Santa Monica is a much different place than it was more than a decade ago when a unique and exciting plan for the redevelopment of the Miramar hotel was first introduced. A lot of change took place during those years, particularly in our downtown. The long-awaited Expo line arrived and was an immediate hit. A detailed Downtown Community Plan was created with the help of scores of Santa Monicans.
Over those years, I watched the Miramar Plan’s evolution. I was impressed by the new and interesting concepts the Miramar team tested as it moved through the City and community process on its way to the project that the City Council will vote on Tuesday evening.
That community process was transparent and informative. Numerous neighborhood meetings and hearings took place. But I was most impressed by the time and energy that the hotel’s representatives Dustin Peterson and Ellis O’Connor put into their outreach effort, meeting with thousands of Santa Monicans – fans of the project, doubters and those in-between. These conversations helped build trust and nurtured relationships between the Miramar and its neighbors. This outreach brought the public closer to a project proposal than ever before.
For as long as I can remember, the Miramar has served as an important part of our city, both historically and economically. For more than a century, the Miramar has operated in good times and bad, all the while changing and adapting. But through it all, the stately Moreton Bay Fig Tree has stood fast in the same spot where Georgina Jones first planted it in the late 19th century. The tree is resilient and beautiful, a fitting symbol of our city. I’ve always hoped it would return as the focal point of the site rather than live out its life as a canopy over the hotel’s valet parking, a spectacular thing that only visitors would be able to see. I’m thrilled that in the new plan the Moreton Bay Fig Tree will be experienced by all, serving as an inspiration and an important part of our civic history and identity.
The Miramar has also been a strong partner for the residents of Santa Monica. I can’t count how many fundraisers and awards and special events that I’ve attended at the hotel. For many years they have hosted the charitable “Meet Me Under the Fig Tree” holiday event, demonstrating their strong commitment to being more than just a business. Their steadfast commitment to our community has raised awareness of ongoing needs that exists in our otherwise prosperous city and has generated community support for a number of the city’s finest community-serving nonprofits.
In these stressful times, we should welcome the positive economic impacts associated with the proposed plan. The new Miramar will deliver a major boost to our local economy. By current estimates, it will generate $8 million more in revenues to our city than the existing hotel does and substantial new property tax revenues to our schools. Its overall economic impact for Santa Monica over the next 25 years will be more than $1 billion. Those figures don’t even include the enormous boon that thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of new permanent union hotel jobs will have. And the Miramar’s Local Hiring Program will make sure that Santa Monicans are given the first shot at these good-paying jobs.
One last point I would like to make, concerns the affordable housing and new condominiums that are included in the plan. There is no greater crisis in Santa Monica than the availability of affordable housing. The well-heeled folks in our community aren’t the only ones who deserve to call Santa Monica home. Bringing family-sized affordable housing units to Second Street will enhance the neighborhood and provide the residents access to Palisades Park, the Farmer’s Market and transit. Including market-rate condominiums within the hotel makes sense and our Downtown Community Plan encourages this type or residential use in our Downtown. Home ownership creates new tax revenues and an investment in community life.
I urge residents to join me in supporting the Miramar plan and ask our City Council to approve the project at the September 29th City Council meeting. It will truly be the new crown jewel for the City of Santa Monica.
Sincerely, Nat Trives. Former Mayor City of Santa Monica