Westside Urban Forum Hosts Westside Mayors for Annual Discussion

The Helms Design Center was the host to the Westside Urban Forum’s annual panel of Westside Mayors on Feb. 15, 2024. The ‘business breakfast’ meetings of the WUF often focus on issues such as land use policy, affordable housing, transportation priorities and demographic shifts. This meeting took on all of them, discussing how each municipality was focusing their time and attention. 

The panel of mayors included Beverly Hills Mayor Dr. Julian Gold, West Hollywood Mayor Dr. John Erickson, Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock, and Culver City’s own Mayor Yasmine Imani McMorrin, and was moderated by Dr. Jimmy Biblarz, a lecturer at UCLA and local attorney. 

Starting with the question “What is your vision for housing development in your city?” Erickson talked about the need to bridge between focusing on the community based response, and playing a regional role, asking  “How do we do it with our business community, with our residents… when we say yes to a project, we can say ‘you are welcome’ and know that inclusivity supports what we already have in place.”

Dr. Gold commented on boundaries, noting that “Once upon a time, you knew when you were leaving one city, and entering another; things were distinct. Now it’s much harder to tell. How does your city interact with the other cities in your region? It’s a tough needle to thread, but essential. At the core, we recognize that we need that housing, [but] how do we get it done? It needs to be consistent with what our residents want in our city.”

He pointed out that rent stabilization in Beverly Hills had created a situation where older people could not afford to move out of rentals that they might want to downsize, and therefore young families could not get into places that would accommodate their needs. 

Gold also offered that this the demographic shift has left Beverly Hills with an empty school, which is planned to be converted to a regional day care and early learning center. “We can have preschool, TK, day care, all in that facility – not just for our own residents, but those who need that kind of family support.” 

Brock noted “We are all separate cities from Los Angeles for a reason. The thing is to make sure we maintain that uniqueness. I’m all in favor of affordable housing, middle class housing. We are losing that great middle. If you are in real estate, you are probably really doing well right now, but for renters and even homeowners – the squeeze is painful.”

McMorrin, who began by welcoming everyone to Culver City, to warm applause, reflected on how she was a renter when she first moved here, and that the death of her landlady had put her family in a zone of housing insecurity. “I’m a lawyer, and for people who do not have that kind of income, how much worse would it be to be suddenly informed that the building is being sold, and you need to start looking for a place to live?” She also brought in the need to address climate change, and how the housing issue was closely connected to emissions and commuter struggles. 

The need for ‘a seat at the table’ was one that each of the speakers credited to McMorrin and reflected on as crucial for solving housing issues in the region. 

Judith Martin-Straw




The Actors' Gang