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West Hollywood City Council-member John Duran was sworn-in on April 25 as the city’s new mayor, beginning a year of work that he said will be rewarding and challenging.
Duran was appointed mayor for the third time since first being elected in 2001. The city’s mayor and mayor pro tempore positions are rotated between the five councilmembers each year, and Councilmember Jeffrey Prang will be the new mayor pro tempore for 2011-12.
Duran said one of the biggest challenges facing the city council in the coming year will be approving a new General Plan, which will guide policies on land use and development, transportation, social services and many other facets of city government for the next 25 years. The city council has been working on a new General Plan over the past year, but Duran said the plan should be revisited now that the council has a new member, John D’Amico, who was elected in March.
“We are in the final phase of approval of the General Plan, but I think we are going to have to make some adjustments to what the council has already considered,” Duran said. “In the next few months, we will receive his input on the initial decisions made in regards to the General Plan, and that is going to be a significant part of the final decision-making process. We had gone through various parts and components and we were moving towards final approval in May, but I think [new considerations based on input from John D’Amico] will cause a delay in approval.”
An issue that has recently been debated is whether to designate a portion of West Hollywood around Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard as “Boystown”. Duran said the city has received a lot of feedback since the idea was proposed a few weeks ago, and added that lines are being drawn over the issue.
“People really have strong opinions, and we need to hear from a lot of voices,” Duran added. “Some people feel the designation of the word ‘Boystown’ would exclude anyone who doesn’t fit into that category, but that is not the intent of the designation,” Duran added. “This has been a gathering place for gay men for over half a century, and we have to somehow emphasize that point without making people feel excluded.”
Under the General Plan, the city is broken into separate areas known as Specific Plans, which are used for guidance on land-use and other issues in specific neighborhoods. Duran said the Sunset Strip Specific Plan, which was created in the 1990s, needs to be updated. It addresses large hotel and residential projects once planned for the area, like the Sunset Millennium, which was only partially constructed because of economic setbacks. Duran said he would like for the city to work on promoting smaller businesses and nightclubs along The Strip.
“It’s a good time to revisit Sunset Boulevard. It seems to work best with the mom-and-pop shops, the local cafes and the local clubs,” Duran added. “It is a very different vision than what was approved previously. There are little pockets of activity that occur there, and that is something that we will probably be discussing.”
Duran also said the city council will be looking at ways to improve social services for West Hollywood residents in light of state and federal budget cuts. He said West Hollywood is home to many of society’s most vulnerable individuals, including senior citizens and people with disabilities, and individuals suffering from HIV and AIDS.
“We are going to have to figure out how we are going to step in and prioritize the resources,” Duran added.
Outgoing West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman said he is proud of the things that were accomplished over the past year, which included making progress on the West Hollywood Library, opening the new West Hollywood Park parking structure; creating a long-term plan for Plummer Park; and opening the new water feature at the Sal Guarriello Veterans Memorial. In recognition of Heilman’s recent term as mayor — his seventh since being elected during the city’s founding in 1984 — the other members of the city council arranged for a bookshelf to be dedicated to Heilman in the new West Hollywood Library.
“In addition to the accomplishments, we had a lot of fun,” Heilman added. “It’s been a pleasure and an honor serving, and I look forward to serving for the remaining four years.”
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