COLORADO AVE — There are still a handful of concerns from the Planning Commission and a local union on the proposed six-story Hampton Inn & Suites on Colorado Avenue and Courtyard Marriott on Fifth Street spearheaded by South Carolina-based OTO Development.

The Marriott planned for 1554 Fifth Street would include 136 guest rooms, while the Hampton at 501 Colorado Avenue would have 143 rooms. The two properties are directly across the street from each other.

During the last Planning Commission meeting, union and city officials were concerned the proposals are not addressing many of the community benefits associated with their development agreements.

Rachel Torres, research analyst with Unite Here Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union for the Los Angeles and Orange County region, said her group has issues with who will ultimately be working at the hotels.

“A lot of times hotels will seek people outside of the city to fill jobs that should be entry-level positions and it’s been a disaster for the youth who are wanting to get these jobs,” Torres said. “We want to make sure there is job training.”

Planning commissioner Jim Ries agrees that local hiring is key.

“I want more detail and I’m not going to say what that detail is going to look like,” he said. “I want more comfort [jobs will] go to Santa Monica folks, first.”

In the end, commissioners asked developers to come back with changes based on the issues they had.

“On the one hand, we cannot require them to be a union hotel or otherwise condition the development agreement on the labor issue,” Commissioner Sue Himmelrich said. “On the other hand, we can take into consideration their general approach to their contribution to the city and whether there is an understanding of doing business in Santa Monica.”

She added that planning staff was recommending that the developers contribute to the Colorado Esplanade, a transit mall planned for the area west of the proposed hotels. OTO Development offered a one-time contribution of $300,000 to go toward the esplanade and other projects around town.

“One of the major concerns is how walkable the area is going to be,” Himmelrich said.

Commissioner Jason Parry said he usually looks at these projects to see if the total amount of community benefits seem appropriate based on the enhanced value. He said with these projects, “it’s not enough.”

“I know that what the applicant is proposing is not enough and I think there is good reason to think what staff is proposing should be added to,” Parry said. “I am reluctant to get into that because it somewhat undermines staff negotiations with applicants going forward.”

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