West Hollywood Moves Forward with Purchase of Log Cabin Property

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Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

At last night’s regular city council meeting, the West Hollywood City council moved to consent agenda Item 5.A., approving a resolution to exercise an option for the purchase of the Log Cabin property and its adjacent parking lot located at 617-621 N. Robertson Boulevard.

Item 5.A. authorizes the Director of Finance and Technology Services to allocate up to $5,750,000 plus all related closing costs for the purchase of real property from reserves in the Debt Funded Capital Projects Fund. It also authorizes the City Manager to negotiate and execute all necessary documents to facilitate the purchase of real property located at 617-621 N. Robertson Boulevard.

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) released a statement in support of the purchase prior to the council meeting, stating that the purchase would help preserve the 2,000+ square foot historic Log Cabin property that has served the recovery community for many years and provide needed parking spaces for visitors to that facility as well as other area businesses.

The city staff analysis and background in the agenda reads as follows:

On April 1, 2020, the City of West Hollywood entered into a lease agreement with an option to purchase with the City of Beverly Hills for property located at 617-621 N. Robertson Boulevard, which was authorized on the City Council agenda on March 16, 2020. The agreement had an initial term of twelve (12) months with an additional twelve (12) month tenancy which either party could terminate with a thirty (30) day notice. After conducting due diligence and completing a feasibility study for the renovation of the Log Cabin, the City will exercise this purchase option. This option includes a 99-year deed restriction which limits the use of the property to addiction recovery services and a surface parking lot.

The Property is zoned CN2 (Commercial Neighborhood 2) and consists of two contiguous parcels for a combined square footage of 15,314. The Property is improved with a surface parking lot and a 2,090 square foot special purpose meeting facility (“Log Cabin”).

The property was identified in the 2016 City of West Hollywood Commercial Historic Resources Survey as appearing eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) with a California Historical Resource status code of 3S/3CS/5S3 (defined as eligible for listing in the National Register and the California Register of Historical Resources and for local designation). This status was confirmed independently during the City’s lease period.

The Log Cabin is in need to renovation. Any proposed work or renovation of the Log Cabin structure which would alter of have an adverse effect to the property’s character defining features would subject to a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and would need to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Should the City of West Hollywood re-develop the property or cease using the Log Cabin property primarily for addiction recovery services, the City of West Hollywood would be required to provide additional compensation to the City of Beverly Hills, which shall be 50% of its then fair-market value, as determined by an independent third-party appraiser. This compensation would remove the deed restriction.

The City of West Hollywood currently subleases the property to West Hollywood Recovery Center located across the street from the Log Cabin.

All future uses of the Property would be expected to conform with existing development standards and would need to be consistent with the City’s General Plan. Regardless, no determination as to changes in the existing use of the Property will be made until appropriate CEQA review has been completed. The proposed purchase with the deed restriction will continue the existing use of the property and for that reason will not create any changes to the physical environment. Accordingly, the real estate transaction is not subject to review under CEQA at this time (as explained below). Property acquisition also requires a Planning Commission determination that the purchase is consistent with the General Plan. Should the Council approve this item, the matter will be referred to the Commission during the escrow period, likely in April.

Environmental Review

The action for approval at this time is to exercise an option to purchase the property, subject to a deed restriction limiting use of the property unless and until additional compensation is paid. As noted above, any future change to the use of the property will undergo complete environmental review and planning review before being approved. The law concerning the timing of environmental review has been clarified in recent years, with many different courts opining on the subject. Those opinions have now been incorporated into the terms of the CEQA guidelines to state that CEQA applies when a public agency proposes to “approve” a project. The term “approval” refers to a public agency decision that “commits the agency to a definite course of action in regard to a project.”

At this stage, the terms of any potential change to the use of the site are not yet concrete enough to study and any environmental analysis would be too speculative to provide meaningful information. Based on the facts that exist today and the existence of the deed restriction, the status quo will remain for the foreseeable future. This purchase allows the city to continue providing a location for addiction recovery services and parking and there will be no changes to the physical environment. There is nothing associated with this purchase that forecloses alternatives or mitigation measures that would ordinarily be part of CEQA review (if and when the city would move forward with any change of use or development on the site). Future change of use of the site is subject to CEQA compliance and a future public visioning process.

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