WeHo City Council’s critique of builder’s remedy puzzles developers

Projects proposed under legal provision are 2% of city’s housing stock

West Hollywood Councilman John Heilman (Getty, City of West Hollywood)
West Hollywood Councilman John Heilman (Getty, City of West Hollywood)

Officials representing the City of West Hollywood, which has six pending builder’s remedy cases, spoke out against the legal loophole May 20, raising questions among developers who have pending applications there.

That same week, the California State Assembly passed AB 1893 seeking to clarify the provision.

Builder’s remedy, which has languished in obscurity for years, emerged as a de facto penalty for cities that don’t meet specified deadlines for their housing plans.

“I completely understand why the builder’s remedy exists and why the legislature created it, but I don’t understand why the builder’s remedy should have any applicability to the City of West Hollywood,” said Councilman John Heilman, a comment that was greeted with applause from the City Council meeting attendees. “What the item before us tonight does is it directs our staff to continue our work with our lobbyists in Sacramento to remedy this situation and to clarify that the builder’s remedy should not be applicable to our city in our current situation.”

While nobody disputes West Hollywood’s prohousing stance overall, the councilman’s statements puzzled those involved with the proposed builder’s remedy projects.

The estimated total number of residential units would be 435, with the largest projects planning 130 and 160 units at 8816 Beverly Boulevard and  9016 Santa Monica Boulevard, respectively, according to information shared by the City of West Hollywood. That represents less than 2 percent of the city’s current housing stock as of 2021.

Out of six builder’s developments in West Hollywood, four are 50 units or less. 

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Leo Pustilnikov, a developer who has been at the forefront of the builder’s remedy movement in Los Angeles, has proposed plans for two of them. One of Pustilnikov’s West Hollywood projects, located at 651-657 Huntley Drive, would contain 50 residential units. The second one, planned for 1051 Edinburgh Avenue, has 35 residential units.

Five of the projects have filed satisfactory applications with the city which are marked as “complete.” While one of them, a mixed-use building containing 30 residential units and 2,743 square feet of commercial space, is still awaiting additional materials, according to information provided by the City of West Hollywood. This project is located at 8817 Ashcroft Avenue.

West Hollywood received a prohousing designation from California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month, part of the statewide initiative to reward cities that show willingness to comply with the state’s housing goals.

Last year, 267 housing units were entitled in West Hollywood, a 202 percent increase from a year before, according to the city data.

West Hollywood finalized its Housing Element plan for the next cycle in February 2023, but the city is still vulnerable to builder’s remedy projects if their original applications were filed before the city was in compliance.

“The council in West Hollywood is probably under a lot of pressure about builder’s remedy projects that have been controversial, and this was an attempt to show the public that they’re on the ball,” said Dave Rand, a land attorney who’s representing several builder’s remedy cases in West Hollywood, referring to public pressure and comments the City Council has received on the issue. “I certainly hope it does not send a signal that the city is prejudging these projects before they go through the process.”