Laurel House’s future brings up WeHo’s painful past

The future of the house at 1343 Laurel sparked a fierce back and forth between a public commenter and Councilmember John D’Amico that dredged up touchy chapters of WeHo’s past during City Council’s meeting Monday night.

Though Council sent the city’s proposal for the grand old home and its grounds straight to consent calendar — rubber-stamping a long-term plan to transform it into an art gallery, community gathering space and living accommodations for four artists-in-residence — two disparate renditions of the long, winding history of the house were told, the first during Manny Rodriguez’ public comment.

“It seems a little more than remarkable that this proposal for 1343 Laurel is being offered in the middle of a housing crisis,” Rodriguez said. “So, if you believe in the housing crisis, this use doesn’t align with that view. For decades before this property was donated to the city, people have always lived at 1343 Laurel, without the present prejudice to profession or artistic ability.

The best plan for this city-owned property still remains the original plan of 15 years ago: 42 sustainable, affordable units in the back; a restored main house for the community; and the creation of parking where now there is none.

This is not to say that subsidized living arrangements and workspace for artists is not a worthwhile idea, but maybe in a different place or at a different time. 1343 Laurel is government-owned property and for 15 years it has not served the community in any beneficial way. It’s time to take this valuable piece of land seriously.”

D’Amico countered Rodriguez’ version of the story during councilmember’s comments.

“One of the main things that brought me to this city council was the sort of backhanded dealings of the city council at the time when the Laurel House was turned over to the city. And I want to thank Manny for raising the question of housing, because you may not remember,  Mr. Rodriguez, but it was two-time loser John Heilman who used Allyne Winderman and the Ellis Act To remove actual residents from the Laurel House.

The city of West Hollywood used the Ellis Act to get rid of residents. Let me say that again. John Heilman and Allyne Winderman used the Ellis Act, the same act that evicts residents from their housing all over town. The city did that and evicted those residents.

And the project and its shady details went all the way to the California Supreme Court and lost. And the city spent $1 million trying to convince the Supreme Court that evicting tenants and making decisions on city property without asking the community was the right thing to do.

And they lost. So, not only did the city, and that bone-headed city council at the time, led by John Heilman, evict 10 residents, but we lost $1 millio. So the fact that we are scaling this back, listening to our community, have studied this with the feasibility study, are trying to provide a place of relaxation and art making in our community is not inconsistent with our values.

I like that you’re trying to encourage us to build housing and I think the city’s commitment to building the required amount of housing around town in the next 10 years will happen but selectively choosing a site that the city purposely evicted residents from and pretending that didn’t happen, to me, doesn’t really solve or even begin to solve talking about the housing problem.

I would also say that what will likely come out of this Laurel House in the future is the very thing that will draw more residents to our community. We have always said that there are ways in which our community supports people who invent the world and invent themselves, and having a place that allows people to do that. That you don’t have to spend 20 bucks to get into a bar and have a drink. You invent yourself and invent the world. That’s what the Laurel House will provide.”

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About Brandon Garcia
Brandon Garcia is editor of WEHOville. He oversees the website's editorial direction and creates original content such as news reports, photo and video features, digital art work and advertisements. A native of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, he now lives in WeHo and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. @brandoninthebubble on Instagram

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Ignorance
Ignorance
1 month ago

This property, Laurel House, the city’s improper name for The Elsie Weismann House, stands as a memorial to the ignorance of the city leaders individually and collectively to allow the travesty to occur. Supreme lack of ethical behavior in addition to being an insult to the very idea of Historic Preservation which the city allegedly champions. They have never had an understanding of the elements and values of HP in how it enriches an entire community. The city is reaching the lowest level possible in desecrating it in favor of questionable artists. They would never do this at Yaddo the… Read more »

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
1 month ago

The housing crisis is fake.

Devils of Development
Devils of Development
1 month ago

The Housing Crisis was the brainchild of Sen. Scott Weiner and his deal with the Devils of Development.

Harambe’s Vengeful Ghost
Harambe’s Vengeful Ghost
1 month ago

Right. So it’s fake. Fabricated. Artificial. Also caused by rent control but none of y’all took Econ 101.

The Elsie Weisman House
The Elsie Weisman House
1 month ago
Jimmy palmieri
Jimmy palmieri
1 month ago

The fact is that D’Amico’s facts are correct. I remember the night he said in public comment before he was a Councilperson that he was tired of the shenanigans. He is also correct with the rest if the info. When he’s right, he’s right.

SEE U Next . . .
SEE U Next . . .
1 month ago
Reply to  Jimmy palmieri

Oh Jimmy you are sure one to talk. Dumico is not right he is wrong in spades. He won’t run again because he is a narcissist who couldn’t stand the shame of being rejected by the public. His two great accomplishments are go-go boy appreciation day and snipping at anyone and everyone for personal satisfaction. #NO DECORUM #NO CLASS!

Jimmy palmieri
Jimmy palmieri
1 month ago

#Tuesday? #noclass

hifi5000
hifi5000
1 month ago

I am beginning to think there is no love lost between John D’Amico and John Heilman. To once again call Heilman a loser at another council meeting is making sure everybody heard him the second time around.

D’Amico will be in office for two or three more months,so commenters on here won’t have to complain about D’Amico very long.You can complain all you want,but your complaints will be moot when he leaves office.

Leslie Karliss
Leslie Karliss
1 month ago

The question still remains whether Laurel House should strive to meet our housing needs or serve just a few artists.

Roy Oldenkamp
Roy Oldenkamp
1 month ago
Reply to  Leslie Karliss

There are other options. To be clear, the city waited for 97 year old owner Elsie Weisman’s lawyer was out of town at a NY conference, swooped down on her and had her sign over the property, EVEN THOUGH she had stated she wanted the property intact, since in fact it was the home of the Modern Forum salon from 1937-1953. (She denied her own son’s request to build condos on the site!)Bad behavior from West Hollywood should not be rewarded. John D’Amico was 100% accurate in his statements. And, Heilman is no fan of historic preservation. Please, visit the… Read more »

Manny
Manny
1 month ago
Reply to  Roy Oldenkamp

Roy, you were doing so well until the end. I’m disappointed you’d say that. But I still appreciate you for all your advocacy through the years.

THE ELSIE WISEMAN HOUSE
THE ELSIE WISEMAN HOUSE
1 month ago
Reply to  Roy Oldenkamp

Mr. Oldenkamp is correct in his remarks mirroring my own under a different article. Fortunately WHWRA have enjoyed the luxury of Design Standards implemented and refined over time to dot nearly every “I” and cross every “T to avoid intrusion of oversized or non complementary structures. Mr. Rodriguez may have little appreciation or experience with historic structures so it is not surprising for him to jump to a conclusion to build housing “over there” but “not here” . Having the Weismann property as an outstanding and unique property accessible to the entire community and beyond certainly trumps Sen Scott Wiener’s… Read more »

Bad Faith?
Bad Faith?
1 month ago
Reply to  Roy Oldenkamp

Interesting that while John Heilman was fostering a new city, he swore to uphold the Historic Preservation Ordinance and quickly claimed credit for the historic resources in place. He then switched lanes to the housing priority. So which is it Mr. Heilman? Was that according to a legal definition an example of “bad faith”?

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

D’Amico is correct in his comments, but continuing to refer to a candidate as a “two time loser” while accurate is Trump-level grade-school foolishness that detracts from his (accurate) message. He may as well add that Heilman has bad breath and cooties..

David Reid
David Reid
1 month ago

I’m curious what the logic is behind changing the public terminology. From Tara to the numerical address on Laurel. Is it to change the intensity of the argument over the property ? Is it so those that are just jumping into the fray have no backstory of what this house is.? And where it came from and how the city got possession of the property and the wish of the dying owner for the property going forward

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  David Reid

While the long term residents of the property had affectionately referred to the site as “Tara” as it was reminiscent of the mansion featured in Gone with the Wind, that term really conjures up bad images today. I thought Miss Tiger’s suggestion to name the property after Elsie Weisman was perfect. She loved the property and wanted it preserved so future generations could enjoy this important landmark. Weisman gave the property to the City because she did not want it developed and then once the property was in our hands, the City came up with a plan that would have… Read more »

Excellent Points
Excellent Points
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Excellent points.

Mrs. Weismann din not want the property developed

Demand that developers provide one for one replacement.

Ban rent controlled units from “extended” stay & BnB. A scourge!

City must live up to the concept and practice if integrity in providing for residents.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I occasionally wonder how beneficial the waiver – for the fund – is, when the city pockets the money and doesn’t build new affordable units. Like your ideas, Mr. Martin, and I usually disagree with you (though it is a general impression).

Heckin What?
Heckin What?
1 month ago
Reply to  Joshua88

So what’s the story on this “fund”. How about an audit on it?

Leighcat
Leighcat
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

While the long term residents of the property had affectionately referred to the site as “Tara” as it was reminiscent of the mansion featured in Gone with the Wind, that term really conjures up bad images today. ” Oh brother! You can get what you want without dog-whistling like Trump.

L. Helmsley
L. Helmsley
1 month ago

Requisitioning of a beautiful and valuable public space by city council to turn into an artist compound, now that’s something residents and our community needs.

Prison Opinions
Prison Opinions
1 month ago
Reply to  L. Helmsley

Says who? Helmsley went to prison, she was not an authority.

Mrs. Weisman’s Dream
Mrs. Weisman’s Dream
1 month ago

While not exactly a fan of John D’Amico he was absolutely correct with the facts in this case. He could have left it with the facts and avoided petulant remarks about John Heilman. On the other hand, Manny Rodriguez was not living in West Hollywood when the Laurel House debacle occurred and knows admittedly nothing of the particulars yet he has signed on to John Heilman’s chorus line of Housing, Housing Housing disregarding the original purpose of the property too long left in the speculation phase robbing the residents of its rightful intention. There are many such historic properties in… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

D’Amico’s attempts at grandiloquence are drowned out by his petulant and “bone-headed” vindictiveness toward John Heilman. I suggest Mr. D’Amico grow up and stop acting like a high school mean girl. His behavior is unbecoming and contributes to the divisiveness that will be this council’s enduring legacy.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

You can bring up baby, but you can’t predict that they’ll grow up to be a clueless fool. Heilman is sorry he backed any of them.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I don’t understand why both D’Amico and Manny Rodriguez are so intent upon picking the scab off an old wound. The fight over the Weisman property left deep scars in the community which we should allow to heal. With so many challenges facing West Hollywood, let’s not go backward and fight old battles but figure out our commonalities and strive to bring this community back together.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Martin
JF1
JF1
1 month ago

Wow, I’ve lost what little respect I had left for D’Amico. His adolescent, mean girl behavior towards former council member John Heilman is really reprehensible. I guess at his obvious age it is unlikely that his conduct will mature any further than it has at this point. Very sad. He’s leaving the council and this is the last taste he’s going leave in peoples mouths. Try to do better in your private life, D’Amico, from this point forward.

Last edited 1 month ago by JF1
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