Most of the problems that vex us occur when changes happen in our neighborhoods.
For example, when your favorite neighborhood florist loses his lease and a Starbucks moves in. Changes can be good for some people, however they‚Äôre often bad news for us who‚Äôve lived here for a long time.
Residents around Third Street and Washington Avenue in the Wilmont area are facing changes after the 1927-era Embassy Hotel and Apartments closes next week. The new property owners plan to remodel the venerable Embassy into a boutique hotel/lodge for well-to-do hipsters.
1001 Third Street, LLC, also known as the Paligroup ‚Äî a developer of vintage, hip “urban lodges” ‚Äî are behind Palihouse Santa Monica which it expects to open in June. Paligroup owns two similar boutique hotels in the West Hollywood area. Room/suite rates in their 36 unit Santa Monica facility will range from $350 to $1,500 per night.
An application to allow hotel guests and their invitees to purchase and consume alcohol on premises in a ground level lounge or bar area as well as provide alcohol in secure room mini-bars has been filed with City Hall. Neighbors are up in arms
The application must be approved by City Hall and a permit from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) must be granted before alcoholic beverages can be sold and served.
Neighbors fear that the Palihouse lounge/bar area will attract large parties consisting of hotel guests and their “invitees” even though service to the general public “off the street” is prohibited. They‚Äôre concerned that hotel management won‚Äôt control the size of gatherings, noise or a party atmosphere.
Busby‚Äôs Sports Bar at 3110 Santa Monica Blvd. (formerly an up-scale restaurant) generated numerous noise and “public intoxication” complaints when it was at the height of its popularity a few years ago. Similarly, South, another sports bar at 3001 Wilshire Blvd., was also a source of neighbor complaints over the same issues.
Three years ago, The Parlor (formerly a high-end restaurant) at 1519 Wilshire shut down after City Hall cut the hours during which alcohol could be served after repeated neighbor complaints about excessive noise, parking problems, public urination coupled with zoning code violations including lack of a parking variance.
All of these establishments have one thing in common. Problems compounded when the businesses became hip and popular. As the crowds grow, so did the complaints. And, alcohol is the engine that drives the train.
The potential for complaints arising from the intensification of use such as those contemplated at Palihouse is a given. Add other problems such as a total lack of on-site parking, additional traffic from hotel guests and their “invitees” and valets shuttling cars around neighborhood streets day and night and it‚Äôs easy to see why its neighbors are worried.
Public hearings on Palihouse‚Äôs applications to sell and serve alcohol will be held in the coming weeks. It is paramount that the hip Palihouse and its guests not have a detrimental affect on the neighbors‚Äô quality of life including those living in the nursing home directly across the street.
That means either denying the alcohol permits or severely restricting hours alcohol is available. In addition, a satisfactory and enforceable parking and traffic management plan must also be mandated and approved.
April Fools‚Äô Day every day
My April 1 “My Write” fooled some readers, although most of you caught on.
When I wrote that City Hall was planning to convert five major, bi-directional, east/west streets to one-way to accommodate wider sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, jogging paths, landscaping and other purposes, some readers took me seriously ‚Äî and I understand why.
There have been so many outlandish proposals for traffic calming and the creation of “Smart Streets” for recreation and sundry non-transportation purposes, turning Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic and Pico boulevards and Montana Avenue into one-way lanes didn‚Äôt seem like a leg puller.
I responded to one reader who e-mailed me that my April 1 discourse was serious compared to real recommendations from a planning consultant who was the subject of my May 14, 2012 column (“City Hall getting bad advice on traffic and planning, part 2,”)
Last May, I had written about Torti-Gallas and Partners, Inc ‚Äî a “new urbanism” design firm ‚Äî that had been awarded a $655,000 contract to consult on a new Downtown Specific Plan. Among their consultant Neal Payton‚Äôs suggestions: “Rename Lincoln Boulevard because the name ‚ÄòLincoln‚Äô has outlived its usefulness.” I‚Äôm serious.
Payton also suggested reducing traffic lanes on Wilshire Boulevard from Fourth Street to Ocean Avenue. “Wilshire Boulevard really doesn‚Äôt need the space past that point,” he declared. Payton, who also doesn‚Äôt believe that development contributes to traffic increases asked, “Do you really need all of those lanes?”
“Creating wider walkways and more vibrant intersections along Wilshire would help pull people to the north end of the Promenade, which lacks the focal point and foot traffic of its southern end,” he said.
But, won‚Äôt removing traffic lanes on the busiest thoroughfare cause more traffic jams?
Payton doesn‚Äôt care as long as “foot traffic” is generated. But if people can‚Äôt, or won‚Äôt drive Downtown, there will be no pedestrians on Wilshire Boulevard or any other Downtown sidewalks to cater to. Payton‚Äôs recommendations sound like an April Fools‚Äô put-on.
Reality is wackier than fiction. With consultants like Payton on the payroll, it‚Äôs April Fools‚Äô Day 365 days a year. Problem is that nobody‚Äôs laughing.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.