Debate about development in Santa Monica is usually centered on the large projects that threaten to increase traffic and congestion and radically change our neighborhoods. Small developments often go unnoticed except for the immediate neighbors who have to deal with their fallout.
An example of that is the refurbishment of the 1927-era Embassy Hotel and Apartments at the corner of Third Street and Washington Avenue purchased recently by Paligroup, a developer of vintage, hip, boutique hotels.
Renamed the Palihouse, it‚Äôs undergone partial renovation and recently opened for business. Palihouse owners filed applications for an on-premises restaurant as well as for alcohol service to hotel guests only in its lounge/bar and to provide alcohol in mini-bars in guestrooms.
The request to serve alcohol could be the straw that‚Äôll break the neighbors‚Äô backs. They‚Äôre already upset about noise, hotel-related parking on residential permit-restricted streets, valet operations and other activity that intensifies a “non-conforming” use that‚Äôs incompatible with a quiet, residential neighborhood.
The real possibility of even more noise ‚Äî especially at night ‚Äî traffic and parking problems and other issues arising from inebriated patrons in or around the hotel have further raised anger levels.
Last Monday, city officials issued a report that declared that there was no evidence that Palihouse had violated any laws or regulations (“Officials give thumbs up to hotel near homes,” June 25).
Maybe. Maybe not. However, the serious community livability issues will get much worse for sure if Palihouse‚Äôs request for an alcohol conditional use permit (CUP) is approved by City Hall and an alcohol consumption license is granted by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
The whole Palihouse brouhaha amplifies the growing discord between residents and City Hall. All over town folks are being increasingly alienated by planning policies that negatively impact their neighborhoods. In addition, slipshod enforcement of city zoning codes and CUPs has added to the distrust and anger.
It‚Äôs a common belief that City Hall officials are looking at income first and the people second. Many are saying, “It‚Äôs the money and revenue that counts, we don‚Äôt matter anymore.” Perhaps it‚Äôs the pension and benefits that city employees want to protect by bringing in more cash. Decisions made in the coming months concerning Palihouse will either sustain that widely held belief or indicate to neighbors that City Hall does care about its citizens.
My column last week about the anti-Fairmont renovation folks “going bonkers” created much controversy. I commented on some of the outright fabrications and ridiculous statements made by people and groups opposed to the hotel‚Äôs remodeling plans including owners, representatives and associates of the Huntley Hotel across the street.
I received an e-mail from a reader who didn‚Äôt like me referring to some anti-Fairmont folks as “bonkers,” extremists or liars. I‚Äôm sorry that some individuals took it personally. But, if you‚Äôre going to make public statements that aren‚Äôt true or that are complete nonsense, you have to expect that folks will have an opinion about them ‚Äî and you.
I also heard from neighborhood activist Susan Scarafia who wrote, “The ‚Äòtakeover‚Äô of Wilmont was started by me, not by Sue Burnside or any Huntley operatives.” Thanks for the clarification, Susan. However, Huntley forces were very active behind the scenes encouraging and facilitating the takeover of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition.
A source from Unite HERE! informed me that Huntley House isn‚Äôt a unionized hotel and has resisted organizing efforts for many years. My source wondered why Rohnda Ammouri, a political coordinator with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was doing community outreach for Huntley’s management and advocating for something that could jeopardize the jobs of hundreds of Unite HERE! Local 11 workers to be employed at the reconstructed Miramar.
“If that hotel doesn‚Äôt get built, 300 union employees will be out of work,” I was told. The union is looking into Ammouri‚Äôs relationship with the Huntley House.
Join the parade
This year‚Äôs Fourth of July Parade will be held on Thursday, July 4, of course. It‚Äôll start promptly at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and make its way down Main Street to the Venice border.
This year’s theme is “Heroes.” If you’re the type to don a little red, white and blue for Independence Day, you can go to the parade dressed as Superman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Captain America, a Power Ranger or even as City Manager Rod Gould.
The parade is sponsored by the Ocean Park Association and it‚Äôs the seventh annual staging of the parade. It will feature floats, bands, community groups, antique cars and marchers. Participants consist of folks from private enterprises, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, the Santa Monica police and fire departments as well as representatives from other civic and governmental organizations. Whoopee! I‚Äôm excited already!
We all have special reasons to celebrate at this year’s parade. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that said sponsors of Proposition 8 (that outlawed same-sex marriages in California) had no legal standing to appeal lower-court decisions that had determined it was unconstitutional.
And the Supreme Court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ‚Äî which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in states where they reside ‚Äî was also unconstitutional. Both decisions are historic benchmarks reaffirming equality and freedom in America.
This parade has become one of my favorite community events. A good time will be had by all who attend. I guarantee it. So, round up the family, join the patriotic crowd and show your spirit!
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org