Part Two — Moving West Hollywood Forward

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an op-ed written by a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for one of two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. WEHOville has invited each of the nine candidates to submit up to two op-eds to explain to West Hollywood residents his or her stand on local issues .

Larry Block

It’s the spring of 2024 and we have an exciting day ahead. Today we cut the ribbon to break ground at “WeHo House” the first co-op affordable housing unit in West Hollywood. This was the first item I brought forward with John Heilman after the 2020 election. Thirty-four residents will have the opportunity to have an equity stake in their affordable housing unit.

Modeled after the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program in New York in the 1990’s, this will be the first affordable housing unit of its type on the West Coast. Non-profits provided the $20,000 loan to offset each tenants buy-in. These tenants will build equity over time and not be a prisoner to their rental units.

The co-op initiative has also taken root on the east side. The owner of a ten-plex opted into a similar structure and sold off four of the units to the renters in his complex. He was able to pay off his mortgage and retire without having to sell the property.

Home ownership creates community stakeholders. We are a city of almost 80% renters. My goal is more homeowners, stakeholders, and helping to create wealth for our residents. That’s how I earned the endorsement of the Greater Los Angeles Realtors Association, The Los Angeles Biz Fed Association, The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Apartment Association. Everybody wins when we create opportunity.

Once again, it’s the spring of 2024 and John Heilman is serving his last few months after 40 years of service. This election will be different. After the 2020 election Councilmember Meister and I brought forth good faith campaign reform. Donations from city contractors are now banned. Developers with business in front of the city are not allowed to donate to the campaigns of Council members. The city would help fund our local elections with one mailer featuring every candidate equally.

Councilmember Horvath and I brought back an item she introduced a few years prior, term limits for commissioners. Our goal is to groom candidates to be prepared for City Council by serving on a number of commissions and allowing new residents the chance to serve. We adopted a program that offered courses to residents in land use, emergency preparedness, public safety and more to make sure the next generation who wanted to serve availed themselves of these programs.

Councilmember D’Amico and I teamed up to bring aging-in-place to life. We brought forward the “swap” so that now a senior or disabled person has a mechanism to move to a first floor unit in an apartment building should one become available. We worked to bring a health care provider and a developer together to begin the process of building a modern senior care facility within the West Hollywood boundaries.

Our small business community was thriving due to initiatives developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.   The legislative and workers compensation issues that hampered the re-opening of the nightclubs had largely subsided.   Initiatives I brought forward were staring to bear fruit. Our pro-business initiatives included the successful creation of an east side “opportunity zone” and the west side of town approved its Business Improvement District.  

Our new homeless provider had night and weekend outreach, and we had moved over half of our homeless population into transitional housing. Last year we had our first Tech Pride, bringing together all of our digital properties along the Sunset Strip. Some of the featured spaces included the digital platforms that have their home in West Hollywood such as Angie’s List, Homesnap, Grindr, Tinder, Vimeo and more. The music of the Sunset Strip was the backdrop to our intellectual properties. Our economy was local but being driven globally.

COVID-19 had changed the landscape, and the City Council approved the conversion of office space to housing units. West Hollywood Park was complete, and residents gathered along the Grand Staircase to celebrate this year’s Pride. After the 2020 election I reached out to LA Pride, and it came home to WeHo.

We doubled down on advancing our core values and celebrating our history. This year’s Pride would be held on West Hollywood Way, the renamed portion of San Vicente north of Beverly, and there is a movement to rename the park “Pride Park.” Our TransCanWork initiatives had finally started to gain acceptance throughout West Hollywood. And our Transgender Economic Empowerment Project and Jewish Family Services job programs partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to offer more residents opportunities.

City Hall changed too. To encourage city employees to live in West Hollywood, we offered new incentives. Entry level desk jobs now had residency requirements so local residents have a job and City Hall has a new resident-centric perspective.

Our sheriff’s station was now equipped with the entire Axon fleet of body cameras and cloud offerings. This one upgrade eliminated so much paperwork so officers had more time to be on the street on patrol. Residents were encouraged to eat-shop-play in WeHo, and every resident got an all-city parking pass that allowed him or her to park at any city garage free and do business with West Hollywood businesses.

The Metro was finalizing its plans to come to West Hollywood. Studies showed that homeless migration through the Metro had the potential to derail all our progress containing the homeless issues. My desire is to bring Metro to the WeHo borders and develop a local shuttle. The Disneyland approach. The other Council members had a Times Square approach — digging tunnels along Santa Monica Boulevard with giant escalators pouring people onto the streets. The transit corridors threatened to displace too many residents. This is a battle that I was losing but hoped for additional public input.

It’s been a great three and a half years. We restored integrity to City Hall and West Hollywood began to restore its promise.

The hope of tomorrow begins with our dreams today. Your vote will shape the direction and future for West Hollywood. The time to move forward is now. Let’s do this together.

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