HAPPY NEW YEAR WEHO TIMES READERS!!! A lot has happened in the City of West Hollywood in 2022. Compiling the standout stories of the year has been a real undertaking, but I didn’t want to half-ass it. Below are some highlights of the stories and photos that shaped the Creative City of WeHo in ’22.
The City of West Hollywood came into January 1, 2023 with the fresh loss of actress and animal rights activist, Betty White who passed on New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2021. She would have celebrated her 100th birth on January 17, 2022; The City Hosted several free COVID testing pop-ups; WeHo resident Christian Cabrera died from COVID-19 complications sparking a debate about vax vs anti-vax; Helen Albert Farmer’s Market closed indefinitely due to COVID surges; Kitchen 24 Celebrated 10 years; the fence surrounding WeHo was taken down, allowing access to most of green areas; Starbucks at Fairfax Ave and Santa Monica Blvd closed after 25 years; new club Heart WeHo Nightclub opened at the old Rage Space; a man was robbed at gunpoint on Kings Rd and Santa Monica Blvd.; and history was set in motion when UNITE HERE Local 11 announced their endorsement of then council member Mayor Lindsey Horvath for L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
The Biggest story for January 2022 has to be the revelation that SUPREME—a store geared towards hype culture, was opening at the former Tower Records building on the Sunset Strip. Local residents were furious and concerned the store bring crime to The Sunset Strip; SUPREME fans called out these concerns as alarmist and blatantly racist because the Supreme customer tends to be POC, while history buffs were furious that the entire Tower Records façade was demolished to the bare bones after developers promised it would be preserved.
February began with WeHo City acknowledging Black History Month; Circus of Books replaced ChiChi LaRues in the Rainbow district; Faring hosted a groundbreaking ceremony of the French Market space on February 2nd which is the most action we’ve seen at that construction site almost a year later; two drivers were arrested at a DUI Checkpoint; By the Way Burger WeHo closed after three years; California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) filed an action against Fiesta Cantina WeHo for allegedly selling alcohol to a minor decoy; Kim Petras did a mini Slut Pop concert tour at the Rainbow District; Barbara Poma, Founder of onePulse, received a Key to the City; Justin Bieber performed for a private event at PDC; four people were shot following Justin Bieber performance at PDC; Mother Lode FINALLY opened on February 12th; dates for inaugural “WeHo Pride” were announced; WeHo Sheriffs warn of a man on the loose who tried to force a woman into an empty garage (man was arrested a few days later); video footage captures Georgiano Fine Jewelry store being burglarized; and WeHo City stood with Ukraine after Russian attacks.
The biggest story for February has to be the shutting down of the entire City Hall building after a glass window facing Santa Monica Boulevard was shattered by an apparent bullet. The incident occurred at approximately 2 a.m. on Friday, February 18, 2022. No one was injured in the incident and no one has been arrested thus far, also it was never really confirmed that an actual bullet shattered that glass. The incident was shocking and made residents feel uneasy as more and more WeHo crimes made local headline news.
The month of March began with the removal of the Rainbow crosswalks at Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, followed by the installment of new Pride Progress flag colors, angering older gays (sadly the colors were filthy moments after being installed); bars and restaurants posted signs warning patrons of phone thefts; a fire at West Hollywood council member Lindsey Horvath’s apartment building prompted community discussions about fire safety preparedness. ABC filed an action against The Classic Cat restaurant for alcohol consumption after hours; a Harry Styles Pleasing pop-up created havoc on La Cienega Boulevard with massive lines; vehicular burglary topped the crimes in March; the 37th Los Angeles Marathon made its way through WeHo; the City moved forward with Purchase of the Log Cabin; and the Elton John Foundation raised 8.6 million in West Hollywood. Gay political journalist, Thom Senzee died at age 54 in Palm Springs. His body was found a temporary roommate.
The biggest story for March 2022 was the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department’s report that Part One crimes in West Hollywood were up 137 percent in February 2022, compared to February 2021. The significant increase in crime from 2021 to 2022 was largely due to COVID-19 pandemic-related State and County health orders during 2020 and 2021, which created emergency policies that forced certain business closures and safer at home recommendations. These emergency policies had a significant effect on crime. The comparison didn’t stop local media from hyping the 137 Percent increase and sparking debates about the need for more policing in West Hollywood.
There was a change of command in the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station when Captain Edward Ramirez was promoted to Commander and transferred to North Patrol Division Administration; a Jesus March hit WeHo’s LGBT Rainbow District in an effort to save LGBT souls; The Comedy Store celebrated 50 years on the Sunset Strip; there was a hit and run on Sunset Boulevard; several arrest were made for stolen vehicles in April; an arsonist targeted three vehicles at Santa Monica Blvd and Huntley Drive behind (a suspect was later arrested); WeHo City dropped COVID-19 Vaccination verification requirements at local businesses; a sheriff’s patrol vehicle was involved in a car collision injuring two sheriff deputies and two civilians on Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards; Council member Erickson lead community cleanup efforts; Parallel Perpendicular was vandalized with graffiti; Hotel Ziggy celebrates grand opening; A jury awarded 2.8 million to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle on Holloway Drive; a man was shot in attempted robbery, Madonna was spotted at the Peppermint Club in WeHo; Anti Semitic flyers landed in WeHo during Passover; Two cars overturned in separate traffic collisions in April; Irene Soderberg finally received a formal burial two years after her death; and Lesbian flags went up in WeHo City for Lesbian and Queer Women Visibility Week.
However, the biggest WeHo related story for April 2022 happened on the 14th when former West Hollywood resident, and Democratic political donor, Ed Buck was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for supplying drugs to two men who overdosed in his apartment on Laurel Avenue. After a six-hour deliberation, a jury found Ed Buck, then 67, guilty of all nine felony counts against him, including two for distribution of controlled substances resulting in the deaths of Gemmel Moore, 26, who died on July 27, 2017, and Timothy Dean, 55, who died on January 7, 2019.
The City of West Hollywood resumed its homeless initiative program to provide on-site outreach and services at WeHo Library; the City affirmed its Commitment to Being a Pro-Choice City; pro-choice activists held a Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights demonstration in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion stating that a majority of the court would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade; two watches worth $19,000 combined were stolen in strong-armed robbery at the 8800 Block of Sunset Blvd; LA Times endorsed Lindsey Horvath for L.A. County Board of Supervisors; Flags flew at half-staff in memory of one million American lives lost to COVID-19; WeHo City’s Guaranteed Income pilot for LGBTQI people was a bust after the City learned it may be susceptible to legal challenges due to the inclusion of LGBTQIA criteria as an eligibility requirement; WeHo Sunset Spectacular park area opened to the public; new Pride Progress Flags went up on Santa Monica Blvd medians, angering older gays; Janelle Monáe was named WeHo Pride’s Grand Marshal Icon and JoJo Siwa was named Next Gen Icon; Schindler House celebrated 100 years; and Harry Style’s fans were back in WeHo waiting long hours for Harry’s House pop-up shop on La Cienega.
The biggest West Hollywood story for May 2022 was the report that a Nazi Truck drove through WeHo spouting racist slurs at community members. Two individuals in a large U-Haul Truck covered with antisemitic messaging. They harassed and confronted community members on Santa Monica Blvd, they waved a mangled rainbow flag, mocked Jewish people, yelled at Black people to go back to Africa. U-Haul banned the driver from renting their vehicles.
City kicked off Pride Month and WeHo Pride programing with a Mayor’s Reception at The Chapel; Dyke March 2022 officially launched WeHo Pride weekend events produced by JJLA. WEHO TIMES Marched in inaugural WeHo Pride Parade and it was pretty freakin’ amazing; Christina Aguilera surprises fans at LA Pride merch pop-up in WeHo; Cardi B crashed the WeHo Pride Parade, riding in solidarity with the trans community; California awarded WeHo City with $6,007,661 towards homeless housing at Holloway Motel; Summer on Sunset Roller Rink opened on The Sunset Strip; Bob Hertzberg and Lindsey Horvath Move to Runoffs for Board of Supervisor; AIDS/LifeCycle Cyclists rode through WeHo; Bill Moulder officially became WeHo Sheriff’s Captain; councilmember Horvath gets heat for removing West Hollywood and LGBT from her campaign bio; right wing gay for Trump, Christian Walker, posted anti-pride video message from Matthew Shepard Triangle in WeHo; WeHo City hosted Pan-African flag-raising ceremony for Juneteenth; ABC filed actions against Doheny Room and The Bayou WeHo, charging both bars with selling alcohol to a minor decoy; WeHo City joined WeHo Chamber with State of the City event; former West Hollywood Commissioner, Tai Sunnanon, was charged with embezzlement; founding West Hollywood figure Ruth Hanna Williams Died at 84; West Hollywood hosted its first Q Con for LGBT comic book fans; Pop Star Lizzo gave a surprise performance at Heart WeHo; Two Subway Sandwich shops close in WeHo after decades of service; Chop Stop Closed after 10 years blaming minimum wage hike; overturning of Roe v Wade Draws massive protest in West Hollywood; and we reported that the Los Angeles County reported five cases of something called monkeypox.
The biggest story for June should have been the City’s WeHo Pride celebration, but that was overshadowed by the city’s defunding of the WeHo Sheriffs—or at least that was the soundbite that echoed across the nation and overseas with everyone chiming in, including oddball OJ Simpson. The West Hollywood City Council voted to approve the City’s FY 2022-23 & 2023-24 two-year operating budget and capital work plan at its regular council meeting on Monday, June 27, 2022. It was a 3-2 vote with a motion made by Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne that was seconded by Councilmember John D’Amico and a “yes” vote of Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath, noting the “no” votes of Mayor Lauren Meister and Councilmember John M. Erickson. The motion was to increase 30 Block by Block security ambassadors, add one LA County deputy to the Entertainment Policing Team beginning July 1, 2022, and decrease the number of LASD Deputies by two in 90 days, potentially decrease an addition three deputies, six months after that and consider the decrease of LASD deputies during pride while increasing Block-by-Block security. The motion was confusing which resulted in an international PR nightmare where all everyone talked about was how West Hollywood defunded their police.
Courtesy of the City of West Hollywood – Photo credit Jon Viscott
West Hollywood minimum wage increase kicked in on July 1st; Sheila Kuehl spoke in defense of Lindsey Horvath’s LGBTQ credentials after reports that Horvath scrubbed LGBT and West Hollywood from her campaign bio; WeHo City added a Block by Block Kiosk at West Hollywood Park; possession of catalytic converters become unlawful in WeHo; a third water main brokes in WeHo City; Irv’s Burgers celebrated grand opening with ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the WeHo Chamber; Monkeypox cases rose to 54 in LA County; reinstated West Hollywood Sheriff’s Entertainment Policing Team (EPT) arrested two alleged cellphone thieves; two men were caught on camera breaking into Laurel Gardens Building; Thai restaurant backs out of moving into former Coffee Bean space; a pedestrian was killed after being struck by a vehicle on Sunset Boulevard; Live camel at Micky’s WeHo to promote Middle Eastern night angers animal rights activists; Tail O’the Pup officially opened; the City hosted a Monkeypox town hall with The Blade magazine; and the City reported a rise in threats against City Staff and elected officials.
We have a tie for two big stories in the month of July: The community was shocked when The Big Gay Starbucks at 8595 Santa Monica Boulevard closed after 27 years, on July 31st. It first opened its double doors in 1995. According to Starbucks executives it closed due to safety and security concerns. It was a major loss for those who frequented this West Hollywood fixture.
And speaking of public safety, the other big story dates back to July 7th, when Larry Block, the publisher of WeHoville, outed Block by Block Operations Manager, Shea Gibson, a black man, for being convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Georgia—a crime that dated back 27 years ago in 1995. Prior to that Block had been criticized for hiring ex-convict Tony Castro as Editor in Chief of his website after Castro had been convicted for selling false stories to tabloids for large sums of money 30-plus years prior. Block vehemently defended Castro stating that his editor had paid his debt to society and deserved a space in publishing. He did not hold the same sentiment for Mr Gibson. The double standard was called out, some calling it racist. The City of West Hollywood and members of City Boards and Commissions officially released statements defending Mr. Gibson and praising him for his work in the community. Gibson kept his position as Operations Manager and later accepted a Proclamation dedicated to the Block by Block Security Ambassadors.
Courtesy of the City of West Hollywood – Photo credit Jon Viscott
Next Generation Lime E-Bikes become available in WeHo City. Monkeypox Declared a Public Health Emergency by Biden Administration; LA County gay sex clubs and bathhouses hosted monkeypox vaccination clinics; WeHo neighbors gathered for the 2022 National Night Out; Sheriffs go on manhunt for escaped inmate who took an Uber to Woodland Hills while a helicopter searched the Rainbow District area; WeHo opened monkeypox vaccination pop-up clinic and immediately gets booked until September; Abbey WeHo hosts celebration of life in remembrance of manager Victor Tomasino; WeHo monkeypox pop-up clinic is paused due to lack of supplies; West Hollywood celebrated completion of Aquatic and Recreation Center with open house and WeHo Rec expo (the entire council jumped in the pool); City council voted against broadcasting WeHo Chamber’s Candidate Forum due to conflict of interest with the Chamber’s WeHo PAC; A gunshot victim was found in front of the WeHo Sheriff’s Station at San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevards after being shot in Los Angeles (he was later pronounced dead); WeHo City hosts Study session on nightlife safety; CicLAvia brings open street event to WeHo and beyond; Cousins Maine Lobster closed after 7 Years; lawmakers block Bill allowing extension of alcohol sales until 4am; one hospitalized, one arrested in shooting incident at WeHo’s About Last Night Lounge; WeHo for the People hosts candidate forum with the WeHo Chamber, candidate Ben Savage of the show Boy Meets World was a no-show; WeHo City applauds passage of Bill 1194 allowing multi-stall gender- neutral bathrooms;
The big story for August was announcement that the 2022 WeHo Halloween Carnaval was cancelled that year. “The City of West Hollywood is reminding the community and the region that the City’s annual Halloween Carnaval has been cancelled for 2022 in accordance with protecting health and safety during the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” read a statement on the West Hollywood’s community events page. The statement was updated blamed to read that the City approved proposed modifications to the City’s FY2022-2023 Budgeted Special Events List, which included a recommendation to postpone Halloween Carnaval, “in 2022, the City is continuing to promote an alternative Halloween experience…” Regardless of the why, people were royally pissed.
September began with the report The Wing West Hollywood and sister locations were closing permanently; Studio CLMBR opened at Ramada Plaza; WeHo City lanterns and City Hall were lit teal for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month; UNITE HERE Local 11 hospitality worker’s union endorsed city council hopefuls Chelsea Byers, Zekiah Wright and Robert Oliver; Flags fly at half-staff in WeHo in memory of Queen Elizabeth II; Mother Lode West Hollywood Celebrated 43-Year Anniversary (never you mind that it was closed for three years during COVID); LASD served search warrant of home of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl; Linsey Horvath condemned the search, calling it “deeply disturbing”; L.A. Cultural Affairs Commission approved Neon Dog Project at William S. Hart Park in WeHo; WeHo Mayor Lauren Meister Endorsed Bob Hertzberg for L.A. Supervisor; the City celebrates Bi Visibility Week with Bi Picnic; City expanded 30 additional Block by Block security ambassadors; City Council candidates meet and greet at The Domain Apartments hosted by Richard Maggio; and El Pollo Loco finally opens at 8601 Santa Monica Boulevard.
The big story for the month of September was massive candlelight vigil in West Hollywood where hundreds of Iranian-Americans and their supporters gathered at WeHo Park honoring the life of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran after she was reportedly arrested for wearing her hijab incorrectly. The demonstration was led by Iranian American Women Foundation. Speakers included West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tempore Sepi Shyne, Mayor of Beverly Hills Lili Bosse, Beverly Hills Councilwoman Sharona Nazarian, and other community leaders.
West Hollywood Goes Purple for Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month; Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Public Restroom Senate Bill 1194 Into Law; Former West Hollywood DisAbility Advisory Board Member, Michael Arrigo, Dies at 66; a fire Broke out at historic Coast Playhouse Theatre; the City added more Block by Block Security Ambassador kiosks at WeHo West locations; WeHo Social Services Manager David Giugni quietly announces retirement; WeHo City sought feedback on potential Fountain Avenue improvements; trans activist Shane Ivan Nash called out mishandling of his sexual assault case in West Hollywood; FUBAR WeHo officially left WeHo after 24 years; WeHo City began distributing of drink-spiking test strips at bars; AIDS Walk Los Angeles makes a West Hollywood comeback; WeHo Rec hosts Youth Halloween Carnival; writer Ben Kawaller calls out WeHo City for its Land Acknowledgement in scathing opinion piece; we report that zpizza is moving to new location up the street; vehicle burglaries top Part 1 crimes in WeHo Sheriff’s Weekly Report; WeHo Chamber released the Ultimate West Hollywood Cannabis Guide; WeHo hosts 24th Annual DisAbility Service Awards in virtual format (WEHO TIMES publisher gets Media Award); crowds and cars take over Rainbow District on Halloween weekend despite cancellation of Halloween Carnival; Studs at the Pussycat closed October 29th after alleged rent increases and rise in crime in the area. The adult multiplex theater was the last of its kind in the city of West Hollywood featuring gay, straight and transgender adult movies. The space has operated as the Studs Theater since 2006 (prior to that, it was the Tomkat theater).
The standout story for October and possibly the entire year was the sudden death of actor and comedian Leslie Jordan who passed on October 24th while driving in Hollywood. His car crashed into the side of a building on Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street. It is believed the crash was due to a medical emergency. Leslie was famously known for his work on popular TV shows like “Will & Grace,” “Hearts Afire,” “The Cool Kids,” “Call me Kat” and “American Horror Story.” He was widely known in the West Hollywood community. He was a regular at the Big Gay Starbucks in WeHo before it closed down this past summer. He also hosted the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Creative Business Awards in 2019. He was also highly regarded in the recovering community and he was very open about being clean and sober.
The City of West Hollywood and its Transgender Advisory Board recognized November as Transgender Awareness Month with a series of events; Aquatics and Recreation Center pools reopen after being closed for weeks; Phillip K. Smith III was presented with a proclamation for his Parallel Perpendicular artwork; a man was struck with a vehicle and then robbed at gunpoint in West Hollywood; We reported on the West Hollywood connection of former aerobics instructor Shane Guenther at Bally’s Sports Connection who was implicated in the disappearance of 19-year-old Donald Lee Izzett Jr in 1995; the City hosted Trans Visibility Rally and March; King and Queen Cantina finally opened in West Hollywood after two years; WeHo City Council candidates gathered in Rainbow District on Election Night; West Hollywood DisAbilities Advisory Board member Patrick Ryan was victim of hit and run in WeHo; Early election results show Lauren Meister, John Heilman and John Duran in the lead of landing three city council seats; WeHo City hosts 2022 Veterans Day Ceremony; Urbn Leaf celebrates being first cannabis dispensary on The Sunset Strip with ribbon cutting ceremony; Gelato Festival Closed West Hollywood Melrose location after three years; New Schmitty’s Bar finally opens in WeHo; Chelsea Byers passed John Duran for third city council seat; WeHo City celebrates inaugural West Hollywood Day on its 38 years of Cityhood; Ggiata Delicatessen Italian style sandwich shop opens in WeHo; Alex Villanueva concedes his bid for LA County Sheriff after brutal defeat by Robert Luna; WeHo City reported 51 new businesses opened in 2022 (no word yet how many business closed); election update Showed Chelsea Byers holding on to top 3 as John Duran slid to 6th Spot; WeHo Election Update Shows Chelsea Byer bump veteran John Heilman for second place; WeHo City Launched free bike giveaway pilot program to encourage less driving; West Hollywood officials join community members for candlelight vigil remembering victims of the Colorado Springs shooting at Club Q nightclub killing five people and wounding 25; Zekiah Wright came close to beating John Heilman for 3rd place city council seat; WeHo City hosted Transgender Day of Remembrance Ceremony; and WeHo City unveiled Block by Block Toll-Free Hotline: (833) WEHO-BBB.
A standout story in November 2022 is council member Lindsey Horvath winning the race for Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 3. She declared victory on November 18th. The final election numbers put her at 258,315 votes to her opponent Bob Hertzberg, who lost with 229,358 votes. Horvath’s win was a major egg in the face to those who went to great lengths to malign her. And no source maligned her more than the publisher at the Wehoville blog who posted hit piece after hit piece in the hopes of costing her the election. She won big despite the generous puff pieces and heavy endorsements her opponent received in said blog. Frank Sinatra once said, “The best revenge is massive success.” And Supervisor Horvath served it on a cold platter to the tune of 28,957 winning votes… and an invitation to the White House.
West Hollywood earned Top Score in HRC’s 2022 Municipal Equality Index; health organizations distributed fentanyl test strips and narcan in WeHo’s Rainbow District; West Hollywood hosted Paul Andrew Starke Warrior Awards Ceremony honoring those who provide assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS, as part of the City’s World AIDS Day 2022; Men Don Red for Inaugural Red Dress Party Day 2022 Rainbow District; Robert Oliver was named assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur’s new District Director; Lindsey P Horvath was sworn in as Los Angeles County Supervisor; West Hollywood gave John D’Amico a fond farewell as city council member; Lauren Meister, Chelsea Byers, and John Heilman secured seats in WeHo City Council; WeHo Sheriffs confirm that two arrests were made for pickpocketing cell phones at the Abbey WeHo; WeHo Sheriff’s and FBI Address LGBTQ Safety with briefing on Pulse Nightclub shooting; WeHo Sheriffs were accused of transphobia during arrest of Trans Woman who tried to block them from entering a building why they were responding to a domestic violence call. Micky’s WeHo hosted holiday celebration and charity Toy Drive; Two Female suspects were arrested for phone thefts at Rocco’s WeHo; OR Bar opened at former Gold Coast space; The Abbey WeHo Gets Gun Scare After Armed Man Spotted in Bar; Conservatory announced it was closing after Four Years in WeHo
Red Dress Day – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES
The top story for December 2022 was the swearing-in of three newly elected members to the West Hollywood City Council: Lauren Meister, Chelsea Byers, and John Heilman. After a long, arduous, and nail-biting midterm municipal election, each newly elected council member took an oath of office during the regular meeting of the City Council of the City of West Hollywood on Monday, December 19, 2022.
L-R) Chelsea Byers (photo by Jon Viscott courtesy of the City of West Hollywood) John Heilman, Lauren Meister (by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES)