I’ve raised some eyebrows with my last two columns. First, I was enthusiastic about plans for the renovated Fairmont Miramar Hotel — including the 21-floor tower — at Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.
One week later, I praised the proposed 22-floor, Frank Gehry-designed hotel planned for Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard as the kind of project needed to reinvigorate Downtown Santa Monica.
Both of these developments, although admittedly large by Santa Monica standards, are well thought out and will provide benefits that far exceed their negatives. Unlike previously approved (unbuilt) hotel projects, both the Miramar and Gehry developments (pending approval) promise to be first class.
Some may argue that Gehry’s hotel (with its undulating walls) and the Miramar aren’t attractive, but they’re still head and shoulders over the approved 710 Wilshire mess with its 80-foot high vertical walls and cheap 1980s exterior, or the dated Motel 6-styled, 131-room Courtyard by Marriott and companion 138-room Hilton Hampton Inn proposed for opposite corners of Colorado Avenue and Fifth Street.
All one has to do is look at the proposed rabbit warren of four- and five-floor apartment buildings set to replace the Village Trailer Park on Colorado. I’d rather have a well designed, high-rise tower surrounded by parks, gardens and public amenities than a crowded, cheek-by-jowl conglomeration like the East Village.
City Hall had ample opportunity to cajole developers into building aesthetically pleasing buildings but completely abdicated that responsibility as long as they promised to pay hotel workers a “living” wage or build additional low-income housing.
Many Santa Monicans feel that high rises have no place in this “iconic beach town.” But this hasn’t been an “iconic beach town” for 30 years. Get over your batophobia, folks. There’s nothing wrong with a few elegantly designed towers — as long as they’re Downtown.
Even though a development may be tall, I look at its overall benefits. An open 1-acre park, as in the case of the Miramar? Paseos and an art museum as in Gehry’s project? Attractiveness? Sustainability? Minimal traffic increases? Functionality? Enhances the community? That is what counts with me.
Unfortunately, City Hall’s planning process encourages dense, squat, low rise, unappealing, cookie-cutter buildings with articulated walls, jutting balconies and squared off, industrial looking design elements. Bland. Boring. Lifeless. No wonder so many folks here are anti-development.
Still to come is a total renovation of the former Holiday Inn, now Wyndham, at Ocean Avenue and Colorado. Owner FelCor Lodging Trust Inc., has floated the idea of replacing the existing hotel with a building featuring a tower as high as 195 feet.
I haven’t seen renderings of this project, so I have no opinion about FelCor’s plans. Because of the prime location across from the Santa Monica Pier bridge, FelCor must propose something truly spectacular if they expect any community support
Three hotels are pending on Ocean Avenue with tall structural elements between 195 and 240 feet high. Now is the time to begin closing the barn door and start framing zoning regulations to prevent additional high-rise infill, control excessive heights in other projects to come and avert a dreaded wall along our ocean front.
I would also suggest reducing the maximum height recommendation mentioned in the Downtown Specific Plan for the Third Street Promenade to 45 feet to avoid walls of 84-foot high buildings there, too.
Remembering Clifford Hayden, Jr.
When one lives in a place like Santa Monica for a period of time, the folks we do business with, like the great mom-and-pops, often become good friends, too. It’s why I fondly remember the proprietors of stores who served me well for decades and who finally closed their businesses, retired or passed away.
A couple months ago, Carlson’s Appliances went out of business. Colby Evett, owner of Evett’s Model Shop passed away last month at 92 years. Lincoln Appliances closed last November a few weeks after its founder and owner Clifford Hayden, Jr. passed away at age 85.
Clifford Hayden, Jr. was born and raised in Santa Monica. His father was a motor-officer for the Santa Monica Police Department in the late 1920s. After graduating from Santa Monica High School, Clifford, Jr. joined the Navy. He served in the Pacific near the end of World War II.
He married his high school sweetheart Helen Andrews and they had three children: Laurie, Doug and Jan.
In the early 1950s, he went into the construction business and was successful enough to begin buying real estate in his beloved Santa Monica. In 1964-65, he opened an appliance store on the 1400 block of Lincoln Boulevard, which he called Lincoln Appliances.
Three years later he purchased property at Olympic Boulevard at 20th Street and moved his store, but kept the “Lincoln” name. It became famous as “The place that looks like Sears blew up” because of signs posted on the store’s exterior.
For the next 44 years, Clifford, Jr. sold Whirlpool and other name-brand washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves and major appliances to tens of thousands of satisfied local shoppers. And, he raised his family and served his customers. He was a man of great integrity and gave everyone a fair deal.
Lincoln Appliances is gone but Clifford Hayden, Jr. has left a legacy of unsung community service along with friends, family and former patrons who remember him fondly. R.I.P.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org