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The West Hollywood Planning Commission is scheduled to consider a motion tonight that would allow the owners of apartment buildings that have been designated historic resources to convert the buildings into condominiums without allocating some of the units for affordable housing.
The new regulations could also apply to other apartment owners who in the future decide to seek historic status and later turn their buildings into condominiums.
The motion, which was initiated by the city’s planning staff, is designed to encourage the building owners to maintain their buildings and to preserve the city’s cultural historic landmarks, according to Antonio Castillo, associate planner for the City of West Hollywood. The rule change would only pertain to apartment complexes with 21 or more units. If approved by the planning commission and the city council, it would enable the owners of those buildings to convert to condominiums without providing 20 percent of the units for low-income residents. The building owners would also potentially be able to waive development fees charged by the city, which are determined on a case-by-case basis when projects are considered.
“The benefit to the city is that it retains a historical resource with long term maintenance,” Castillo said. “It would also be an incentive for apartment unit owners who wish to convert to condos.”
Castillo said the new regulations would apply only to three buildings that are currently designated as historic resource, including the La Fontaine Apartments, located at the corner of Crescent Heights Boulevard and Fountain Avenue; the Casa Grenada, located at 1334-1336 N. Harper Ave., and the El Mirador, located at northeast corner of Sweetzer and Fountain Avenues. Castillo said he did not know how many units are currently designated for affordable housing in those buildings, and that the issue of what would happen to those tenants if the buildings are converted to condos would be handled on a case-by-case basis once those plans are submitted to the city.
The new regulations would provide a financial incentive for the owners, because they could sell the condominiums and use the funding to maintain the buildings. City officials are still considering what impact it would have on people who rent in the buildings and may be displaced.
“It has been discussed by the historic preservation commission already and forwarded to the planning commission for further discussion,” Castillo said. “Their recommendation will then be moved to the city council, which has the final authority.”
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran said he will not take a position until after the matter has been reviewed by the planning commission, but said the issue of finding ways to preserve historic buildings while balancing the need to provide affordable housing definitely needs evaluation. The meeting will take place on July 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. For information, visit www.weho.org.
The City of West Hollywood also recently made changes to its rent stabilization ordinance, allowing landlords to increase rents by 2.25 percent in September. The increase is based on the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is released in May each year, according to Elizabeth Savage, the rent stabilization manager for West Hollywood. The CPI is determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Statistics, and showed an increase of 3.1 percent over May 2010. The city’s rent stabilization ordinance is adjusted each year based on the figure, and the allowable increase in rents must be only seventy-five percent of the increase to the CPI, which is how the city calculated the 2.25 percent increase.
According to Chris Uszler, information coordinator for the city’s Rent Stabilization Department, the CPI index is a measure of costs in an area, and allows landlords to increase rents to cover costs. The property owners are required to give tenants a 30 day written notice of increases, and can only raise rents if the amount was not previously raised within the last 12 months.
For information, call the Rent Stabilization Department at (323)848-6450, or e-mail to [email protected].
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