Members of the public should voice their opinions on this project as it moves through the planning process.

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UCSBGRAD2001
UCSBGRAD2001
28 days ago

I don’t understand why we have to try to save every building in the city just because a couple people think it has historic significance. In the case of the Viper Room some famous bands played their and a actor died on the sidewalk in front of it. The building is disgusting and has no architectural significance. If you have ever had the displeasure of going inside, it smells, and is just a medium size room with a tiny stage and loud speakers. If this is the standard for having to save a building then we can knock anything down.

Don S
Don S
28 days ago
Reply to  UCSBGRAD2001

That’s why they are called NIMBIYS. Kinda like Trump supporters: no logic, ignorant, nostalgic about where they were 30 years ago and frankly making zero contributions but oppose anything new or progressive.

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye
27 days ago
Reply to  Don S

Have you attended HPC, Design Review or Planning Commission giving informed input? Please let us know about your contributions.

CTC
CTC
29 days ago

I get it. Things have to move forward and evolve. We can’t live in the past. Southern California has a long history of focusing on “what’s next?” However, I fear this mentality is moving in a counterproductive direction. Where once change meant something with an interesting or storied past was being replaced with something that at least held the promise of writing an interesting/storied future, we are instead seeing little more than high rise hotels/condos/chain retail being built. The sort of stuff one can find in most any city. That which is uniquely LA is being supplanted by that which… Read more »

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye
27 days ago
Reply to  CTC

One of the rare insightful comments on Wehoville.

FREE WEHO
29 days ago

END the CORRUPTION! Sign the petition to recall John Erickson, NOW!
Go to tinyurl.com/FreeWeho
[or click username for link]

Don S
Don S
28 days ago
Reply to  FREE WEHO

There is no corruption. Go away

The Last Sane One Left
The Last Sane One Left
29 days ago

As the old saying goes, “People get the government they deserve.” You voted them in. So if you voted for more poop on the street don’t complain about stepping in it. Instead, round up all your neighbors and friends and show up at the meetings and BE VOCAL. Get lawyers and tie them up in court. What they are counting on is that there are more sheep than shepherds.However, even the Fat Cats are afraid of riding on the back of a tiger. If you don’t mobilize, well just stand around and learn to enjoy the Fat Cat Feast as… Read more »

Mark
Mark
29 days ago

Not particularly a fan of Duran, but what does that part of the sad River Phoenix/Viper Room episode have to do with this? I hear the sound of grinding axes.

Olen
Olen
29 days ago

these huge bloc buildings bring NOTHING to the neighborhood and destroy what remains of any charm and desirability. Stop the madness

Don S
Don S
28 days ago
Reply to  Olen

Charm? Are you delusional? They are empty, and have homeless sleeping in front. I think your stuck in the twilight zone. Lol

Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
29 days ago

I absolutely agree it has come to a point of egregious and blatant disregard of public concern and local outcry that the constant allowance for wealth and futuristic design to just cater to the wealthy and assuring the esteem of developers and architects that want recognition for coming up with new engineering and architectural concepts. It’s West Hollywood! Not Downtown LA, Not Sao Paolo Brazil nor Manhattan NY! I get or have vertigo just looking at the building. Are we now as a city, just interested in Skyscrapers in Weho with no texture and simplistic design or simplicity that melds… Read more »

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
1 month ago

Please put names on your op-eds.

Larry Block
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Solomon

hard to do that if they serve on a board or a commission or work at city hall.

Stevie
Stevie
1 month ago

I’m surprised nobody has called this what it actually looks like. It’s the “Big D” overlooking Boys Town.

Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
1 month ago

The people who are appointed as commissioners and/or who also serve as lobbyists should be scrutinized and removed by the public for conflict of interests. We should not allow the council to oversee or nominate so many commissioners and are serving in commission seats by political patronage. This in itself is the personification of unethical behavior and conflict of interest that somehow is ingrained. The city avoids confrontation or being called out! I am angry at the behavior of John Erickson! He does things on his own accord and Lindsey is private and not forthcoming. We can’t even have access… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamie Francis
Don S
Don S
29 days ago
Reply to  Jamie Francis

Dude if you are sooooo upset: MOVE. This isn’t your city alone. Stop speaking on behalf of everyone. Lol. This is a great and futuristic project. We need that block rebuilt. Right now, as I’m writing this, there is a homeless sleeping on the side walk in front of your beloved Viper Room. I don’t see you upset about this!! But God forbid somebody does something good. Your write a book. Move if can’t help and contribute. Enough of NIMBYS in this town.

Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
28 days ago
Reply to  Don S

I not talking about the viper room. And yes homelessness is everywhere including in front of luxury buildings, they just pay for extra security to protect their buildings but that does nothing for the benefit of the city as a whole! I don’t like the building as it stands but the future design aesthetic is massive and smaller buildings need to remain there . I couldn’t even afford to live in buildings built in that spot anyway. If you READ the article first, it’s about lobbying and people who have conflicts of interests that are working with and for the… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
28 days ago
Reply to  Don S

Furthermore all types of people reside in West Hollywood not everyone goes by dude or bro. You just call people Dude, show decency and just don’t call people dude. Have politeness and decency for other people. Best not to be Dumb, I mean Don.

Last edited 28 days ago by Jamie Francis
Don S
Don S
28 days ago
Reply to  Jamie Francis

Ok DUDE. Sorry I meant Bro. If u can’t contribute then move. It’s that simple. Getting on forums and blasting people who are lobbying, AFTER, they’ve left their positions at the city isn’t illegal or immoral. What is immoral and should be illegal is people lobbying projects they have no financial stake in. All I see here are bunch of NIMBYs who don’t like a project and because of it are blasting anyone and everyone who’s helping it move along including the owners. Again if u don’t like it move Dude 😉

jjabely
jjabely
28 days ago
Reply to  Don S

Dude, we could easily say the same to you: MOVE. Most believe this project is a heinous eyesore, which has nothing to do with whether or not this block needs to be rebuilt. Stop being a troll for the developer.

Don S
Don S
28 days ago
Reply to  jjabely

I don’t even know the developer. Why should I move? I’m not complaining. You are. So please pack your bag.

Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
1 month ago

The Attorney General must investigate these conflict of interests which in reality illegal go against the tenets of public trust and and at the very least goes against the ethics in any government institution and at extreme is unethical behavior and illegal activity that we know as corruption. This is indeed city corruption with lobbyists nominated or suggested who served in city capacity or on election campaigns. As is the case of Grover and Estevan Montemayor, remember he was campaign manager in 2015 and he would have been, if public outcry of the deputy system wasn’t scratched, an appointed deputy… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamie Francis
Susan
Susan
1 month ago
Reply to  Jamie Francis

Jamie Francis. Amen. Am with you. And suspect I am far from the only one

Left Field
Left Field
1 month ago

Looks like a giant construction crane without enough parking.

Don S
Don S
29 days ago
Reply to  Left Field

Here we go again. Not enough parking. Stuck in the 80s mentality. Move. Great project. Any wait to see it built.

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