WILSHIRE BLVD — The development team behind the proposed redo of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel have returned from the drawing board with a new plan, which involves extensive changes in architecture and configuration of the buildings but almost no reduction in size.
Much like the plan presented to the City Council in April 2012, the new version includes 280 hotel rooms and up to 120 luxury condominiums, which Alan Epstein, an executive at MSD Capital, has said in the past are critical to financing the renovations. MSD Capital owns the hotel and is financed by Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc., one of the world’s leading sellers of personal computers.
The City Council and Planning Commission both complained about the size of the development and the canyon-like effect created by the 11-story building proposed to wrap around the site and down Second Street.
Under the new configuration, that building is gone, replaced by a four-story building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Second Street connected by a thin sky bridge that passes in front of the landmarked Moreton Bay fig tree to a 21-story tower that sits in the center of the property where a 10-story edifice now stands.
The square footage of the project remains roughly the same.
The changes represent a reflection of the direction given by the City Council to shift the bulk of the hotel off of the proposed north-south orientation and into the central tower building, Epstein said.
“Some will continue to believe it’s too big,” Epstein said. “We think it’s very appropriate for a site of this magnitude, and it’s much less dense than all of the surrounding buildings.”
The new design also includes a significant change in architectural style, moving away from the classic red and green envisioned in previous plans and toward what Epstein describes as a “contemporary Art Deco” style, which mirrors other iconic buildings like City Hall, the Georgian Hotel or Santa Monica Clock Tower.
In an advertising piece distributed Thursday, the development team claims that the expanded hotel will actually cause no increase in traffic because it will include fewer rooms than the existing hotel, and increase the amount of available parking in the neighborhood by building a 484-space subterranean garage.
Those figures will be put to the test in an environmental impact report, an extensive and expensive document paid for by the developer and conducted by consultants hired by City Hall that examines the traffic, shadows, noise and other issues caused by the new development.
The document will also look at reduced alternatives, something that Susan Scarafia, a community advocate and member of Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth, wishes she could see upfront.
The City Council asked for a smaller project, with Councilmember Kevin McKeown calling the previous proposal “10-pounds fit in a 5-pound bag.”
“It means they’re not listening to the residents of Santa Monica,” Scarafia said. “Our elected representatives, appointed commissioners, multiple resident groups have asked for several smaller versions so we know what choices are.”
Even before the plans were unveiled, however, they were already mired in controversy.
The development team sent out invitations to hear about the plans to between 100 and 150 people in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, including residents of nearby apartment and condominium buildings that have expressed concerns in the past about the mass and height of the proposed remodel.
That meeting, scheduled for this afternoon, was in an “open house” format, with visiting hours between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
At least some of those e-mails were forwarded on and got picked up by several community organizations and local news outlets, which encouraged residents to RSVP to the event.
Those that tried to reserve a space earlier this week were met with disappointment — e-mails returned by the development team cited a lack of space to accommodate all who wanted to go.
“Turns out we are not welcome at the Miramar Hotel’s ‘Open House,’” wrote Diana Gordon, co-chair of Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, in an e-mail to the membership.
“Evidently, business is good; the Hotel is short of space,” Gordon continued.
That included the board of the neighborhood organization that encompasses the hotel property, the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition.
At least one member, Robert Gurfield, was invited because he lives in an adjacent building, said Board Chair Alin Wall.
The rest of the board, the majority of which ran for election after getting involved in an anti-Miramar movement, will withhold judgment until the members have an opportunity to see the new plans.
“It’s premature for us to object until we get to see it and offer our comment,” Wall said. “It would have been nice to invite us.”
There will be other opportunities to see the plans, and no effort was made to cut out any group, Epstein said. Those who wish to arrange a time to hear about the new concept can do so by e-mailing Joani Gibbs, the project coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.