By Michael S. Poles
The future of unique to West Hollywood neighborhoods like Betty Way and Greenacre Avenue now remain in the hands of the City Council, as both streets are cul-de-sacs, and are the last remaining streets zoned solely for single family homes. Greenacre Avenue is where my wife and I reside since our home was built back in 1940, and first owned by her family.
Greenacre was developed from a Japanese Nursery by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and subdivided into some thirty-six (36) homes that maintain a unique low-density residential street for families to prosper. Eighty (80) years of history that is about to be eradicated with newly up zoning and the splitting of single-family homes where families thrived for more than eight (8) decades. Please see Greenacre Avenue as it now exists, and run the YouTube video:
Since the advent of SB 9 (Atkins) a collective political emergency has been declared out of Sacramento. In addition, the City Council is planning to adopt a new State-Mandated “Housing Element” plan that calls for an additional 4,000 dwelling units to be built in our little City of West Hollywood; many of which will be occupied by two (2) or more persons, or approximately 8,000 plus or minus additional residents. The dilemma facing our Council Members is where to place all these additional dwelling units. Notice the terminology: Dwelling “UNITS;” thereby avoiding the term “HOMES.”
The desecration of single-family homes throughout the State of California is in and of itself repugnant and draconian to the extreme, as it has sounded the death-knell for single-family homes in California. The reduction of the available single-family housing stock will surely drive up the property values of all remaining single-family residences as said homes will become more and more scarce.
Dated September 10, 2021 the League of California Cities wrote Governor Newsom stating: “The League of California Cities (Cal Cities) and the 241 cities listed in this letter write to request your VETO on SB 9 (Atkins).”
Among the 241 listed cities were: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills. Missing from this list was the City of West Hollywood! I wonder why WeHo abstained. Download this letter and see for yourself:
While here in West Hollywood, much has been circumvented in the decision making to morph our Unique to West Hollywood Greenacre homes into an ultimate of One Hundred Thirty-Six (136) smaller dwelling units, and some 4,000 additional dwelling units (with the potential for two (2) or more occupants per dwelling unit) throughout the City. That’s a lot of UTILITIES per dwelling unit: e.g. – water, electricity, sewer, and gas. With each lot being split into two lots and having up to four dwelling units per lot the underground utilities for the water, gas and sewer would have to be added for each unit constructed and connected in the street. Do we have the existing infrastructure to handle these imposed demands upon our aged utility systems … Really?
The Final Environmental Impact Report for the “Housing Element” may be adopted at the next City Council meeting on March 21, 2022. That report states the following on page 4.7.1, Section 4.7:
4.7 Utilities and Service Systems
“This section evaluates construction and operational impacts on utilities and service systems from development accommodated under the Housing Element Update. Specific topics addressed in this section of the EIR include water supply, wastewater, stormwater, electricity, natural gas, and telecommunication facilities. As discussed in the Initial Study (see Appendix B), implementation of the Housing Element Update would result in less than significant impacts related to compliance with federal, State, and local statutes related to solid waste. Therefore, this issue is not discussed further in this section.” (Bolded and underlined for emphasis)
The supply of water, electricity, natural gas, and sewer handling and treatment resources is generally covered by State mandates now in existence, however there is no mention in this EIR of RATIONING or OUTAGES during shortages. Therefore, are we supposed to rest assured that we will have sufficient supplies of water and all other resources in the future … GUARANTEED?
Has this EIR been peer reviewed, as is customarily done with consultants’ reports? This EIR appears to be devoid of empirical data to substantiate claims being made pursuant to water supply: “Therefore, sufficient water supplies are available to serve reasonably foreseeable development accommodated under the proposed project and other projects in the cumulative scenario for water supply, including reasonably foreseeable future development during normal (water year), dry-year, and multiple-dry-year (drought) conditions. Potential cumulative impacts would be less than significant.” (Page 4.7-34) (Bolded and underlined for emphasis)
We appreciate the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance for alerting us to City Council consideration of this item at its meeting of February 20, 2022. We were pleased that the item was tabled so that a community meeting could be held. Unfortunately, due to deficient public noticing, the Planning Commission’s original January 20, 2022, hearing on this subject was deficient of any public speakers. Therefore, we look forward to a full narrative staff report of the community concerns raised during the March 3rd Zoom community meeting so that the Planning Commissioners can understand what the proposed changes mean to our neighbors and residents throughout the city, as mentioned above.
Underscoring these concerns are the promises made but apparently now forgotten about how allowing Mixed-use, tall retail and residential buildings along our major streets like Santa Monica Boulevard would relieve development pressures on our residential side streets. At community meetings and during official deliberations, we remember clearly being told that if the community supported such large, mixed-use projects on main streets, then our precious residential and side streets would be protected from overdevelopment. That protection now seems sorely lacking.
Before the Planning Commission makes its recommendations to the City Council, we look forward to a full-throated discussion by Commissioners and our residents, as well. Just saying “state law must be followed” is not going to resonate at all with a very concerned public. Please join their March 17, 2022 meeting, and let your voice be heard.
I have been informed by WeHo City sources that we can join into the Planning Commission’s Meeting on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at 6:30 PM. Here are two (2) ways you can join in:
1. Telephone: Dial: 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 894 2595 5316
2. Join Zoom Meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89425955316
When you enter the meeting, please make sure to turn off your video and mute your audio. You will be called at the appropriate time. If you choose, you may turn on your video and audio to make your public comment only.
We deserve much more public and open discussion and consideration instead of the rush to implement a new state law, that is draconian and potentially subject to be overturned, at the very least. That SB 9 creates much more density than would be practicable and the potential loss of the architectural uniqueness of Betty Way with its 1930s bungalows and Greenacre with its 1940s pre-suburban homes, would be an absolute travesty.
With this state-wide mandate requiring West Hollywood to rezone all single-family (R1) residential properties to accommodate approximately 4,000 new dwelling units throughout West Hollywood, each of us must ask if this rezoning and addition of some 4,000 new dwelling units would impact where you live … the answer is most likely “YES!
Numerous cities throughout California are moving towards litigation against the State of California to halt SB 9 and save single-family residential (R1) zoning throughout our State.
Please tell our City Council Members that “We The People” demand that our elected Council Members REPRESENT the interests of the citizens of West Hollywood not outside interests, or draconian mandates from Sacramento. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: The City of West Hollywood responded with this clarification: In the Op-Ed, the author conflates the housing element and the City’s RHNA with SB9. The author notes that SB9 will result in 4,000 new units, but this is the City’s RHNA number. The RHNA is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, the number designated by the state that the City should plan for over the next 9 year planning period in the Housing Element. SB9 allows single family zoned lots (R1A and R1C Zone Districts) to be subdivided (when 2,400 square foot or larger) and two units to be built on each lot. The 53 properties can be legally subdivided into 94 lots with a potential total of 188 units. With 54 existing units, this would be a potential increase of 135 units. However, there are a number of barriers to construction, including existing structures, small lots, units being exempt due to being used as rentals, and/or goals of existing homeowners. The author mentions 2 people living in each unit. The average household size in West Hollywood is 1.52 people, so possibly less than 2 people per unit on average.
The following is my response to the “city correction” inserted into my op-ed” currently published in WEHOville, dated March 14, 2022
[CITY ISSUE 1] “CORRECTION: The City of West Hollywood responded with this clarification:”
RESPONSE TO CITY ISSUE 1:
· Who (representing the city) wrote this “correction?”
· Why did they not mention their name and position of employment with the city?
· How about providing a LEVEL playing field and come out of of the shadows … who are you and what is your position with the city?
[CITY ISSUE 2] “In the Op-Ed, the author conflates the housing element and the City’s RHNA with SB9. The author notes that SB9 will result in 4,000 new units, but this is the City’s RHNA number. The RHNA is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, the number designated by the state that the city should plan for over the next 9-year planning period in the Housing Element.”
RESPONSE TO CITY ISSUE 2:
· The housing element and its relationship to SB 9 is really not a conflation.
· The clear relationship is that the city of West Hollywood has taken the mandate (newly signed into law) from the State of California as their proportional portion of additional housing units or homes for more people to occupy as renters therein over the next 9-year planning period.
· The RHNA, therefore, has a direct effect upon the quality of life issues for all residents and owners of property located within the city limits of WeHo … and that includes Greenacre Avenue and Betty Way!
[CITY ISSUE 3] “SB9 allows single family zoned lots (R1A and R1C Zone Districts) to be subdivided (when 2,400 square foot or larger) and two units to be built on each lot. The 53 properties can be legally subdivided into 94 lots with a potential total of 188 units.”
RESPONSE TO CITY ISSUE 3:
· “Zoning refers to municipal or local laws or regulations that govern how real property can and cannot be used in certain geographic areas. For example, zoning laws can limit commercial or industrial use of land to prevent oil, manufacturing, or other types of businesses from building in residential neighborhoods.” (Google Search)
· SB 9 requires the RE-ZONING of all single-family residential (R1) properties located throughout the State of California which are to be rezoned, thereby doing away with single-family residential uses, and replacing same with multi-family residential use.
· The numbers quoted by “the City” are irrelevant as they have a permanent effect upon the entire population of single-family dwellings … one by one they will disappear and be replaced by more lot-split multi-family “dwelling units.”
· The slowly disappearing single-family homes will only drive up the resale values as they will become much more desirable to real estate developers, speculators and families that want a home to raise their family in.
[CITY ISSUE 4] “With 54 existing units, this would be a potential increase of 135 units. However, there are a number of barriers to construction, including existing structures, small lots, units being exempt due to being used as rentals, and/or goals of existing homeowners.”
RESPONSE TO CITY ISSUE 4:
· While the “barriers to construction,” as mentioned is an attempt to placate us into believing that we would not be facing the declining of the quality-of-life issues that we are presently living with.
· The city is avoiding the obvious and potentially overcrowding conditions of packing our population into even tighter living conditions.
· The city is avoiding the clear and obvious aspects of our aging infrastructure.
· The city is not dealing with the fact that we in a protracted DROUGHT, and that RATIONING may very well be visited upon us as soon as this summer.
· The city is avoiding the fact that our electrical grid is at very best FRAGILE and may be upgraded but all too slowly in order to handle the power-loads we presently experience, yet alone for future population growth.
· The city is avoiding the fact that whenever people are packed so tightly together, so closely that we can hear the neighbor’s noise as if they were inside our own home. This congested living brings more pollution, traffic, arguments, and increased crime, which we already are now living with.
[CITY ISSUE 5] “The author mentions 2 people living in each unit. The average household size in West Hollywood is 1.52 people, so possibly less than 2 people per unit on average.”
RESPONSE TO CITY ISSUE 5:
· Here the city has taken exception to my mentioning the number of people that could potentially occupy the newly constructed dwelling units on the newly split parcels of land as “1.52 people” (per unit).
· Even though the averaging of occupants is a customary procedure, the reality is that 1.52 people will always translate into two people in reality.
· Therefore, reasonability dictates that whenever there is a “dwelling unit” available for rent, the potential is that there will be more than one person occupying the rental unit, in order to make the rental more “affordable,” or occupied by members of a family.
In conclusion, I strongly urge our Planning Commissioners and our City Council Members to carefully consider the permanent damage that implementation of rezoning ALL single-family residential parcels to be rezoned and eventually rebuilt into multifamily residential units, thereby creating a hodge-podge of dwelling units where there was once a uniform and orderly assemblage of like-kind homes that comprise neighborhoods.
Consideration of the implementation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) is now State Law. The construction of ADU’s and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU’s) can create the needed housing that the State Mandate calls for and West Hollywood can meet their required RHNA number with ADU’s.
Before destroying these “Unique-To-West Hollywood” neighborhoods, WeHo can be the “Creative City” leaders by creating incentives for the commercial property owners on Santa Monica Boulevard and elsewhere to enter into partnerships with the city and/or developers to redevelop mixed-use projects including their “affordable” rental units. This would remove the pressure heaped upon our single-family residential neighborhoods.
DO NOT APPROVE RECOMMENDED UP ZONING RESOLUTION IN ITEM 10 B.