DOWNTOWN — The steering committee of the largest political party in the city, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), voted last week to condemn an affordable housing-related advertisement placed by the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
Miramar officials want to rebuild the hotel, replacing the current 10-story edifice with – according to the most recently released designs – a 21-story tower, 280 hotel rooms, and 120 luxury condominiums. Also proposed are 40 affordable housing units.
The ad, which appeared in the Daily Press and other local papers, directs residents to a website where they can sign a list and “show their interest in these new affordable housing units.”
SMRR officials called the ad “misleading.”
“There is in fact no list that gets one in line for an affordable apartment,” said SMRR co-Chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein in a release. “Instead, the sign-up page appears to be a ruse to collect contact info from people they can recruit to support the project.”
SMRR co-founder and former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane said the ad exploits low-income families’ need for housing.
“They want to claim community support for high-rise luxury condos we don’t need by playing off our real need for affordable housing,” Zane said.
Alan Epstein, a representative of the hotel owner Ocean Avenue LLC., in turn called SMRR’s declaration “misleading.”
“Without question, affordable housing is an important feature of our project, and there will be no new affordable housing units if there is no project,” he said. “The purpose of our ad was simple: to start a list of individuals interested in the new affordable apartments that we propose to build on Second Street.”
The list, Epstein said, will be given to the affordable housing provider so they can contact those interested in the Downtown housing.
The website, he said, “could not have been more clear” when it stated that filling out a form “does not guarantee access to any future affordable housing.”
City Councilmember Kevin McKeown spotted the ad and brought it before the SMRR steering committee.
“There’s never been any discussion of letting this hotel make up its own rules on who gets affordable housing,” he told the SMRR steering committee. “We need to protect working families and fixed-income seniors from being suckered and exploited.”
Miramar officials must get approval for the expansion from City Council. The request comes during a time of great debate over heights and new projects in the city by the sea.
Residocracy, the community group that successfully fought the Hines development agreement through a referendum process, also opposes the Miramar project. The Huntley Hotel, which has been fighting to block the redevelopment of the neighboring Miramar, contributed at least $10,000 to the referendum campaign.
Michael Trabet, a SMRR help-line volunteer, is quoted in SMRR’s release asking the Miramar to apologize.
“It’s important to make sure that truly affordable housing units are created and matched to the local workers and residents who need them,” he said. “The Miramar’s goal of gaining support for its expansion by this artifice has righteously backfired.”
Epstein found nothing to be sorry about.
“If anybody is attempting to manipulate public opinion,” he said, “it is those who are trying to quash the Miramar’s sincere effort to communicate with Santa Monica residents about its project.”