An attempt to oust West Hollywood Planning Commissioner Peter Weinberger foundered Monday when opponents failed to persuade Mayor Alan Viterbi to drop his support for him.
Opponents said they hoped the flap would make Weinberger speak more softly in the future, but the controversial commissioner said he does not intend to muzzle himself.
At issue were Weinberger's charges that the City Council was swayed by racism and fear of a "lynch mob" when it heeded neighbors' demands last month and voted to block a Sunset Strip project proposed by an Iranian-born developer.
Weinberger also said that Iranians have run into discrimination during their appearances before the Planning Commission.
"My comments were political Pablum compared to what you'd hear in the U. S. Senate or the House of Commons," he said after Monday night's debate. "These are people who can't make cogent arguments against me, so they attacked me personally." Weinberger did not speak at the Monday night council session.
Although City Council Member John Heilman had said he would press for a vote on his motion to oust Weinberger, he withdrew it after it became clear that only three of his five colleagues would support him.
The issue was expected to figure in next year's election campaign, when Viterbi and Council Member Abbe Land are expected to stand for re-election.
Four votes would have been required to get rid of Weinberger, including that of Viterbi, who named Weinberger to the Planning Commission two years ago.
"The point was made," Heilman said. "And the point was that as far as I'm concerned, Peter is not a good representative and has not been a good representative of the council. And since he's still on there, I hope he will be more respectful toward the public and toward his fellow commissioners and the council."
"This has been very hurtful," said Mayor Pro Tem Helen Albert. She said the city needs "people working for us who will promote good feelings and not be causing disruptions and antagonizing other members of the commission in a disrespectful way."
Land agreed, saying that members of the public should feel comfortable when they speak at city proceedings and should not fear being characterized derogatorily.
But Council Member Steve Schulte said he found Heilman's initiative as disagreeable as Weinberger's comments.
Referring to the public as a lynch mob was "totally unacceptable," Schulte said, "but the second thing that's obnoxious is this motion. It's offensive, it's exploitative."
Viterbi said he thought Heilman's move was intended to create a political issue.
Heilman denied that, saying, "As far as I'm concerned, it has nothing to do with him and the election. I know some people in the community would like to view it that way, but it is a personal thing to me and to everyone else on the council. He accused us of being racists, and I just think that Alan should do something about it."
Accused of 'Fabrication'
Community activist Bud Kopps recalled that Weinberger was once said to have made a rude gesture in his direction.
Rose Borne, president of the Shoreham Towers Homeowners Assn. who spoke against the proposed development last month, said Weinberger's allegations of racism and mob action were "fabrications in his mind. . . . the farthest thing from our minds."
But Tony Melia, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said Weinberger's apologies should be accepted. "In that respect, he's a mensch ," he said.
Two fellow commissioners sent letters recommending against Weinberger's removal, although both said they were unhappy with his occasionally abrasive public behavior.
"Mr. Weinberger has a distinct tendency not only to overstate his case, but in a clearly undiplomatic manner (to) personally attack those whose views differ from his," said Mark E. Lehman, a recent appointment to the commission.
Despite that, Lehman said, Weinberger "is extremely knowledgeable, participates actively in all of our work and has contributed substantially to the Planning Commission and the City of West Hollywood."
Commissioner Bernard Siegel also said that he deplores Weinberger's "tendency to find evil motives in individuals who disagree with him," calling it "both disgraceful and immature."
But he added that removing Weinberger now would amount to "crude censorship (that) will make every appointed official think twice before offering unpopular views not matter how strongly he or she feels that the unpopular view is the right one for the City of West Hollywood."