Le Meridien. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

I had not been inside what is now known as Le Meridien in years, back when it was the Sheraton Delfina. I’ve now been there twice in two weeks.

The first occasion was an invitation to come visit and experience the wonderful menu and environment by the Director of Sales and Marketing Kevin Anawati. We had a lovely luncheon seated bar-side in the lobby. Starting with a cheese and charcuterie plate, we next had one of the best rib eye’s I’ve ever eaten. I have to say if the rest of the menu is as tasty as this was, I’ll be back more regularly.

Of course, no hotel visit would be complete without a tour of the facility, from the poolside lounging to the top floor rooms with ocean views and ballroom for conferences, Le Meridien has become quite a lovely hotel.

The last time I was there, was for one of those typically boring Bar Association meetings where all the young associates are trying oh so hard to impress each other with their prodigious knowledge and amazing law firms. Which, come to think of it, may be why I haven’t been back in years. I distinctly remember meeting one new associate from the late Connolly Oyler’s office, a young man excited to be engaging in the wonderful world of family law. I wonder how he made out.

In any case, my second occasion to visit Le Meridien was for a show and tell by the developer and architect of what will is known as the 234 Pico project – the Bowling Alley to those of us who live here. Last Thursday night about 20 neighbors trekked in to a small conference room that had been set up with a projected, some renderings and a smattering of veggies and cookies. The event was organized by Melissa Sweeney of Eumenides Consulting as an outreach to the community.

The developer, Patrick Tooley and his trusted aide de camp, the uber-stylish Ryan, were undoubtedly charming, warm and at least superficially open to the suggestions and concerns of the community. I found Patrick to be quite easy to speak with and though I have no idea what he actually thought about the suggestions and concerns at least he presented himself well and seemed like he cared about the community concerns. We disagreed on design, but as the saying goes, ‘de gustibus non disputatum’ – there’s no accounting for one’s tastes.

On the other hand, the architect from Frederik Fisher and Partners, Joseph Coriaty was not so friendly. Maybe it was my criticism of his design work when I said it was “Boring. Just another block building with some splashes of color that was uninteresting. It looks like all the other boring box buildings in town.” He said it “was a timeless design that like the work I did at the corner of Wilshire and 2nd will age well. I’m a very well known architect in town.”

Frankly, he may be a genius architect, that’s not for me to judge, but he should not be allowed to present in public. He came across as arrogant, supercilious, pompous and condescending. And that was not just my opinion, but of the four other people I spoke with. He did not communicate a sense of concern for the community ethos. His description of the project as evoking the ‘pluralism of the community’ was not well received. He described his 2nd and Wilshire project as the “living room” of Santa Monica. It did not go over well with the residents I spoke with.

His actual design is perfectly fine, even as boring as I think it is. It’s demonstrating the constraints put on any project by the planning commission. A developer has a need to maximize their development – I understand that. I just wish there was some artistic element that was provided beyond using the red from the currently landmarked BOWL sign. Coriaty was proud of his use of balcony railings that were closer together to “shield the view of the civic” from the residents, and his use of screens on a walkway to prevent the Bay Street residents from looking into the new apartments. I’m sorry but as he touted his efforts for the past year on this project, I was not overwhelmed with his creativity and design.

The neighbors have real concerns about the placement of a trash bin in the middle of the block/alley that will necessitate trash trucks blocking the alleyway more than they already do. There was great concern about the way the design was using landscaping to prevent the transients, but every neighbor seemed convinced it would only lead to a giant toilet zone being created.

Tooley and Coriaty said the city’s waste management team would not allow the bins to be moved off the 3rd street side, which frankly would make much more sense. That way there would be trash bins on each end of the building.

The ingress and egress of cars to the underground parking is certainly a concern as it would be off the Pico Ct alleyway, which would necessitate drivers either illegally cutting across a double yellow line on Pico, or coming around the block from Bay Street.

As a developer, Tooley said his plan was to build and maintain property as he did with the location at Abbot Kinney and Venice. That’s a good thing for the neighborhood if it happens. Being an engaged part of the community would indicate that he has a need and a desire to establish good relations now.

I’m sure the project will move forward, it will likely change some and in the end, hopefully, Mr. Patrick Tooley will be a good neighborhood landlord.

DAVID PISARRA is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@ pisarra.com or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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