New York City

West Hollywood Officials Criticize Development Project With “Separate and Unequal” Amenities

The city said separating amenities for the affordable housing section of a planned project is contrary to "inclusiveness and equal access."

A developer in West Hollywood on Wednesday retreated from a project proposal that sparked controversy for housing lower income residents in units overlooking a pool they can't use.

City officials recommended the Planning Commission reject the proposed affordable housing section of a residential development project at 8899 Beverly Blvd., saying it would have provided "separate and unequal" amenities for tenants of different income levels.

It was not immediately clear who proposed the separate amenities.

"A tentative housing deal was reached (in July) but since that time, the applicant submitted more detailed plans that showed the change from an indoor pool house to an open-air pool, at the request of the Rosewood neighbors," the city said in a report prepared for a Thursday Planning Commission meeting where the city will hear public comments on the proposal.

The open-air pool, at the foot of the affordable housing building, is one of the amenities city officials said the developers would have prohibited the low-income residents from using.

But the developer, Beverly Blvd. Associates, said separate amenities were previously approved by the city.

"The City of West Hollywood previously recommended comparable amenities, which we had agreed to," the project's developer said in a statement.

Beverly Blvd. Associates said it is "more than willing" to comply with the city's new requests for shared amenities, if "the City now feels that shared amenities and access best meet the needs of the residents of the affordable housing units."

The city declined comment to NBC4 pending the Planning Commission's discussion of the project Thursday.

Because developers must spend money on amenities such as a pool, they reason that those who live in subsidized housing do not contribute to the cost and should not have access to them, Richard Green, director of USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate, told NBC4's media partner KPCC.

Green added that outwardly segregating amenities is "symbolically so distasteful to so many people" especially when cities often require new residences to include affordable housing to create mixed-income neighborhoods.

Last month, New York City officials came under fire for approving a new luxury apartment building that included a separate "poor door" for residents of the building's grouped-off affordable housing units.

The West Hollywood proposal, which has already garnered controversy over neighbors' concerns of noise and building height, would convert an existing office building and its surrounding space into upscale condos, single-family homes and commercial space.

The project also includes 17 affordable housing units for moderate to very low income tenants, five more than the city requires for new developments of this size.

Developers that dedicate parts of their projects to affordable housing are also entitled to density bonuses to build more units than the normal restrictions, according to state law.

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