By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
At yesterday’s West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City gathering, WeHo Mayor John D’Amico declared the city to be in “excellent financial state… [with] solid budget numbers in every category with all the arrows pointing up.”
Thus goes the annual address; it has gone so for decades. Mayor D’Amico called it the result of a focus on “developing a vibrant business friendly city that reflects the community values of the residents.”
Referring to the city’s beginnings 30 years ago as a bastion of rent control and perceived as a “gay city” at a time when associating with homosexuals was anathema to most mainstream businesses, and the struggle to gain acceptance, Mayor D’Amico said, “It’s safe to say that much of the first 30 years of West Hollywood cityhood city hall maintained a business friendly posture that said, ‘please like us.’
“Some might say we even sold ourselves short in a couple places, but no matter, it worked, people like us… [in fact] West Hollywood remains an excellent place for large and small entrepreneurs to invest their time, their money and best of all their cultural capital.”
Calling West Hollywood “an accommodating city populated with residents that remain interested in the new and the exciting and that is coupled with a healthy love for the rich cultural history that has come before.
He mentioned that the location of the gathering, The Lot, built in 1918 and used by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Sam Goldwyn, who rented the studio lot for over 20 years had undergone a change into a state-of-the-art facility capable of the full gamut of production, including rental offices, sound stages, carpentry facilities, screening rooms.
In fact, Oprah Winfrey moves her operations into the Lot at Year’s end.
So the Mayor said the city could breathe easier and pivot away from “please like us” towards “let’s do this together.”
He laid out the situation as we find it in West Hollywood today:
We are at the hinge point of a new era in West Hollywood – a lot has already changed and a lot more change is coming.
Here are some quick facts from the Southern CA Association of Governments to ponder about WEHO. These help define who we are and where we need to head.
West Hollywood has about 35,000 residents in approximately 25,000 housing units; 80 percent of the population is older than 18 and younger than 65 – that’s about 30,000 people of working age; about 75 percent of residents are single and 60 percent live alone.
There are about 31,000 jobs in West Hollywood – about 1 job for every working age resident – an excellent statistic on its face – however, 8 percent of residents have jobs in West Hollywood, 92 percent of all jobs are filled by people from outside the city – that means we have an 80 percent population replacement every work day – that’s 120,000 car trips originating and terminating every work day and that doesn’t even begin to address pass thru traffic and leisure/entertainment traffic.
And of those 31000 jobs, 6500 jobs or about 20 percent pay enough for someone to purchase a home or condo or pay for a $3500 a month apartment.
After laying out the economic and transportation challenges facing the city, he offered some solutions, primarily fully utilizing WeHo’s brand to bring young entrepreneurs to the rapidly developing Eastside.
He said, “So for me, here’s the opportunity. The Eastside has always been attractive place for young creatives that prefer to live and play in the neighborhoods in which they work, take public transit or walk, instead of drive.
“If we can help create well-paying jobs in creative fields like CIM is doing here at The Lot we can very dramatically affect the jobs/housing balance, the homeowner ratio, the traffic problem and improve livability overall.
“…West Hollywood will be known as the place of content creation. Companies like OWN and Funny or Die, and smaller start-up companies like Grindr, Flipagram, WEHOville and RadPad will find a comfortable fit here in WeHo.
“So I’ll leave you with this,” he said, “Once again, West Hollywood is the place that invents the culture that other places consume. And that position is the best value-added we can bring to our city-making opportunities.
“West Hollywood is changing and the Eastside of the city is developing in new and exciting ways as part of the digital future that we’re all signed up for.”
He encouraged the business community to take advantage of the business friendliness of City Hall. “City Hall is here to help. If we do it right this little patch of WEHO will set the new standard for West coast urban living that’s inventive, interactive, mobile and green. I say, we know “you like us,” so “let’s do this together.”