The City of West Hollywood, on Saturday, November 29, 2014, marks 30 years as an incorporated municipality. The City will celebrate its 30th anniversary with events throughout 2015, which will weave themes of the City’s past, present, and future.
Thirty years ago, in 1984, Cityhood was proposed by an unlikely coalition of LGBT activists, seniors, and renters — these groups came together to form a City like no other with progressive policies and strong tenants’ rights protections. Through tireless determination, the City of West Hollywood was officially incorporated as an independent City on November 29, 1984. Previously, West Hollywood had been an unincorporated section of Los Angeles County.
West Hollywood residents celebrate cityhood at a Nov. 25, 1984 meeting of the Coalition for Economic Survival, which led the incorporation effort on behalf of renters. Courtesy of the LA Public Library’s Herald-Examiner Collection.
During its three decades, West Hollywood has become one of the most influential small cities in the nation. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national progressive public policy agenda. West Hollywood’s story as a city includes countless individual and community stories.
Here are some highlights of the past 30 years in West Hollywood:
- The first West Hollywood City Council established West Hollywood as the first City in the nation to have a majority openly gay governing body. This was a landmark development in LGBT rights in the United States as well as globally.
- The ordinances adopted by the West Hollywood City Council within the first year of Cityhood included landmark legislation such as the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (which, upon its adoption was one of the strictest rent control laws in the country); Ordinance prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS; Domestic Partnership Ordinance; and Ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. Today, many of the City’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.
- In 1985, the City Council established its Social Services program to provide much-needed services to residents. Over its history, the City has provided millions of dollars in grants to fund programs for people in need. These services have included services for seniors; people with HIV and AIDS; members of the LGBT community; people with disabilities; alcohol and drug use recovery programs; support programs for Russian-speaking immigrants; services for people who are homeless; food programs; and health care services for people who are uninsured. Today, the City’s Social Services Division budgets approximately
$5 million per year in funding critical support to programs that impact thousands of people in West Hollywood; City residents live longer and have lower rates of chronic diseases than residents of L.A. County as a whole.
- The onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations. The City sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally. Today, 12 percent of households in the City have a person living with HIV/AIDS.
- The City has been one of the most outspoken advocates for the legal rights of LGBT people. In 1985, the City of West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to adopt a Domestic Partnership Ordinance. In October 2014, the City marked an exciting milestone as the City Clerk’s office at West Hollywood City Hall filed its 10,000th couple as registered Domestic Partners. The City also created the nation’s first municipal Transgender Task Force in 2001; in 2009 this became the City’s Transgender Advisory Board.
- West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality, paving the way for same-sex marriage initiatives all over the county. In a monumental moment in U.S. history, the City, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder Clerk, began to issue marriage licenses and perform civil ceremonies for same-sex couples in June 2008, following the Supreme Court of California ruling on Proposition 8. After a legal stay, in June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry and the City of West Hollywood launched a marriage celebration. West Hollywood City Councilmembers and City Officials performed hundreds of civil ceremonies.
While blazing a trail on progressive policy issues, the City of West Hollywood has also received high marks for sound general and fiscal management policies. The City, with its diverse revenue base, recovered more quickly from the 2008 recession than most cities in the nation and receives top ratings from agencies such as Standard & Poor’s (S&P). During the past five years, the City’s revenues have steadily increased and have now surpassed pre-recession revenue levels by 12 percent. The City has invested in a series of leading-edge Capital Projects, including the West Hollywood Park Master Plan. In 2011 the City celebrated the opening of the new LEED-rated West Hollywood Library to showcase the City’s rich intellectual, literary, and cultural diversity. A new Aquatic and Recreation Center is currently in design development.
In 2013, the City conducted a Community Study — one of the most intensive community engagement projects in the City’s history. The Community Study updated the City’s demographic data and provides information that informs funding priorities for social services initiatives. Ninety percent of respondents rated their quality of life as excellent or good, citing pedestrian orientation, central location, safe and quiet neighborhoods, amenities, and well-kept infrastructure.
The City is passionate about adopting fresh new ideas and the latest in technological advancement. At West Hollywood City Hall, staff members have formed an Innovation Catalyst Group (ICG), which explores the development and implementation of groundbreaking ideas. The City, through this group, has launched initiatives such as a monthly TEDx lunch series for City Hall staff members and has laid the groundwork for exciting new resources such as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) initiative, an Open Data initiative, and a new web-based platform for civic engagement.
During the past 30 years, the City of West Hollywood has demonstrated that it is like no other city in the world. A strong spirit of community activism and civic pride thrives in the City and people from all over the globe visit to experience its iconic destinations such as The Sunset Strip and historic Route 66.