NextGen Engagement Program
Over half of West Hollywood’s population is under 40, but the majority is not engaged in the City’s decision making processes and is disproportionately underrepresented in governmental leadership and the voting electorate. The city surveyed this group and found almost 80% indicated they want to be more civically involved, with the majority seeking new and non-traditional means of engagement beyond Boards and Commissions, which do not particularly appeal to this audience.
In response, Council directed staff to create a pilot “NextGen” civic engagement event to engage constituents under the age of 40 in an interactive civic activation in a non-traditional setting. The event was held on July 20, 2017 at the Andaz Hotel. The City partnered with an event production team to curate the event, making it feel less like a traditional City meeting and more like an educational social activation. The event had a large turnout, with 150 attendees and included a live DJ, WeHo NextGen-branded photo booth, a celebrity keynote speaker, and a panel comprised of current NextGen City Board members and Commissioners. The event also included an “Engagement Lab” interactive exercise comprised of a series of prompts seeking ideas for 21st century community engagement.
To keep the momentum going, a newly created Community and Legislative Affairs Division will collaborate with departments throughout City Hall to plan upcoming events and engage community members that have not historically been involved with local City government.
PickUp Real Time Arrival App
The City of West Hollywood’s PickUp is targeted and marketed to our young, hip, nighttime entertainment clientele who are typically public transportation adverse. Residents and visitors coming to West Hollywood on weekends can take this free, fun shuttle that comes equipped with a DJ and photographer inside, its own social media accounts, and a perks card for discounts to popular nightlife businesses.
While real time arrival information is available on transportation arrival apps, they lack the branding and strong identity that characterize the PickUp; this is a reason why the City has welcomed a third-party application, created by Josh Gafni, a West Hollywood resident and employee of local technology company, Tinder.
Gafni created the WeHo PickUp app for people to locate the PickUp trolley on a subway-esque map. Users can view the nearest stop to their location and estimated time of arrival of the next trolley using GPS technology. This project has given Gafni the opportunity to contribute to his local community through the use of his technology skills.
The City is currently working with Gafni to enhance his app to include city branding and legal disclosures before launching it publicly in winter 2018. This successful citizen-led partnership was embraced by the City and sets a good example for future public-driven data projects.
To help offset the short-term loss of park space associated with the re-construction of West Hollywood Park, the City Council directed staff to develop a pilot micro-park program aimed at providing short-term micro-parks throughout the City. The City defines a micro-park as a small scale recreational prototype on the sidewalk.
Micro-parks can take various shapes and forms, from low-tech paint on the ground in an artistic pattern to a custom piece of furniture. Such micro-parks have the effect of transforming underutilized spaces into active sites of recreation and reflection. In addition, they help reinforce the City’s reputation for creativity and inventive use of public space.
To date, the City has installed three micro-parks:
Kaleidoscope, is a series of colorful, rotating mirrored acrylic prisms that reflect the equality of light, the texture of surrounding buildings, and the movements of passersby to create a distinct visual and experiential happening along the sidewalk, located on the Northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Peer Drive. (By Daveed Kapoor of Utopiad and Rob Berry of Berry and Linné)
#WeLoveWeHo, re-imagines the wildcard micro-park in the form of a full-scale interactive selfie wall, located at the eastern wall of West Hollywood City Hall. (By Moore+Friesl)
TinyPark, conceived as a flexible amenity that is able to provide short-term rest spots in tight public and semi-public areas of the City. A collection of boxes create both casual sitting areas and adjacent table surfaces, some of which are outfitted with checker game boards, located in the Eastside neighborhood at the intersection of Santa Monica and Vista/Gardner (near Fatburger and Astro Burger). (By June Street Architecture and UrbanRock Design)
In February 2018, the City will install the final micro-park at the City-owned parking lot located at 8775 Sunset Boulevard on the Sunset Strip. It will be designed by “The Art of Chase”, a street artist who has painted more than 350 murals around the world.
The micro-parks pilot project laid a foundation for innovative use of public spaces. The results generated by this pilot program have confirmed the need for additional investment in a long-term citywide parklet program, with new emphasis on transforming on-street parking spaces into parklets. While the micro-parks have been designed and built on underutilized sidewalk spaces and landscape medians, parklets will be designed and built on on-street parking spaces and provide an opportunity for local businesses to create new and creative open spaces in West Hollywood.
The City Council approved the citywide parklet program in January 2018 and authorized the installation of up to seven parklets in the first year of the program. The City anticipates installation of the first parklet by the end of the year.
West Hollywood Innovation Fund
A city’s ability to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life depends on its ability to find innovative new ways to get work done. Therefore, as part of the WeHoX Technology and Innovation program, City Council approved the West Hollywood Innovation Fund in December 2015 to launch in FY16-17. This $50,000 internal City innovation fund provides small grants for pilot projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to existing civic challenges.
From 2016-2017, the Innovation Fund provided grants to seven projects, across a range of departments, including: Economic Development, Community Development, Human Services and Rent Stabilization, and Communications. The Innovation Fund expanded the breadth of engagement and communications tools City departments typically use in a variety of ways. Innovation Fund projects include the following:
The Aging in Place plan was transformed “beyond the PDF” to become an interactive age-friendly website that readers of any age can easily access and digest;
User-centered graphic design transformed a stale public meeting notice placard into an attractive easy-to-read visual poster that provides community members with the important information they need about upcoming development projects. In addition, City Council has suggested ways to expand upon the public meeting notice upgrades to public notice mailings including a photo and plans, to create a voluntary email notice system, and to review noticing radius requirements.
Social service offerings will be highlighted in bite-sized, social media friendly videos with the help of an animator/videographer to reach out to new audiences.
The Innovation Fund has been successful in launching innovative staff-driven ideas that improve how the City conducts its business, delivers services, and engages with its stakeholders. In the upcoming year, the Innovation Division will work to increase the breadth of projects awarded, range of ideas generated, and to seek more hardware and technology solutions that can help with challenges within and outside of City Hall.
Business Concierge Services
In 2017, the City of West Hollywood created a new Business Development Division. This division connects business to services and resources, helps new businesses navigate the City’s planning and building process, and supports relationships with the Business Improvement Districts and the Chamber of Commerce. Staff serves as an “on-demand” business concierge, treating every contact and interaction with a new or potential business owner as a unique situation. This service assists businesses in finding solutions to common questions and facilitates connections to the right people, data and resources. It also helps businesses navigate an evolving business landscape, particularly around minimum wage increases and the introduction of recreational cannabis business into the City.
Additionally, the Business Development Division works to educate other departments in City Hall about the business planning process. The division aims to be preemptive, rather than reactionary. By training staff to refer business owners to the Business Development team, the City is helping to get businesses the answers they need to be successful in the City.
Staff has served over 100 potential applicants this year alone. With an interactive business planning website in the works, the Business Development Division will continue to support the innovation economy in West Hollywood.
West Hollywood GoSolar Campaign
Innovation and sustainability are closely linked in the City of West Hollywood. The City’s GoSolar campaign is an innovative way of providing customized solar options for our residents. A majority of our residents live in multi-family housing units like apartment buildings; this can make it difficult to pursue renewable energy options like solar panels due to shared ownership rights, complex electricity metering, and a limited availability of options.
To help these property owners explore their solar options, the City launched Go Solar West Hollywood, a program that provides free access to online resources and tools so that every resident, no matter where they live, can make the switch to solar energy. In partnership with EnergySage, an online solar marketplace developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, this program is uniquely designed to ensure that all our residents can easily move through the education, quote comparison, and installation process.
To date, staff has registered 34 property owners, including 20 owners that have received approved quotes, with one GoSolar conversion pending. While the City has been recognized as a Solsmart Gold Community for advancing efforts in supporting strong local solar markets, staff is currently exploring strategies to increase future community participation in the GoSolar program.