Villa Italia

RE: AGENDA ITEM 10.A. PUBLIC HEARING ON “MULTIFAMILY HISTORIC RESOURCES INCENTIVE PROGRAM”

Dear Chair Altschul, Vice Chair Aghaei, and Commissioners Buckner, DeLuccio, Huebner, Jones, and Lightfoot:

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) has reviewed the city staff reports prepared on this topic for the meetings of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Rent Stabilization Division, and understands that the Planning Commission will be conducting a public hearing on the same topic at its meeting of June 2, 2016.

While the WHPA supports the four (4) recommendations identified in the previous staff reports, we believe that much more could be done to bolster the city’s contention that it puts a high priority on historic preservation while ensuring its supply of affordable housing and support of rent-stabilized tenants.

The WHPA strongly supports the establishment of a “Historic Apartment Preservation Program” as outlined on Page 30 of the Page & Turnbull/Place Economics report. We urge the Planning Commission to make a motion to include this program as a recommendation, and we would like to see it take an affirmative public vote on this matter as did the Historic Preservation Commission on May 23, 2016.

The potential costs of such a program could have been better clarified in the reports. Even so, the WHPA points out that the City made a recent $7.0 million purchase of the one-acre of vacant land at Crescent Heights and Santa Monica Boulevard (ultimate usage still to be determined), and a $2.5 million purchase of the former Coast Playhouse across from City Hall.

The City of West Hollywood has the financial resources — it’s time it started to truly respect its historic buildings and the owners who provide 593 rent-stabilized units of housing for citizens of West Hollywood, and to allocate more money into maintaining our city’s historic infrastructure. It’s all about good planning here – planning that respects the cultural memory of the city as well as the residents who depend on safe, affordable, and well-maintained housing.

After a nearly three-year process, a contract expenditure of $122,000, and myriad meetings of community members and city commissioners, city staff has recommended several relatively minor recommendations which the WHPA does support. Along with the waiving of city fees, the adjusting of repainting time schedules, and utilizing an already extant Transfer of Development Rights Program, the staff reports recommended hiring an on-call historic preservation consultant costing $25,000 annually who will assist owners of historic properties in maintaining their buildings.

The WHPA still continues to question why the City does not hire a full-time staff member assigned to historic preservation. So much more could be done with such a designated full-time position. In addition, the WHPA has recently learned that funds received under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program can be used for historic preservation projects. We ask that the contractor Page & Turnbull and the city staff explore this and other funding opportunities further, and provide an update to relevant commissions and the public before the City Council’s August 15 scheduled hearing on historic resource incentives.

Thank you for your consideration.

West Hollywood Preservation Alliance Board of Directors

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