The Social Engineering Commission — I mean Planning Commission — meeting last Wednesday embodied Santa Monica’s own version of micro-managing governance.
Two agenda items involved full-bar, alcohol permits for a pair of restaurants planned for the Telephone Building which is undergoing renovation at 1345 Seventh St. I had written about these alcohol applications, last week.
Concerned about the possibility of noise bothering neighbors, commission members recommended that the restaurant operator pre-set customer tables at the end of the business day after public closing as opposed to in the morning. Really? You’re going to tell the restaurant operator when to set tables? What next? A time to mop the floors?
Another area of over-reaching involved the discussion of development agreements (DAs) for a pair of “moderately priced” tourist hotels proposed for opposite corners of Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue. The developer of both projects is OTO Development headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C.
One hotel at 501 Colorado Ave. will be a six-story hotel operating as a Hampton Inn & Suites. It will consist of 143 guest rooms and two-levels of subterranean parking with 75-100 parking spaces. This project is located on the northeast corner of Fifth and Colorado.
The other hotel is also a new six-story hotel development project to operate as a Courtyard by Marriott at 1550 Fifth St. It will consist of 136 guest rooms with a two-level subterranean parking garage for 75-100 vehicles on the northwest corner.
Staff suggested that hotel employees be paid a minimum wage of $12.85 to $14.08 per hour including health benefits. Commissioner Susan Himmelrich mentioned that the wages paid should be at least $15.37 per hour because she’d read “somewhere” that some pro-labor group said McDonald’s should pay its employees that amount. Wow! Did I really hear that?
As usual, the commission seemed more concerned about hotel employee hiring practices and low ranking employee wages than architecture, traffic or other considerations. In fact, the commission voted 5-2 to recommend that City Council deny the development agreement unless higher wage demands and other so-called community benefits were agreed to by OTO.
Planning Commission members believe these will both be union hotels represented by UNITE HERE, Local 11. Probably. In fact, Local 11 members have been actively involved in the DA process for these two hotels from the get-go.
Being that the union campaigned hard last election for Santa Monicans for Renters’ Right candidates for City Council who all won, you can see why commissioners (appointed by the City Council) and council members alike are doing the union’s bidding.
It’s also why new hotel construction and development is the number two City Hall priority behind more housing. It’s not because Santa Monica desperately needs more hotels or the traffic they bring. By the way, a (union) hotel employee training academy financed by the hotels is also part of the deal.
Among the recommendations discussed was whether hotel operators should give employment preference to low-income people who live in Santa Monica and within close proximity to the hotels. Commissioners also suggested that hotel employee recruitment plans should be submitted for City Hall approval. Maybe City Hall could also “OK” the kinds of guest towels that would be used, too.
It’s arbitrary and capricious to base job preferences on a person’s residence. People change jobs and relocate all the time. Residency requirements make no sense. While this applies strictly to lower tier workers, you can bet the family Prius that the top hotel jobs will go to persons who are most qualified regardless of where they live.
Good employees are hired on ability, interest and qualifications, not because they’re in a specific income bracket or live near the I-10 freeway. Despite the leftist leanings of our commissioners, these hotels are businesses, not charitable organizations whose sole purpose is to provide employment to the untrained and uneducated.
Some commissioners thought the hotels, as depicted in renderings and other pre-construction materials, were attractive. There’s nothing here that I haven’t seen in Charlotte, N.C., Steubenville, Ohio or Butte, Mont. If commissioners think “Standard Hotel Exterior Style #106” is attractive, the architectural future of Santa Monica is doomed.
Bottom line: Commissioners must stop extorting, micromanaging and imposing their own political agendas on legitimate (tax) revenue and job producing businesses who come before it.
Working out the trainer dilemma
City Council recently approved some recommendations for professional physical trainers who use the city’s parks — especially Palisades Park — as a client workout locale. Nobody seems to be happy with council’s decisions. Many Santa Monicans wanted severe limitations on such activity including the hours it could go on.
Council approved issuing up to 20 permits to private trainers and OK’d classes with as many as 15 participants. Sunday training is out. Because City Hall looks at private training as a source of income, high flat fees — as high as $8,000 annually — were set.
This will drive most trainers out of Palisades Park and maybe to other parks like Reed Park. There, fees are lower — $1,800 maximum — to encourage its use by trainers and coaches. However, most trainers will go somewhere else such as Adelaide Drive where the sidewalks are free, the beach, medians like on San Vicente Boulevard or out of town.
The new rules go into effect in January and will be reviewed for possible amending as staff sees how well — or poorly — they’re working.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org