The board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) spent more than an hour discussing how to spend their $42,000 budget at their monthly meeting Wednesday night before finally voting to approve a revised version.
The all-volunteer, community-elected board is required by the City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment also known as, EmpowerLA, to prepare an annual budget that accounts for all the funds the council is projected to spend.
The extended discussion revealed differences in how board members would like to see funds spent. GWNC Treasurer Patti Carroll presented a budget that exceeded the council’s allotted $42,000 by $3,000 because of last minute additions to the council’s outreach budget and asked the board to make the final determination of which categories would absorb the necessary reductions.
Most of the GWNC’s money is spent on administrative staff to support the GWNC’s Land Use Committee, according to budget calculations prepared by GWNC Secretary Joe Hoffman, a board member and resident of Windsor Village. Last year, the council spent nearly $15,000 on administrative staff to support the Land Use Committees efforts to track development projects, contact developers, copy presentations, write minutes, letters of opposition or support and pay fees for meeting space. In addition, the council spent nearly $13,000 for administrative staff to support its monthly board meeting that also require similar preparation.
Several board members expressed concern that administrative expenses were too high when compared to peer neighborhood councils saying they would prefer to see the money spent on outreach events that engage constituents and promote the neighborhood council. Another said they preferred to see more money allocated back to the neighborhood in the form of Neighborhood Purpose Grants. But several board members said that while they agreed administrative expenses were high, they felt a part-time staff person was necessary to get the paperwork done that is required by the City and essential to the functioning of the Council’s key committee, Land Use. The Land Use Committee draws more participation from the community when a development is proposed that could alter the existing neighborhood. Also, the cost of administrative staff includes taxes and benefits required by the City to be paid to the GWNC’s administrative staffer who works part-time, 20 hours a week. The City also requires the GWNC to use a staffing service approved by the City that adds to the cost.
Neighborhood Council board members can’t keep up with work without help, explained GWNC Secretary Joe Hoffman who said he spent over 15 hours filling out online forms detailing the council’s strategic plans, its goals and progress toward achieving those goals required by EmpowerLA as well as helping Carroll with budget calculations. Hoffman also serves as the GWNC’s volunteer webmaster.
Carroll estimates that she spends 4-5 hours a week on GWNC finances depending on the week. However, she is hopeful that a new web portal for neighborhood council treasurers will reduce the amount of time she spends scanning and sending paperwork. Carroll said she could have as many as 6 pages of documentation associated with each transaction. The new portal will also provide more transparency for anyone interested in tracking neighborhood council expenditures. Right now, the portal dashboard shows that most neighborhood councils allocate 70% of their funds for general expenditures including administration.
In other actions that evening, the GWNC Board voted unanimously to accept the motions presented by the Land Use Committee for the following projects:
- 985-991 3rd Ave, formerly 3607 W. Olympic Blvd. Applicant requests a Vesting Tentative Tract for 6 single- family lots in accordance with the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance No. 176,354 on a 7,982.3 square foot parcel of land in the C2.1 zone. Applicant attended the Jan. 2016 Meeting but did not present and has since completely revised the plans. VTT-73951-SL, ENV-2015-4443-EAF
The Land Use Committee voted 9, 0, 0 to oppose the project the developer did not appear. Proposed motion: That the Board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council oppose the project at 985-991 3rd Ave until presented by the applicant.
- 4806 W. Elmwood Ave Demolish 1 existing single family dwelling, construct 4 lots small lot subdivision AA-2017-1576-PMLA, ENV-2017-1577-EAF.
The Land Use Committee voted 9, 0, 0 to oppose the project the developer did not appear. Proposed motion: That the Board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council oppose the project at 4806 W. Elmwood until presented by the applicant.
- 310 S. Van Ness Ave Renovation of existing rectory interior with second floor addition of 1,007 sq. ft. ZA-2017-0109-PAD, ENV-2017-0110-CE.
The Land Use Committee voted 9, 0, 0 to support the project. Proposed motion: That the Board of the Greater Neighborhood Council support the project at 310 S. Van Ness Ave.
- 4749 W. Elmwood Ave Demolition of an existing single family dwelling and construction, use, and maintenance of new 14-unit apartment building, including 1 unit (10%) for very low income households, approximately 45-feet. Pursuant to: LAMC 12.22 a 25, approval of affordable housing incentives for DB as follows: parking option # 1; off-menu incentive-12-foot front yard; off-menu incentive-1 compact stall in lieu of a standard stall. CPC-2017-2121-DB, ENV-2017-2122- EAF.
The Land Use Committee voted 9, 0, 0 to oppose the project the developer did not appear. Proposed motion: That the Board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council oppose the project 4749 W. Elmwood Ave. until presented by the applicant.
On the project 5570 Melrose Ave/647 N, Beachwood Ave, Larchmont Village resident Tracey Clarke, who has filed an appeal currently before the Planning Department of the City of LA again as the GWNC support the appeal. CPC-2016-4316-DB, ENV-2016-4317-EAF. The GWNC Board voted 10-2-0 to approve the Land Use Committee’s proposed motion: That the Board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council request that the development team for 5570 Melrose Ave./647 North Beechwood Ave. provide a copy of memorialized items, drawings approved by the Planning Commission, and the Master Land Use Application to fulfill request of neighbors and the City Council to the GWNC. A representative of the developer told the Buzz they would be available to present those materials to the GWNC Land Use committee at its next meeting on July 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm.
Finally the GWNC Board voted 9-2-1 to oppose the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee proposed by the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti saying it would add to the cost of housing and the City should be exploring ways to reduce the cost to build new housing.
The Affordable Housing Linkage Fee / Housing Impact Trust Fund / Code Amendment(s) Directing Fees Derived from Projects ordinance would introduce new regulations to establish the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee, a fee levied on new development meeting specific criteria to mitigate that development’s impact on the demand for affordable housing. Fees generated as a result of this ordinance may be used to fund the construction of new units, or for the rehabilitation and preservation of existing affordable units.
The next meeting of the GWNC is Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 7pm at the Wilshire Ebell. All are welcome to attend.
This story was updated to correct the vote on the Affordable Housing Linkage fee.