Duke Mason for West Hollywood City Council | Issues
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I believe homelessness is the biggest challenge facing our city. If elected, ending chronic homelessness by the end of my first term will be my top priority in office. West Hollywood is small enough that we can do something innovative here that places like the City of Los Angeles or L.A. County cannot. We cannot have a serious conversation about ending homelessness unless we first talk about the need for building more housing. Other cities such as Salt Lake City, Denver and Minneapolis have made significant strides in ending chronic homelessness by implementing a “housing first” policy, which means building permanent housing for the homeless and making sure they have a stable, secure roof over their head. Only then can you begin to provide them with the other services they need (mental health, employment etc.). I believe WeHo should stop outsourcing this problem, take ownership of the crisis and work with non-profits to build more housing for the homeless within our borders. We can re-open the West Hollywood Homelessness Center which was closed years ago, build new housing and/or convert existing properties like rundown motels as organizations like AIDS Healthcare Foundation have done to turn them into housing for the homeless.

Affordable Housing

As a former board member at the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, I understand firsthand that the need for affordable housing is among the most urgent issues facing us as a city and as a state. We need to increase our housing supply- not in the luxury market which is what most of multifamily housing is these days, but more permanent housing for the homeless and low income, as well as for middle income people. We need to work with developers to see in what ways the city might be able to incentivize them and make it less cost-prohibitive to build this type of diversified housing (such as micro units), instead of condos that are only for the wealthy. We should look at re-writing our zoning codes in certain areas so we can build housing along certain parts of the major thoroughfares like Fountain Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard with easy access to public transportation, which will attract the type of tenants who aren’t necessarily dependent on a car (young people, seniors for instance) and therefore alleviate the traffic problem. I also believe we must do everything we can to protect and expand rent control.  

Small Businesses

Part of what makes West Hollywood such a unique, beautiful, creative city is the energy and character created by our vibrant small businesses, many of them LGBT and Russian-owned that have been in our community for many years now. In recent years however, the operating costs have increased and the fees and permitting process have become more expensive and complicated, making it harder for existing businesses to survive and for aspiring entrepreneurs to get off the ground. As great as established business owners like Lisa Vanderpump and David Cooley are, unless you’re one of them and have existing capital to start off with, chances are you’re struggling to stay above water. If elected I will propose the creation of a Business Advisory Board, which will includes representatives from the the WeHo Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles LGBT Chamber of Commerce as well as business leaders to explore solutions to this problem. We need to streamline the approval process and make it less cost prohibitive for small businesses to thrive and flourish in our city.

Aging In Place

West Hollywood has always been a city that celebrates diversity. We have seniors, many of whom are members of the LGBT community or Russian-speaking community, who have lived here a long time and want to stay here. Many of them have lived here since WeHo was incorporated in 1984, or even before then! Unfortunately however, due to physical and financial difficulties, they are being forced to reckon with the unthinkable: leaving the city they have called home for so much of their lifetimes, against their will, for reasons out of their control. We need to do everything we can to make sure that our seniors can age in place with safety and security. The city has already undertaken an Aging In Place Strategic Plan, and I applaud these efforts. But much like the homelessness issue, a piecemeal plan isn’t going to solve the problem. We need something innovative, something comprehensive, and I will undertake this challenge if elected. This all-encompassing plan will include a major increase in funding for social services for seniors, including for programs such as Dial-A-Ride that are doing well but should be expanded upon.

Public Safety

It’s no secret that public safety is one of the biggest concerns shared by our residents, particularly those on the East Side. Whether or not it is reflected in statistics, there is a palpable sense of anxiety among many WeHoans that there has been an increase in the amount of robberies and violent incidents throughout our city, and something needs to be done about it. In my capacity as a city official on LGAB, I have attended meetings of the city’s Homelessness Task Force which includes business owners, staffers from City Hall and members of the Sheriff’s Department. The consensus seems to be that a major increase in funding for our Police Department, so that they have the resources they need to increase their foot/bicycle patrols and general presence in areas that have most been affected by crime, would be a major step toward addressing this problem. The challenge is that there hasn’t been the political will to take a stand and fight for it, and I will do that if I’m elected to the City Council.