JOHN DURAN | Building a Better City — Miracles Happen

The log cabin at 621 N. Robertson Blvd.

This issue is very personal to me. I come from an extended family of alcoholics. My grandfather died of the disease. Immediate family members have been plagued by numerous DUI cases. As for me, I walked into the 12 step rooms of recovery in 1996 and haven’t left – over 26 years ago. No alcohol. No weed. No drugs. No poppers. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Oh – I have read the false comments over the years from persons who have questioned my recovery. Their opinions of me really don’t matter. I know the truth and stand by it.

I was a teenager who explored alcohol and drugs on the Sunset Strip in Weho during the 1970’s. Yowza. That was a period of time onto itself in Weho. Laurel Canyon was in full force musically. The bands and the weed were proliferate. Cocaine was plentiful. And lots and lots of gin and tonics. My fake ID took me across the vast expanse of the nightclubs on Sunset Strip (and then Studio One in Boystown). At first it was fun. Then it was fun with problems. Then it was just problems.

I had to surrender to the fact that I had a disease. Not my opinion. Alcoholism is recognized as a disease. Period. The simplistic notion of Nancy Reagan to “Just Say No” may apply to many people who only experiment with drugs – but doesn’t work with alcoholics and addicts. Physically, it’s an allergy. Once I start – I don’t stop. (I had stopped and started again hundreds of times). Mentally, the mind of the alcoholic/drug addict tends towards obsessive compulsive to the brink of insanity. The mind spins round and round and round on false presumptions and erroneous conclusions. And spiritually – there is an emptiness and loneliness in the soul that makes annihilation and oblivion considered options.

To understand recovery and discuss the part the City should play in it – a quick review of treatment options. Detox is usually 1-2 weeks to get somebody off alcohol, heroin or any other drug where dependence is extreme. Rehab is usually 30 days live in program to reboot life (for crystal meth – rehab usually means 6 months of time). Sober living is living with other persons in recovery under a mutual roof while continuing to do daily/weekly 12 step meetings while looking for that first sober job and first sober apartment. Many have traveled this path.

But not everyone. Some have a “higher” bottoming out where they keep their job, career, housing, family in tact – and do not need any of these services. Instead, individuals by the thousands go to 12 step meetings throughout the week to maintain their own recovery and help others to recover as well. How does that work? Why is it effective? Why do millions around the planet attend 12 step meetings since 1935? I don’t need to guess on how and why it works. All I know is that it does work when alcoholic helps fellow alcoholic. I have witnessed it happen in hundreds of cases around West Hollywood. Does it work for everyone? No. But it DOES work for those persons who are willing to do

the work of the 12 steps with sponsor and fellows in recovery. And it has been continuously working for almost 100 years now for hundreds of thousands of people.

Back in my second term in office (2005-2009), I was the Secretary of the 12 noon meeting that happened weeklyat the MCC Church (where Fresh Corn Grill is located now) on Santa Monica Blvd near Huntley. The Rev. Neill Thomas informed me that the Church was moving to Los Feliz and would soon be closing permanently in West Hollywood. The Church hosted dozens of meetings weekly and this meant the displacement of hundreds of people who would need to find new meeting space for each of their meetings. There is no person “in charge of AA”. Each meeting is autonomous from the others.

As I was walking down Robertson Blvd – I noticed a building at 626 Robertson Blvd near Melrose called the Werle Building. It was boarded up and appeared abandoned. I called the City Manager Paul Arevalo and asked him “who owns the Werle Building?” He repled: “We do. The City owns it.” I asked: “What do we use it for?” He replied “storage”. I then told him how dozens of meetings were being displaced with the closure of the MCC Church and asked if we could move the storage areas and set up chairs and a coffee pot for 12 step meetings. He said: “Yes. But only temporarily. That building is slated for demolition as part of the new West Hollywood Park plans”. Your colleagues Abbe Land and John Heilman want to turn it into a Tiny Tots Playground area”.

Fine. We would take it. After all, 12 step meetings occur in church basements, living rooms, garages and dens – anywhere that we can set up a coffee pot and chairs. We would make it work. We kept data and tabulations on how many people were coming to our meetings at the Werle building. By the end of the first year of use, we were counting 8,000 visitors per month at the 12 step meetings at the Werle Building. There were 300 children living in West Hollywood at that time. And not all of them were “Tiny Tots”. Some were infants or teenagers. It made NO sense to me to tear down a building that served 8,000 visitors a month who were trying to get off drugs and booze – to make room for a few hundred tiny tots. The City Manager reminded me that was a political question for the council to determine.

About the same time, my friend John D’Amico declared that he was running for City Council. I knew that he had friends and family in recovery and the issue would be important to him. He gave me his word that he would support the permanent use of Werle for Recovery IF he got elected to council. I began chatting with my other friend and colleague Jeffrey Prang about what I envisioned. He said he would go along with it ONLY if we also provided space for the One Archives at the Werle Building. I had personally committed to giving the top floor of the building to the June Mazer lesbian archives as a way to thank lesbians for the critical role that played during the AIDS epidemic. So, if John D’Amico won his race – I just might have 3 votes to make the change permanent. (I knew that John Heilman, Abbe Land and Lindsay Horvath would form a block against the proposed change in use). D’Amico won. And I had the 3 votes to give the West Hollywood Recovery Center a permanent home. The 501(c)(3) organization had been around for years wandering from location to location. Now, they would have a permanent home and space.

Then we set off to figure out a way to save the Log Cabin from demolition. A few prominent developers had eyes on the site for redevelopment. The corner of Robertson and Melrose was really happening. It could be transformed into luxurious housing and luxurious retail space with luxurious restaurants. But they had not witnessed what I saw in that Log Cabin. I saw thousands of lives over the years transformed into successful, happy, joyous and free beings. There was no price tag to be

placed on the stories of recovery at the Log Cabin. John D’Amico and I began a series of meetings with Beverly Hills to initiate the transfer of the property from Beverly Hills to West Hollywood – which eventually happened.

So, what is happening these days? Well, I am hearing the whispers and conversations about the City of West Hollywood wanting to take back the Werle Building for Administrative Office Space and moving all the meetings over to the Log Cabin site. Or in the alternative, tear down the Log Cabin and build a multi story building to host and house all the meetings on the West side of Robertson so the City can take the Werle Building back.

And I sigh…….

It seems to me – that the City has declared a War against Crystal Meth. And a War against homelessness. And a War against criminality. And a War against domestic violence. I get it. All admirable goals. But to then not make the connection between the thousands of sober individuals who patronize the West Hollywood Recovery Center and the Log Cabin tells me that there is a lack of understanding on how the 12 step meetings fit into the community solution to these urban ills.

I know the City likes to host lots of special events. They are excited when they get 20 members of the public to show up. They are elated when they get 30 or even – wow! 50 people showed up. And oh my word – we got 100 people to show up for a city event! What a success!

Every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. at the Log Cabin, the Clean and Sober meeting of AA hosts between 120-130 people in recovery at that one meeting on that one Sunday. There is no advertisement. No special notice to residents. Nothing unusual about each Sunday morning. And across the street, every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the Recovery Center – the “Survivors” meeting of AA founded during the AIDS epidemic hosts between 40-60 people at that one meeting in the Werle Building. And those are just two individual meetings. How many meetings occur at the West Hollywood Recovery Center and Log Cabin currently?

According to their website, there are 80 meetings PER WEEK that occur at the 2 locations! That means over 300 meetings per month of recovery! The smaller meetings may have one dozen people. The larger meetings have over 100 every time. As you can see, there are well over 10,000 visits per month at these 2 sites.

And that translates to thousands maintaining their jobs. Paying their rent. Making happy memories with families and friends. Finding peace and serenity. And most importantly – finding purpose.

How do you compare those results with “administrative office use by West Hollywood”. You cannot.

John D’Amico and I are no longer on council to protect these vital and restorative uses of these buildings. I do pray and hope that the new council will see the connection between their goals of reducing homelessness, reducing crime, reducing meth use, reducing domestic violence and the continued use of BOTH Werle and Log Cabin for community recovery. It is literally a matter of life and death for thousands.

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About John Duran
John Duran, a criminal defense lawyer, served on the West Hollywood City Council for 20 years, 2001-2020.

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ScienceNotPsalms
ScienceNotPsalms
24 days ago

Duran cites statistics on the effectiveness of AA straight out of the big book written almost 100 years ago. Saying “it doesn’t work for everyone but it does for those who do the work”. This is cult mentality to quote old statistics blindly. This is West Hollywood, we are progressive and many of us are atheist or non-believers who fled religion. Saying people need to accept a higher power to fix their brain chemistry and mental health issues is simply attempting to “Pray the Addiction Away”. That Duran wants public funding for his “church” that says people need to accept… Read more »

Woke Gotham
Woke Gotham
1 month ago

“Dearest John, I am simply dying to know, do you share the same enthusiasm as those who kicked unvaccinated individuals out of recovery programs in Weho? Inquiring minds are on the edge of their seats.”

Rose
Rose
1 month ago

“And a War against criminality”

Kinda the opposite. Crime is really bad.

The armed mugging/Robery by a group with what appeared to be an AR Riffle just behind LA Boheme restraint.

Where’s the war on crime?

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

ATTENTION EVERYBOD:

From Adam Schiff this week:

  1. “$1.75 million to rehabilitate the historic Log Cabin facility that is used by the West Hollywood Recovery Center for weekly 12 step recovery meetings, to ensure it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the California Building Code.”
Life Choices
Life Choices
1 month ago
Reply to  Joshua88

And the revenues from the bars are exactly what? A dedicated revolving door and invitations to all to “Come to WeHo and Get Drunk or Stoned.”
Very intelligent use of resources.

Glenn
Glenn
1 month ago

Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics. My parents drank socially, but chose not to be alcoholics, and no one in my generation chose that either. It is a problem but not a curse, not a disease like the kind you catch or inherit. As for spaces, only religions claim that they are sacred.

BloodshotEyedGuy
BloodshotEyedGuy
1 month ago

I didn’t read this guy’s history, but that building served it’s purpose just fine forever. No need to make it into some absurd, overpriced monstrosity. It’s rugged charm fit right in with us who use it. We don’t need anything more.

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago

$9 million to restore what is basically a hut, just slightly better than what was on Gilligan’s Island? Are you serious, or are you doing comedy? Actually, most people (taxpayers are what I consider “people”) are a lot more interested in safe streets, than in providing alcoholics a free socializing space, courtesy of the taxpayers. You ask people to email you about this, which I consider some sad deflection. You should really ask people to email you and ask you to explain why you voted to defund our Sheriffs. John Duran is far from perfect, and I probably disagree with… Read more »

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

Funding services for alcoholics results in safe streets.

How do you still not realize this?

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Funding a luxury cruise for a mentally ill potential killer, would result in a happier mentally ill person, resulting in a safer society. Should we fund luxury vacations too? Why are alcoholics so special to you? I know another way to get alcoholics off the streets: lock them up for a long time on the first DUI offense. I’d happily pay higher taxes for that. You want to reward them with a free social club, with a misiscule success rate. And thank you for acknowledging alcoholics are a danger to society. We have a lot of them in Weho, and… Read more »

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

“You want to reward them with a free social club, with a misiscule success rate”

This whole article is about someone who is a success. I know several people who lead successful lives because of programs like this. How do you still not get it?

And you keep throwing out the DUI example. Yes, those offenses are horrible, but there are MANY other ways people self-destruct and harm others.

This whole discussion is stupid though. It’s obvious you have some personality disorder.

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

From AA’s own literature, the long term success rate of their 12 step program is a measly 10%. Now who’s the one with the personality disorder?

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

10% is significant. Thats hundreds of thousands of people. Unless you’re rich and can afford an addiction therapist on staff, there aren’t many other options for people.

And to answer your question: you are. You have a holier than thou attitude looking down upon anyone who doesn’t lead a pristine rich million dollar condo life lol.

Why do you even live here? If you’re so disgusted by all the drunk and poor people…

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

who is a success? the person that wrote this? LOL

BloodshotEyedGuy
BloodshotEyedGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Harvard?

John Erickson
John Erickson
1 month ago

While this article highlights Duran’s long commitment to the AA community, the overall point is quite skewed to highlight that Duran is the “only one” that can save anything: the city, since I’ve been on (and even before thanks to his and many people’s leadership) has focused and doubled down on our efforts to support the AA community. I’ve been in more meetings than I can count about getting funds for this Log Cabin to restore, expand, and ensure it’s there for decades to come and then budgeting out the City paying the over $9 million it will cost to… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago
Reply to  John Erickson

I read the piece (twice) in the English language and find nothing that suggests that either you personally, or the council collectively are doing nothing for the recovery community. Your need to dismiss the very raw and emotional baring of one’s personal history with the “just Duran being Duran” comment is petty and offensive. Truly offensive. That said, happy to see you engaged in the town square known as WEHOville.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  John Erickson

Having also participated in the issue, it has been great to see City Council’s ongoing efforts to renovate the Log Cabin for continued meeting space. While many have argued there are “better” and more lucrative uses, AA meetings have often founded themselves orphaned when locales have been slated for development or other uses. The Log Cabin is right where it needs to be and it reflects our open and proud commitment to our residents. So thanks to John, John and John and everyone else who worked to make it happen.

Eric
Eric
28 days ago
Reply to  John Erickson

Really wish the community had your same commitment to our safety.

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago

Some taxpayers don’t like our tax money going to subsidize and provide free entertainment spaces for alcoholics to socialize. And not everyone buys into the “I’m an alcoholic and it’s a disease, so have pity on me”, when in fact it was a self-inflicted problem they brought on themself. That is, they chose to become an alcoholic just like I choose what restaurant I will go to. A real disease is something like Parkinson’s, or cancer etc., where people are actual victims. Making bad life choices, deciding to become a drunk isn’t something that the rest of us should have… Read more »

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

As someone who has family members who suffer from addiction, I can tell you that it can destroy SO many lives beyond the individual. And those people did nothing to deserve that destruction. How near-sighted do you have to be to think an alcoholic is the only one facing “bad life choice” consequences?

Have you even tried to think how many innocent lives are saved on the road from people going to meetings and staying sober?

Alcoholism IS a disease. Substance use disorder IS a disease. Period.

I am so thankful most people disagree with your harsh misinformed sentiment.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Whether or not you believe alcoholism is a disease, what is wrong with compassion and empathy? Fortunately AA and NA have been sympathetic safe place for so many of our friends and neighbors. I just wish the City could provide more meeting space.

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I have compassion and empathy for genuine victims of disease. None for the drunks who put other lives at risk, like while driving and elsewhere.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

But wait, what if they live in rent controlled apartments?

Does your empathy and compassion get cancelled out?!

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

So I guess what you are saying is you think your taxes are way too low, and you would happily pay more taxes, even voluntarily, to fund more social fun meeting space programs for drunks. You’re the new Mother Teresa, but without the action.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

No, I made the clear connection between alcoholism and the way it can destroy other people’s lives outside of the direct individual. A concept you can’t quite grasp for some reason?

I think we should continue funding for these services because it helps keep our community safe and productive.

You can keep ranting about how we need 50 more “million dollar condo” buildings all you want. But I think social services are important for society 🙂

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Actually, I’m not overly concerned about a drunk destroying other lives. That should be a cue to avoid hanging around drunks or having them in your life. They are trouble. No one seems to grasp weho supplies mostly out of town drunks with their fix/drug/alcohol, then they go to some other community and cause their problems there. Our hands are somehow clean of it all. Social services that make sense and are worth the tax money are important. Free social entertainment spaces to reward drunks isn’t important to me as a taxpayer. I think you’re well intended, but you’re not… Read more »

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

“Actually, I’m not overly concerned about a drunk destroying other lives. That should be a cue to avoid hanging around drunks or having them in your life. “ Kids don’t have that luxury. And often times family and friends don’t even realize these problems because people hide them so well. Again, it seems like you don’t have any experience in this arena. Instead of listening and reading about how beneficial these spaces are and how they help people stay sober, you just call them wastes of space and money and “social entertainment spaces”. There is no getting through to you. But… Read more »

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Sure. Make sure you read AA’s own literature about the long term success rate of their 12 step program being a lousy 10%. Not worth the tax money. Better to put it to prison and jail spaces to lock up offenders for a long time. I could care less if they get help or not, and I could care less if the have trouble finding free government “meeting” spaces, which are actually free government social and hook up spaces. You should try to get out more.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

It is worth the tax money. And I’m happy to live in a city where sobriety is valued for those who seek it out.

🙂

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
30 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

You think sobriety is valued in west hollywood? Have you seen the number of bars around? Probably the highest concentration per resident of any city in the country. Weho’s specialty is producing drunks. The second specialty is pretending we care about them.

Joan
Joan
27 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

My grandson sent me this story. I’m in recovery too! 27 years, why is it so hard for people to understand our sickness. Thanks John great writing of the truth.

Dick Kensington
Dick Kensington
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

Wow, what a snob

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

The beautiful thing about addiction is that you can actually recover from it and maintain that recovery. There’s zero cure for narcissism because narcissists are actually too fragile to recognize their own disease and their mind literally tricks them into believing they are strong and superior…

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  SeeMe

I admire people like John Duran, who have recovered from past addiction, and help others by talking about it. The chances of permanent long term recovery are very slim. What you don’t get is that I just don’t want to pay for someone else’s self inflicted problems, and I don’t expect them to pay for mine. I suspect you’re one of those who attends “recovery” meetings, when in weho, they are nothing more than taxpayer funded social meeting and hook up places. I guess you feel your taxes are too low. I’m so glad I’m not you.

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

“What you don’t get is that I just don’t want to pay for someone else’s self inflicted problems, and I don’t expect them to pay for mine.”- this is a perfectly understandable opinion. Why do you bury all your opinions with so much vitriol and judgment? Are you afraid no one will see or hear you if you don’t encase every comment with so much hatred? Every time I start agreeing with some of your logic you follow it with such bile your point gets lost. Why do that to yourself?

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  SeeMe

I’m sorry I don’t just blindly agree with whatever the most popular opinion is, like you want me to.

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

That has absolutely nothing to do with my comment above. Please reread and explain why you need to undercut the value of any of your opinions with such hatred and nastiness. Respectful disagreement gives life to these comments, your nastiness kills every potentially good point you might make. Why keep diminishing yourself?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

Well John Duran got on the road to recovery by going to AA meetings. There are people entering the program today that will be the inspiration for the next generation but without places to hold meetings, it is hard to get on that first step to recovery.

Joan Henehan
Joan Henehan
1 month ago

AA saves lives! I hope that good sense and the public health that works will prevail and thus preserve the local bastion of AA in the Werle building. Well told, Mr. Duran. It’s a crucial part of keeping the West Hollywood character and legend moving forward for citizens.

MICHAELZ
MICHAELZ
1 month ago

JOHN DURAN FOR CITY COUNCIL

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

With his legendary eloquence and intellect, John shares a story of grace, fortitude, resilience and a sense of giving back. It would be a disgrace for the city to take back those physical spaces.

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