The West Hollywood West Residents Association hosted Mayor Lauren Meister for a virtual Q&A on Saturday, where she answered a wide array of questions from residents and spoke about her vision for the city as its new mayor. Meister is a longtime member and a past president of the association.
“I walk every day through our neighborhoods and see what’s going on,” she said.
Meister said she intends to focus on homelessness, housing affordability and public safety, which she believes are the city’s three biggest issues. She also wants to make West Hollywood “the most prepared and resilient city in the country,” she said, through more robust emergency preparedness. She would also like to see WeHo evolve in a “premier green city” through enhanced urban forests and efforts to promote biodiversity.
“Nature in the middle of a big city makes a big difference for quality of life,” she said.
She intends to bring back coffees and meet-and-greets to build a stronger relationship with the community, and is looking at reducing the length of presentations during city council meetings so the public can participate without having to wait so long.
“The public’s time is as important as our time,” she said.
WHEN WILL THE NEW POOL OPEN?
With the old pool demolished and the 24-Hour Fitness about to shut down, Kimberly Winick spoke on behalf of seniors in the neighborhood when asking about the completion date of the new city pool at West Hollywood Park.
MAYOR MEISTER: The new pools (a lap pool and an open swimming pool) are set to be finished at the end of October or early November. While the original plans were to complete the construction in phases, leaving the old pool open for residents to use, the city decided to err on the side of caution when COVID hit and instead scheduled all the demolition at once.
WILL WE BE ALLOWED ON THE ROOFTOP TERRACE OF RESTORATION HARDWARE AGAIN?
The rooftop terrace atop Restoration Hardware on Melrose Ave., with its stunning views and luxurious seating, was once readily accessible to the public. When seeking approval from the Planning Commission years ago, the developers were eager to promote the rooftop as a shared public/private space, but lately access has been restricted.
MAYOR MEISTER: “Unfortunately, it was never codified in the conditions. It is not part of the conditions when they got approved, and that’s why they don’t have to provide that space.” She remembers the Restoration Hardware CEO excitedly inviting the public to have coffee on the rooftop. “They know what they said at these meetings,” she said, and intends to keep pressing Restoration Hardware to restore access.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE BEVERLY-BONNER GATHERING SPACE?
Residents again lambasted the plans to transform the small city parking lot at the corner of Beverly Blvd. and Bonner Drive into a tiny public park featuring a distinct shell-like structure meant for people to relax and recreate in. The Public Facilities Commission most recently joined in the criticism at their last meeting, expressing need for a “reboot.” Many neighbors explicitly felt that the city had turned a deaf ear to their concerns over the many years it’s been in development.
MAYOR MEISTER: “I do think the Arts Commission took these spaces over and lost track of why they were there in the first place,” she said. She worried about the effects on LEICA, the high-end camera store abutting the gathering space, agreed with the Public Facilities Commission’s assessment. Resident Leslie Karliss mentioned her correspondence with the developers, who said the project is on hold for all intents and purposes, and a completion date has been pushed back by several years.
HOW IS WEHO DEALING THE RISING HOMELESSNESS PROBLEM?
Problems with the homeless were at the top of residents’ minds — from how to deal with incidents, to the total population, to the costs.
MAYOR MEISTER: “We’re dancing as fast as we can,” Meister said, in trying to remedy a towering problem with no clear solutions. She pointed to the work of the city’s outreach teams in trying to mitigate disturbances caused by the homeless. She hopes one day they will be on call 24 hours a day but with the city’s budget diminished by 25 to 30 percent because of COVID, it’s unlikely at present. As for the costs, “It’s millions of dollars,” she said. “At least 60 percent can’t just be provided an apartment. They need mental health care. And they need to be someplace they can transition. They can’t be left on their own.” Of the overall efforts to combat homelessness, she she, “It doesn’t feel like it’s working. There’s no walls, no boundaries. It’s a regional problem. People can cross La Brea or Beverly, and it’s (suddenly) a West Hollywood issue.”
Mayor Meister encouraged the audience to contact her directly with concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 848-6460.