Last week, Weekly staffer Patrick Range McDonald detailed how West Hollywood, "a progressive town founded on renters' rights and diversity," ended up "gridlocked, angry and elitist" ("West Follywood," April 2). We received a few trillion letters on both sides of this tame subject, some of which are excerpted below.
One side ponders the question, West Hollywood or Caracas? "I applaud L.A. Weekly for their investigative journalism," writes Shemuell, "but the level of corruption portrayed only scratches the surface of what goes on behind those closed doors. Those of us living in West Hollywood know what it's like living in Venezuela, with our own version of Hugo Chavez's regime in office."
The other side thinks things could be worse — in L.A. "I have lived in West Hollywood for 23 years and have attended many City Council and Planning Commission meetings," says David Weissfeld. "I have seen big-money developers stomp out of these meetings because the City Council voted to have them resubmit their development designs to better address neighborhood complaints. Of course, I have seen the opposite happen. Is the process perfect? NO. But it is a hell of a lot better than if West Hollywood had not broken away from the city of Los Angeles. At least West Hollywood is fiscally sound. John Heilman has brought a great deal of needed stability to this city."
One side ponders the question, West Hollywood or Manhattan? "Thank you for this article!" says BP. "I'm all for modernization, but at what price? WeHo has (had?) a unique spirit and sense of community, which has been rapidly disappearing in the last several years. Soon it will be a Manhattan with palm trees — a place you can't wait to escape from on the weekends. Your article shed light and understanding on why so much developing is going on. What a shame that the city's council people have been taken over by power and greed and forgotten the people they govern. Funny how history repeats itself, and they themselves are doing to West Hollywood exactly what they didn't want Los Angeles to do to it years ago."
The other side thinks things could be worse — in L.A. "Having lived in West Hollywood for 15 years," writes Jeremy Peugeot, "I can say that while my neighbors two blocks away in L.A. wait for weeks or months to get replies, I can call about a tree, vacant property, abandoned furniture or a car blocking my driveway and a city official will respond within hours. I am so happy to live in a city where my property value has increased three times what I paid nine years ago. Our streets are clean and tidy."
One side ponders the question, West Hollywood or Beverly Hills? "When I first moved here, there were still some old-timers around (people who had lived here since the '70s or '80s)," writes Michael. "Most have since moved on, but they described to me a West Hollywood that had been fun, creative and diverse — that had people young and old, professional and non, living and working in a really unique place. They lamented how that had passed, and passed primarily due to one major factor: money.
"I would submit that if you're a property owner who likes seeing your property value rise and rise, then sure, this council is doing a great job. However, as middle- and lower-income residents are increasingly forced out, what will the character of the city be? Perhaps at that point the City Council can cash out and West Hollywood can be annexed by Beverly Hills?"
The other side thinks things could be worse — in L.A. and beyond: "Land and Heilman are only guilty of being responsible for the success and the future of West Hollywood," suggests Tony Clark. "The rest of Los Angeles, if not the country, should pay good money to hear them address issues and how to overcome obstacles to create and run a progressive city. The words you are looking for are 'Thank You.'"
Thank you, Mr. Clark, and the other commenters for expressing yourselves so eloquently.
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SUCCESSFUL THEATER VS. HIGHBROW THEATER
In our annual theater issue two weeks ago, writes Rey Howard, "Steven Leigh Morris bemoans the lack of stature accorded to the theater in general and L.A. companies in particular ("Why Theater Matters," L.A. Weekly, March 26). As an actor and writer who performed in his first play at the age of 12, I understand his concern. Yet I understand something else as well, of which Morris appears utterly clueless. If theater is ever to gain in repute among the general population, then theater producers must take a lesson from their brethren the television and film producers, by reliably delivering to general audiences what TV and the movies, even in their current state, far more successfully deliver: comedy, romance, mystery, action, suspense, some above-all accessible combination of emotion and insight and experience sufficiently compelling and relevant to lure a sustaining mass of real people from their homes and dollars from their pockets.
"Yet immediately following his complaints, what does Morris cite as among the most admirable features of L.A. theater? A 'poetic, surreal' 'choreopoem' about a woman climbing the Tower of Babel and how the meaning of words in contemporary society has been 'shattered'; 'brainy and idiosyncratic' productions 'featuring concerts of songs accompanied by bass kazoo'; deliveries of 'satire with a serving of psychic anguish'; companies that 'put on plays without regard for their embrace by critics — or audiences.' Morris might as well have filed these examples under the title 'Why Theater Doesn't Matter to Most People (and Hence Gets a Corresponding Amount of Respect).'
"The irony is truly theatrical in scope, for while Morris is spot-on regarding the solution, he has yet to realize that he and the many critics and producers who share his highbrow preferences are a big part of the problem."
WRITE LIKE REY
Even if we don't agree, we want your opinions, analyses, thoughtful prosecutions, even rants and raves. Full names and contact info appreciated. At firstname.lastname@example.org.