A rendering of a remodeled Fairmont Miramar Hotel. Developers submitted a development application with City Hall last week, beginning the remodeling process.

CITY HALL — Planning Commissioners sent a clear message to the development team working on the revamp of a seaside luxury hotel Wednesday night: We’re not impressed.

Commissioners stopped short of recommending that the City Council not approve the direction that the development agreement is taking at this early stage in the process, but gave a laundry list of concerns that they hoped council members would look at when the item comes before them in coming weeks.

The architecture proposed for the revamp of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows was uninspired, the massing disproportionate to its surroundings and its package of community benefits lacking for a project of its size and scope, commissioners said.

Commissioner Ted Winterer summed up his colleagues comments on the look and feel of the complex simply.

“When you said it should be iconic, you have a long ways to go,” Winterer told Alan Epstein, an executive with the hotel’s owner, MSD Capital.

The hearing consisted only of the commissioners’ comments and questions about the project.

Over four hours of public testimony had been taken two weeks before, with concerned residents siding with the adjacent Huntley Hotel against the project, and primarily education advocates touting the benefits that the projected $5 million in additional city revenue would bring to local schools.

While no one spoke against the concept of renovating the aging hotel, those that live nearby lobbied for a more restrained footprint than the proposed seven- and 12-story buildings that would line California Avenue and Second Street.

Developers argue that the additional height is necessary to include a luxury condominium housing component, which could be sold outright or rented and would help finance construction of the renovated hotel, those with MSD Capital said.

The inclusion of the housing also means code-required affordable housing, which the developer proposes to build in what’s now a parking lot on Second Street.

In many ways, the Planning Commission sided with residents who were concerned that their quality of life — and ocean views — would be impacted by the proposed 550,000-square-foot hotel, which is twice the size of the facility that exists at 101 Wilshire Blvd. right now.

The majority believed that most of the building’s mass should be concentrated on Wilshire Boulevard, which abuts a retail district, rather than next to the residential area on California Avenue.

Others, particularly Winterer and Commissioner Richard McKinnon, felt that to make the project comfortable and cohesive in the neighborhood, the entire plan would need to drop by at least 100,000 square feet.

“The real issue is that the scale of the project creates design complications,” Winterer said. “You’re trying to move that around in a way that works and it’s just not there. A lot of the problems can be solved by reducing it.”

A reduction could mean eliminating the market rate housing, creating the wall of retail and street-level uses on Wilshire Boulevard and creating spaces for pedestrians and bicyclists to walk through the complex, which does not exist in current plans.

“The rental units on top are what’s creating some of the mass,” said Commissioner Jim Ries. “If you lost some of the housing, you would reduce the mass as well.”

None of the commissioners were on board with the preliminary package of community benefits offered up by the developers, which included code-required affordable housing, preservation of the landmarked Moreton Bay fig tree and occasional access to gardens facing the ocean.

“No more low balls,” McKinnon said. “This is where the community benefits come into play. You’re preserving the tree and that’s great.”

McKinnon pushed for street scaping at a cost of $300,000 per block, playgrounds and contributions to the school district.

Residents who attended the meeting, like Robert Gurfield, got on board with McKinnon and Winterer, who pushed for a harder message to go to the City Council.

“I think the comment is that it’s basically too big, that they could take off 150,000 square feet and make it smaller,” Gurfield said. “A lot of the problems we’re criticizing them for would go away.”


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *