Robert M. Gurfield, in a Letter to the Editor (“No room for the inn,” July 12, page 4,) accused me of ignoring the facts about the Fairmont Miramar Hotel renovation in my June 24 “My Write” column.
Gurfield, who recently sold his million dollar Miramar-adjacent condo and now lives in Brentwood, wrote that I belittle “anyone with a contrary view other than my own.” If pointing out misstatements and half-truths by those opposing the Miramar renovation is belittling someone, better buckle up, Robert, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
I’ve got my facts straight, but there’s so much wrong with Gurfield’s letter it’s hard to know where to start. So, let’s look at his “facts,” one by one.
Gurfield was correct about the new Miramar being “twice as big as the current Miramar Hotel” but veered into gross exaggeration when he wrote that its “20 plus story tower … punctures the skyline, blocks views, sea breezes, and light at street level, while increasing noise and pressure on community services.”
Blocks views? Maybe. Blocks sea breezes and light at street level?” So do trees. Let’s ban trees and cut ‘em all down. Gurfield’s claims that the renovated Miramar will put pressure on community services and will cost the city money are also erroneous.
Gurfield stated the Miramar renovation “intensifies current problems of congestion, traffic and parking on all adjacent streets.” The truth is that there will be 584 subterranean, on-site parking spaces in the Miramar renovation — three times the parking of the present hotel. This should dramatically alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems because hotel guests and employees, who now drive around and park in residential neighborhoods, will be parking on-site.
Gurfield wrote about residents stating, “None of whom advocate building another high rise Downtown.” Wrong. Many residents and civic organizations back the renovation — tower and all.
Gurfield states that the renovation “ignores the mandate for a transition of structures from Downtown to lower density residential neighborhood as stated in the LUCE.” However, plan renderings show stepped-down buildings. The property is zoned RVC — Residential Visitor Commercial. This project meets LUCE standards.
Then, Gurfield states the project, “ignores the requirement for outstanding architecture.” Outstanding architecture? What “requirement?” It doesn’t exist.
The project will draw “more people through a part of town already crowded by residents and visitors at the busiest times of the day.” The Miramar owner’s (Ocean Avenue, LLC./MSD Capital) independent traffic studies indicate that additional traffic impacts will be minimal during peak hours — dozens of car trips, not hundreds. A full environmental impact report (EIR) isn’t complete, so Gurfield’s assertions are unsubstantiated and bogus.
Gurfield seems to think a new hotel will reduce property values. Where ocean views may be impacted by new construction, some properties may experience a decline in value. However, a new Miramar should substantially increase property values, especially commercial property values throughout Downtown and the Ocean Avenue corridor.
Many residents, like me, and Downtown businesses support the renovation because it’s good for the local economy, creates jobs and will bring in millions in tax revenues alone for City Hall and our public schools.
Gurfield accuses Miramar owners of supporting candidates for City Council. I’m shocked! Contributing to political candidates? Isn’t this a basic right?
Gurfield misleads when he claims Miramar owners ignored council and planning commissioner requests to present smaller alternative projects. On April 24, 2012, Ocean Avenue, LLC./MSD Capital was directed by council to come back with a plan with more open space and a taller tower that didn’t impact views from neighboring buildings to the east.
Since then (a couple months ago) Miramar owners unveiled a revised plan that hasn’t been presented formally to either the public, planning commission or City Council for review. To state unequivocally that MSD Capital “ignored requests to present smaller alternative projects” is a gross misrepresentation.
Gurfield’s claim that if the Miramar’s tower is approved, “it will set a precedent for construction of additional high-rise buildings along the ocean front …” is pure hokum. The development process — and ultimately City Council — can reject any high-rise deemed inappropriate despite the existence of other tall buildings.
In regards to City Hall wanting tax revenue. Absolutely! With multi-million dollar municipal deficits looming in three years and beyond, isn’t it better to have successful local businesses generating tax revenues than saddling residents with hefty tax increases?
There are those who are waging a war of disinformation and distortion about the Miramar project. If they don’t like the plan, fine. They should practice what they preach: stop shouting over those who differ and stop making up tall tales and obfuscating the truth.
Speaking of the Fairmont, in my July 1 column, I wrote that Rohnda Ammouri, a former political coordinator with the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), was doing community outreach for Huntley Hotel management that oppose the Miramar renovation.
I heard from the public information officer for the SEIU-ULTCW (United Long Term Care Workers) union last Monday that Ammouri hasn’t been on the SEIU payroll since March despite the fact that other sources and her Linked-In and Twitter profiles state that she’s employed by the SEIU-ULTCW.
Ammouri was a political field consultant at Burnside & Associates before being hired at the SEIU. The Huntley Hotel is a Burnside client. It appears that Ammouri is working with Burnside again and still endangering future union jobs by supporting the Huntley’s clumsy efforts to “stop the Miramar expansion.”
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.