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Los Angeles County, CA March 8, 2005 Election
Smart Voter

West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Answers

By Edward "Ed" Garren

Candidate for Council Member; City of West Hollywood

This information is provided by the candidate
Answers to Chamber of Commerce Questions for Candidate Forum
Edward "Ed" Garren for West Hollywood

West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce 2005 Candidate's Forum Written Answers

#1 Parking.

It's time for the city to get real about parking. The city has the highest density west of Manhattan, yet it wants to add more people to the mix.

Charging small businesses "in lieu" parking fees, that never materialize into additional parking is not solving the problem.

The city could do a better job of managing the parking it has now. Here are a few thoughts.

  • The city needs a separate commission for Parking Issues. This would provide a regular forum for issues to be discussed and solutions to be created for both specific and general use issues.

  • Create city wide 24/7 permit parking on all residential (non metered) streets. All residents will be required to purchase and display permits. Business employees who park nearby on residential streets would also be able to purchase "business" permits for their areas. This would identify cars which belong to residents and businesses. All others would have time restrictions on all residential streets, perhaps two or four hours, as determined by community input. This should help by eliminating cars that are left for long periods of time by persons who are neither residents or business related, freeing up to 10% of local streets for business customers.

  • Many private parking lots are closed for general parking when the business is closed. The city, possibly via a "Parking Commission" could do a "parking share" program to open up these spaces for more utilization, either by open parking, or managed parking during those hours the business is closed.

#2 Housing

Another issue in which the city has not offered meaningful solutions. While the city talks a politically correct monologue about affordable housing, section IIX, etc. the only solutions that keep emerging are the demolition of existing affordable housing and it being replaced by luxury condos. The latest development driven solution being offered is larger higher buildings, which will destroy the "charm" and "Village Like" atmosphere which make West Hollywood a "draw" in the first place.

The city eliminated "height averaging" last year, so that certain parts of the city can be built up to 45 feet. It is being discussed that that height will be raised to 65 feet after the election. Most of these buildings have 1.5 parking spaces per unit, further adding cars to the already over crowded streets.

Rents in all of southern California have increased dramatically in the last few years because of the prosperity in, and desirability of, the region. Many people have moved here from more economically depressed areas, and right now the cycle is very high, similar to what it was in the late 1980s. That cycle could adjust downward again, and it is erroneous to believe that cannot happen.

The city's diverse housing stock, with it's variety of prices and amenities, is one of the city's significant assets because it makes the city desirable to a variety of incomes and levels of creativity.

The city has adopted a position which favors demolition and replacement over renovation and rehabilitation. This has created a situation in which potentially historic buildings, and moderate to low priced buildings, are at the most risk for demolition.

The "Art Deco" district on South Miami Beach has demonstrated that historical preservation can be extremely viable economically. West Hollywood has significant similarities and therefore significant possibilities for developing viable economic gain from it's rich architectural diversity, it's position as "the last village on Route 66" and the creativity of it's city.

Unfortunately, the lack of creativity in the city's planning and development process endangers much of what makes the city special and unique.

The city is about to redevelop the La Brea corridor on the east side. This location offers some exciting opportunities for the city to create a diverse mixed use development, which includes every range of housing from luxury to subsidized. If the current conventional development paradigm is followed, that will not happen.

3. Business climate in the city.

The city has never been business friendly. Restrictions placed on small businesses discourage development of smaller businesses. Parking remains an ongoing problem, yet the city penalizes any small business which wants to open in the city. Signage is also very restrictive and rarely allows for creativity. All of this contributes to an environment which is hostile to the development or expansion of small businesses.

In a larger sense, the city only encourages business expansion in the most conventional of ways, trying to facilitate corporations who wish to gain entry into the community, often at the expense of existing businesses. The planning for the Sunset Millennium is a prime example. It does not contain any convention space, neither large hotel can be used to compliment the existing "boutique" hotels in the city. Rather, the new hotels in the Sunset Millennium will compete with the existing hotels, putting their survival at risk.

The city has not considered the possibility of marketing the "charm" and history of the city. People come to West Hollywood because they enjoy the small town charm and ease of the variety of stores and restaurants which are unique to the city because they are usually family owned. West Hollywood is "The Last Village on Route 66", the "Last Town on the Mother Road". Yet, none of this is even considered.

I lived in Miami and on Miami Beach in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The City Convention and Visitors Bureau rolled out disaster after disaster in promotional campaigns. One year, Miami Beach was billed as "The Electric Island", with promises of endless disco night life. In reality, there was NO disco night life on the beach. The nadir of it was "Miami, see it like a Native" in 1980, which featured the back of a topless woman, turning slightly to look at the camera with one breast suggestively exposed. That was the year of the Mariel Refugees, riots and dead Haitians washing up on the beach. The image of the poster was quickly replaced with "Miami, see it like a native" with t-shirts of soldiers with guns patrolling the ruins of burned out buildings and cars.

Then the movement to save South Beach emerged, the area got declared historic, the world came to celebrate the Art Deco Hotels and other buildings, and suddenly, Miami Beach experienced a renaissance which was unprecedented and is still going on today.

West Hollywood has similar potential, if we don't kill it off with corporate development. The city could capitalize on the history and romance of "Route 66" and create a tourist magnet on Santa Monica Blvd.

4. Planning and Entitling.

See some of what I wrote above.

I have proposed a rewrite of the zoning ordinances because in addition to being inappropriate for neighborhoods, they are awful for businesses.

When the existing zoning and business codes were written, we didn't really know what we wanted the city to become, but I think they might have been "overkill" in response to the lack of zoning for so long.

Now we have some time in with them, and an emerging understanding of what works and what does not work.

So part of the revision of zoning I have proposed would be an opportunity for the business community to provide input.

Also, the city should create a commission dedicated to Business, that meets on a regular basis so that there is a regular forum for communication between the city and the business community.

5. Worthwhile Developments

One of reasons that development is having difficulty in the city is that the city council has lost the faith and trust of many who live and own businesses in the city. Because of this lack of trust, vocal opponents usually appear with regard to any and all development, business openings, etc.

I have proposed a revision of the zoning ordinances. I think part of this revision should be the official recognition of the city as a hub for "night life" and the expansion of operating hours for many businesses, particularly restaurants which enjoy operating extended hours to provide a place for night club patrons to go before they drive home.

My friend Sallie Fiske, when she published "The West Hollywood Paper" once wrote, "A good time town is not bad".

West Hollywood is a place where people come to enjoy night life. The city should be more pro-active at mitigating issues so that the needs of businesses and residents can be balanced.

6. Business Taxes

Businesses are already taxed extensively in West Hollywood. The city is not very frugal with it's spending, which would appear to be fueled by the perception among many in the city that the city is "wealthy" and can afford to spend lavish amounts of money.

The city has repeatedly broken promises to the business community with regard to fees and how they would be spent. The "in lieu parking fees" have NOT gone to create more parking spaces. The increase in planning and building fees have NOT gone to hire additional staff. Clearly, the majority on this council is not following through on the promises it has made, either to residents or businesses.

According to one "watchdog", our current mayor spent $1,300 on the cake that was served at his installation reception. To add insult to injury, the cake was not purchased from a West Hollywood business. This is inexcusable.

Supporters are listed on the next page.

Partial List of Friends who support Ed Garren for West Hollywood City Council

Donny Cacy, 7-Eleven (Curson & Santa Monica) Silver Spoon Restaurant Todd Gibson, Absolute Healing Marco's Trattoria, Crescent Square Russ Pisano, Chiropractor Daniel Haynesworth, Los Angeles Driver Education Programs Dino Andrianos, Astro Burger Nathan & Alex Cole, N.N. Cameras & Electronics Eric Norman, *Stonewall Young Democrats Piedad F. Robertson, *Former President of Santa Monica College Top Hat Cleaners, Crescent Square Israel Gamburd, Gamburd Medical Equipment & Services Michael Gamburd, Rayas Paradise Board & Nursing Care West Hollywood Printers, Crescent Square Panda Bell Cleaners, Movie Town Plaza West Hollywood Beauty Supply, Crescent Square The Yukon Mining Company, Restaurant Juan Nersessian, *Vista Street Watch G-Mobile, Cell Phones & More, Movie Town Plaza Betty Schultz and "Basha", *Vista Street Watch Joel Mark, Photographer, *Vista Street Watch Allejandro "Jano" Lozano-Sanchez Duane Kip O'Conner, *The Marshall Group Sonia, Sean and "Mamma" Hong, Irv's Burgers John Tripp, *The Burger Brigade (Save Irv's Burgers) Christopher Cass, Shadwell Productions Arturo Valencia, HIV Prevention Administrator Susan Holley, Ph.D. Psychologist Angela Harris, TV Host, "Straight Out Of West Hollywood" June Solnit Sale, MSW Michael Arrigo Roslyn Krauss, *Save Tara Judy Lubkin, *Save Tara Anita Tolbert, Ross Young Accounting & Management Kirk Lynch

  • Organizational Affiliation for Identification purposes only, does not imply organizational endorsement.

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