The developer of 710 Wilshire Blvd., also known as the “Alex Gorby Hotel Project,” will be before the City Council tomorrow night for approval of a Development Agreement (DA).
There’s a lot to dislike about this project and here’s why.
The DA includes restoring and converting the landmark Santa Monica Professional Building at Wilshire Boulevard and Seventh Street across from Reed Park into a moderately priced hotel with 55 guest rooms, retail and restaurant uses. That’s the good news.
However, developer Alex Gorby (Maxser & Co, LLC) also plans to erect a new, seven floor addition with 230 additional guest rooms and 16,421 square feet of retail/restaurant/pub space on what is presently a surface parking lot behind the Professional Building at 1213-1233 Seventh St.. Current zoning for the site is 56 feet maximum height (four or five floors).
The addition will feature a pedestrian paseo on the ground floor, rooftop swimming pool, spa and fitness center as well as underground parking for 285 to 325 vehicles — 110 to 150 spaces less than required by code according to a staff report to the council.
Renderings from architect Howard Laks show a — there’s no other way to describe it — butt-ugly, 81-foot tall complex that reminds me of 1960s era tourist hotels in London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood complete with chintzy paseos and tacky cafes. The back of the addition facing Lincoln Boulevard is basically an ugly wall approximately 70 feet tall and 300 feet long.
The project’s Environmental Impact Report states there will be significant environmental impacts. Increased traffic is the major issue. The staff report notes that the project will exceed city thresholds and create “significant and unavoidable” impacts at three key intersections.
When the Planning Commission reviewed this project a few weeks ago, they recommended establishing minimum wages for lower-tier hotel workers — a position I’m still critical of. (”Ugly new developments OK if they meet wage standards,” Feb. 27, page 4)
You can bet your Holiday Inn Rewards Card that members of Unite Here! Local 11, the hotel and restaurant employees union, will be in council chambers en masse to request council set higher wage standards for this and other hotels in the city.
I still say City Council has no business or authority to impose wage standards on private firms doing business in the city. Nevertheless, the council will likely approve this monstrosity as long as they can extort Gorby into agreeing to pay at least an $11.89 per hour minimum wage. As if $11.89 an hour is a “livable” wage.
It’s really embarrassing when Planning Commissioners and City Council members become union shills instead of reducing the size of Gorby’s new addition, demanding better exterior design and insisting on meaningful public benefits including stronger traffic mitigation measures (other than providing 20 free share bicycles for hotel guest use).
With an approved Development Agreement that exceeds current zoning, a cheap minimum wage guarantee, alcohol sales approval and a set of drawings in hand, Gorby is in a better position to secure investment capital or sell the whole package off for a handsome profit and walk away.
In the meantime, the hotel and restaurant union is once again dragging City Hall into its local unionization and contract efforts. I’m hearing that Unite Here! organizers are planning another run at reorganizing Santa Monica’s hotels because most of them are still not unionized and of the hotels that are, many don’t have current contracts.
Because they haven’t been very successful organizing and securing contracts on their own and it’s an election year, they’re seeking City Hall clout through co-opting the ruling Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights political organization and candidates for City Council who covet union political contributions and campaign workers.
Those seeking office can’t seem to resist becoming developer and union toadies. Residents in return become victims of shoddy, cheap developments whose traffic mitigation and so-called community benefits don’t amount to a hill of beans.
In this case, between Gorby’s ill-conceived hotel project and our politicians who pander to unions and deep pocketed developers, the rest of us are all losers in this deal.
L.A. Times erects a pay wall
If you’re a regular reader of the Los Angeles Times on line, you may have already seen the dreaded gray screen and locked window.
The Times has set up an Internet pay wall for non-home delivery subscribers who access the L.A. Times website. This means if you want to read more than 15 items per month on line, you’re going to have to pay $3.99 a week for the privilege — and you’ll still get all those annoying pop-up ads because the money-hungry L.A. Times wants it both ways.
There are other and better free Internet news sources. I’ve deleted the Times from my bookmarks and I’m using other Internet sites like SMDP.com. Shameless plug.
Boycotting the L.A. Times on the web means they’ll get fewer web hits which will cost them online advertising revenue. Then, maybe they’ll knock off the crap and terminate the ads or pay per view.
Keep the Internet and its content free; boycott the Times on line.
Bill can be reached at email@example.com