The local Board of Education voted this month to greenlight the process that would allow the Santa Monica-Malibu school district to extend its lease agreement with the operator of the DoubleTree hotel.
The lessee of the district-owned property at 4th Street and Olympic Boulevard, PCA I LP, has expressed interest in upgrading the hotel if it is able to secure a lease extension through 2082, according to the district.
The lessee has proposed spending $10 million on renovations and converting the hotel into “a Hilton brand or better,” an SMMUSD report reads.
In exchange for a renegotiated agreement, the lessee would pay more in rent to the district, improve the hotel, add parking on adjacent land that will benefit Santa Monica High School and allow hotel staff to unionize, according to the district.
The discussions led to a mandatory public hearing, which was held during the Sept. 17 school board meeting to comply with state code regarding school district lease agreements. The code stipulates that such agreements must not last longer than 66 years unless the district obtains a waiver from the state education department.
Board approval of a waiver application came with a 5-0 vote. Board president Laurie Lieberman, whose husband is a land use attorney, recused herself from the vote. Board member Oscar de la Torre was absent.
Board members, district officials and union representatives spoke in support of the board‚Äôs approval of a waiver application to extend the lease at the site, which has been plagued by worker strife in recent years.
Melanie Luthern, a research analyst with Unite Here Local 11, a hospitality union, endorsed the staff recommendation to apply for a waiver.
“It‚Äôs a win-win situation for everyone involved,” she said.
The only other speakers, DoubleTree banquet server Joseph Silva and Gabriella Rosco, a local organizer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, also favored the district‚Äôs course of action.
Jan Maez, the district‚Äôs chief financial officer, said she met with representatives of the district‚Äôs collective bargaining units in the days leading up to the vote.
“I‚Äôm happy to report that both of our unions are also in support of the application moving forward,” she said.
The DoubleTree is not a union hotel, but Unite Here led a protest at the site last year and helped workers file complaints with state and federal labor agencies regarding breaks during work shifts.
Union officials also approached the district, prompting an investigation by the school board into the hotel‚Äôs finances and lease terms.
The district leased the land to City Developers Inc. in 1985, meaning the agreement was originally slated to expire in 2051. The developer assigned the property to a company that built a hotel and office building on the property. The property has since been transferred to the current lessee.
Proposed changes to the lease would give the district a share of gross revenues of the hotel and office building, according to an SMMUSD report. The district would also receive a percentage of profits from any future sale of the buildings.
In addition, the lessee owns property adjacent to the hotel and has offered to convey the property to the district if the district immediately leases the land and if the lessee is allowed to expand the existing hotel onto the adjacent property. The lessee would add parking for Samohi on the adjacent property.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.