The first luxury hotel to arrive in Santa Monica in more than a decade hosted its first guests last week.
Santa Monica Proper Hotel has been in the works for about 15 years, said Brian De Lowe, Proper’s president and co-founder, during which time the local tourism industry has swelled to almost 9 million visitors each year, according to Santa Monica Travel & Tourism’s (SMTT) annual reports. Only three quarters of a million stay in Santa Monica hotels, however, in part because the city hasn’t built enough accommodations to meet demand. Officials said Santa Monica Proper Hotel relieves some of that pressure with 271 new hotel rooms.
Misti Kerns, president and CEO of SMTT, said the new hotels should offer an authentic, well-designed experience and amenities favored by international travelers, such as restaurants and spas. Proper fits that description, she said.
For its Santa Monica location, the hotel group restored a landmarked Spanish Colonial Revival building at 700 Wilshire Blvd. and constructed an undulating concrete and glass addition designed by local architect Howard Laks to go with it. Influential designer Kelly Wearstler has decorated the rooms in both buildings in the sandy, earthy tones and textures of the Santa Monica coastline.
“It’s a stunning property and a great addition to the neighborhood,” Kerns said.
The hotel will soon share the neighborhood with another new mixed-use building at 601 Wilshire and is steps from a multitude of eateries, such as Huckleberry Cafe and Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee. Proper’s most immediate neighbor, however, is Reed Park, a popular gathering place for people experiencing homelessness that the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission describes as a hotbed for antisocial behavior and crime.
City Council recently approved funding for hospitality ambassadors in Reed Park, something De Lowe said Proper is grateful for. He pointed out that the transient occupancy tax the hotel pays to the city will help fund programs to address homelessness and the pedestrians Proper draws will make the area feel more welcoming.
“Our presence is already having an effect on the area,” he said. “I’m pretty hopeful that through the revenue we’re generating for the city and our passion to contribute to the neighborhood, we’ll see improvements at Reed Park and all of downtown.”
Proper Santa Monica marks the start of a flurry of activity for Proper, which opened its first hotel in San Francisco two years ago and is expanding to Downtown Los Angeles and Austin this fall, with another location planned to open in Portland in 2021. The company is headquartered in Santa Monica.
De Lowe said as a decade-long Santa Monica resident, he felt the Westside was lacking a luxury hotel suited for creative residents and visitors.
“When we look for a hotel, we look for elevated design, food and beverage, and wellness offerings, and we needed to leave the Westside to find that, so it’s incredible for our city to finally have a hotel that offers all that,” he said.
De Lowe said he hopes locals feel welcome in the hotel and visit its restaurants, bars and Ayurvedic spa, Surya, led by Martha and Roger Soffer. Calabra, a Mediterranean and California restaurant from Beverly Hills Hotel-alum Kaleo Adams, shares the roof deck with a pool and open-air bar. In the lobby, visitors can drop in for a drink at Palma.
“We want residents to feel proud to have Proper in their city and recommend it as their top choice for friends and family visiting,” he said.
Proper’s main restaurant, Onda, will be led by chefs Jessica Koslow, known for Sqirl in Silver Lake, and Gabriela Cámara of San Francisco’s Cala. The food will be Mexican with a Los Angeles twist, De Lowe said — Cámara will provide the foundation and Koslow will be adding the ingredients, technique and lightheartedness that Sqirl is famous for.
“The Westside is filled with people who travel to east to go to Sqirl,” he said. “This neighborhood has really been wanting for something like this.”
Other amenities include spaces to host parties, a ballroom suited for weddings and b’nei mitzvahs, and a slate of programming such as live music and podcasts, fitness classes and book clubs, De Lowe said.
This article was updated July 1 at 9:35 a.m.