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West Hollywood commission votes against 'poor door' housing development

Developer changes course on 'poor door' in proposed West Hollywood building after outcry

A controversial West Hollywood housing development that had called for separate amenities for low-income residents -- including a pool they could not access -- has failed to gain the approval of the city’s Planning Commission.

The proposed project includes 64 market-rate housing units and 17 affordable units to be built at 8899 Beverly Boulevard. The city requires developers of new residential projects to reserve a percentage of the developments for moderate and low-income housing or, in certain instances, pay a fee instead. The city said it expects that such units would be dispersed throughout the development.

But the developers of the project, Beverly Blvd. Associates, at first wanted to deny low-income tenants access to a pool that many of their units would look out on. They also had proposed a separate entrance for the affordable apartment area.

“Poor doors,” as such entrances and separate amenities for lower-income residents have come to be called, have caused a stir in other cities, including London and New York City, where a development on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with separate entrances for luxury condominiums and affordable units was recently approved.

The Beverly Boulevard development called for “the affordable units looking down on a pool they are prohibited from using,” said a staff report from West Hollywood’s Community Development Department. "This very obvious delineation of amenities runs contrary to West Hollywood's policies of inclusiveness and equal access for all.”

This week, developers agreed to provide shared access to the pool and shared access to the building, said Brian Lewis, a spokesman for the developers.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last several years to craft a project that provides an extraordinary public benefit by building significantly more affordable housing units than would otherwise be required for a project this size,” the developers said in an emailed statement.

“The City of West Hollywood previously recommended comparable amenities, which we had agreed to. If the City now feels that shared amenities and access best meet the needs of the residents of the affordable housing units, we are more than willing to accept those conditions of the project.”

The project calls for the expansion of a 10-story office and commercial building and its conversion to residential use. The third floor, currently used as parking, would be enclosed and converted to office space and 10 affordable housing units. In addition, nine single-family homes and seven affordable apartments would be built on a surface parking lot on Rosewood Avenue.

A public West Hollywood Planning Commission meeting Thursday attracted dozens of speakers, including people who said they were concerned that separate amenities had even been proposed in the first place, even if the developers had changed their minds.

Cole Ettman, a West Hollywood resident who used to live in New York, said he had read about the New York City poor door. “I thought, ‘Wow, New York is bad. But things like that won’t happen here in West Hollywood, in this progressive city we live in.’”

Planning Commissioner Heidi Shink said she was embarrassed by the possibility that West Hollywood would be viewed as a city that would consider a poor door development.

“It saddens me,” she said. “That is not what the city of West Hollywood is about. This is a city of inclusion, not exclusion. ... The fact that this has been course corrected is great. It should not have been on the table to begin with.”

Still, others said the development should be approved because it does create 17 affordable units at a time when such affordable housing is desperately needed.

“This developer is doing something good for the city by adding affordable housing, not taking it away,” said resident James Francis.

After a more than three-hour meeting, the commission voted 4 to 2 to not support the project because of its size. It would nearly double the size of the 52-year old building, which is older than the city and does not meet current zoning requirements.   

The commission’s decision will be given to the City Council, which will make the final decision regarding the project at a later date.


Twitter: @haileyBranson

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