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WeHo Takes Control of City Development Agency

By Aaron Blevins, 2/23/2012

Commission Was Instrumental in Building Numerous Projects

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The city of West Hollywood has opted to see its way through the dissolution of its West Hollywood Community Development Commission.

The affordable housing project at Sierra Bonita Avenue is one of the projects made possible by the West Hollywood Community Development Commission. (photo by Edwin Folven)

The commission, dissolved through AB 1X26, was created in 1996, but unlike some municipalities, West Hollywood didn’t hire separate staff for its redevelopment agency. Allyne Winderman, director of the city’s rent stabilization and housing department, said that should smooth the transition.

“We just have work that is continuing,” Winderman said.

She said that work includes handling existing debt and managing current projects. The commission has issued approximately $40 million in bonds — $30.5 million for the Plummer Park project and $9.4 million for affordable housing. It also has three projects in the pipeline.

Originally, city officials had hoped to break ground on the Plummer Park project at the beginning of the year. However, after some residents voiced their displeasure with the plan, the West Hollywood City Council altered the project’s subcommittee, which is aiming to make new recommendations by the end of this month. According to the initial plan, the project would add subterranean parking, raze Great Hall/Long Hall and renovate Fiesta Hall.

The Courtyard at La Brea is an affordable housing project between 1145 and 1151 La Brea Ave. The mixed-use project would create 32 residential units for very low income residents, with general office space on the first floor. Contractors have requested a building permit and are waiting on its approval.

The Janet L. Witkin Center is a 17-unit project at 937 Fairfax Ave. that would serve low-income seniors. The plan includes an open-air courtyard, a rooftop garden and community space. Winderman said the project has received its funding commitments and is getting close to breaking ground.

“That is definitely the bulk of [the remaining work],” she said, adding that city employees will continue to ensure that West Hollywood’s affordable housing projects are fulfilling their obligations.

Winderman said city staff will also continue to provide affordable housing, albeit from a different funding source. She referenced West Hollywood’s Inclusionary Housing Program, which reserves a percentage of new housing units for moderate and low-income families.

“We’ll always be providing affordable housing, and as the economy gets better, hopefully we’ll be able to do more,” Winderman added.

The West Hollywood Community Development Commission will owe the state some money, as the intent of AB 1X26 was to relay redevelopment funds back to the state. Winderman said she isn’t sure how much, though. She said pending legislation would enable redevelopment agencies to retain a portion of their funding for affordable housing projects.

“Our funding is definitely diminished, but we will have a program,” Winderman said.

Councilmember Jeffrey Prang lamented the loss of the redevelopment commission. He said the commission helped bring the gateway project, where Target and Best Buy are now located, and the affordable housing at Sierra Bonita.

“The loss of the redevelopment agency will be a severe economic detriment to the city,” Prang said.

He also praised the redevelopment commission’s various neighborhood improvements and its efforts to enhance the city’s east side, which had fallen on hard times decades ago.

“It’s a world of difference today than it was twenty years ago,” Prang said.

 

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