Courtesy image.

After 10 years of planning, City Council gave the Fairmont Miramar’s redevelopment proposal the green light on Sept. 30, but community controversy continues as on Dec. 7 the Santa Monica Bay Towers Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit challenging the approval.

SMBT alleges that the redevelopment project violates the coastal land use plan (LUP) and the Downtown Community Plan (DCP). SMBT further charges that in approving the project City officials violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Our lawsuit is not to say ‘no’ to any redevelopment activity on the Fairmont Miramar property,” said Kay Ward, president of the SMBT Board of Directors. “It is about requiring the Miramar hotel & condo developer to follow the law, just like other developers in the city must.”

SMBT, which represents owners of the 91 condominiums located adjacent to the Miramar in Bay Towers, filed the complaint against Ocean Avenue LLC, the owner of the Fairmont Miramar, and the City Council.

“We are disappointed that following an exhaustive 10+ year public process, a small number of self-serving individuals are seeking to delay a project that will bring much needed revenue, jobs and affordable housing to this City, because the decision did not go in their favor,” said Dustin Peterson, representative for the Miramar Hotel. “The proposed project is entirely consistent with the City’s General Plan and Downtown Community Plan, both of which were adopted after many years of public input.”

The half a billion dollar 502,1570-square-foot redevelopment plan would renovate the century-old hotel and create 312 guest rooms, 60 luxury condos, and 18,000 square feet of commercial space. The lawsuit seeks to challenge the approval of the project, however the SMBT Board said in a letter to its members that it is open to negotiating a settlement with the Miramar developer to amend the plan.

The current plan would replace the existing Ocean Tower and bungalows with a 130 feet and a 80 feet high rise building. SMBT alleges that though these heights are allowed under an amendment passed to the LUP by the City Council on Sept. 29, they are not legally valid as the amendment has not been certified by the California Coastal Commission.

The plan also set aside land for a 42 unit affordable housing complex opposite the hotel on 2nd St. SMBT alleges this violates the DCP, which prioritizes affordable housing, because the units would be located outside the hotel complex and residents would not have access to Miramar amenities.

SMBT further claims that City Council members violated the CEQA when they certified the Miramar’s environmental impact report as part of the approval process.

The City of Santa Monica denies SMBT’s allegations and asserts that the City Council and Planning Commission followed all proper procedures when voting on the project. The Planning Commission voted 6 – 1 in favor of approval and City Council voted 4 – 2 in favor, however three of the supporting council members lost their seats in the November election.

“The redevelopment plan for the Miramar hotel site was the subject of an extensive public process that spanned multiple years. The lawsuit challenges that process. We do not believe the lawsuit’s allegations have merit, and we will be defending against them in the pending litigation,” said City Spokeswoman Constance Farrell.

The SMBT is acting on behalf of Bay Towers condominium owners, but the Board President said that the lawsuit stands to support a much broader group of community members.

“This will greatly benefit not only the SMBT, but also many other California Avenue and Ocean Avenue residents, and countless residents and office workers in our Downtown, who will bear the brunt of the demolition and construction noise pollution, the air pollution, the traffic gridlock, and the traffic hazards this oversized project design imposes on the community. Millions of annual city visitors who come to enjoy Palisades Park and the state beach below, too, will benefit from compliance with the planning and environmental laws our lawsuit seeks to enforce,” said Ward.

The Miramar’s legal counsel said SMBT’s allegations are baseless and emphasized that the project’s 7,000 plus page environmental impact report was independently, thoughtfully and thoroughly analyzed prior to gaining the City’s approval.

Clara@smdp.com