Planning: The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica. File Photo

The Shore Hotel could soon be expanded to include additional amenities like a 14-room micro-hotel, an ancillary 80-seat restaurant with a bar and patio that will be operated as a restaurant with entertainment, among others, if officials were to receive approval from city leaders during this week’s Planning Commission meeting.

Jon Farzam, Vice President of the Shore Hotel, said this week the proposal is pretty straightforward.

“We want to open our current food and beverage services to everyone instead of just hotel guests, offer massage services to guests in-room or in a portable tent (we’re not building a spa), and we are asking for a variance to convert our existing space on 2nd Street – that has been vacant and underutilized since we opened in 2011 – to 14 affordable micro-hotel rooms and a small café that would also be open to the public. This would all happen within the hotel’s existing footprint; our existing buildings would in no way be expanded,” Farzam said. “The primary reason we are proposing the CUP amendment is because we want to better serve the community. We’ve paid attention to the needs expressed by Santa Monica residents during recent public hearings for other local hotel proposals and the most common complaint was that hotels serve tourists and not Santa Monicans. That really reinforced to us that we should make our services more accessible to our neighbors. We want locals to enjoy our food and beverage services instead of what we currently do, which is only serve hotel guests.”

In addition to opening the Shore Hotel’s doors to Santa Monica residents, hotel leaders believe the proposal before the Planning Commission this week would also create jobs that would prioritize Santa Monica residents and help fill a void in city sales tax revenue.

“At a macro level, the project will serve an equally important purpose of providing equitable and affordable lodging to the region’s most underserved population. We want to welcome everyone to our hotel…” Farzam said.

But, according to a staff report, because the design and functionality of the proposed micro-hotel is contingent on the successful granting of modifications to the Hotel’s existing operational Conditional Use Permit, and a variance application that would allow the physical expansion of the Hotel, staff recommends Commissioners adopt a Statement of Official Action Denying the proposed Variance.

Although staff is generally supportive of the additional hotel amenities described, the report states, approval of the proposed Variance requires that the Planning Commission make all ten of the required Variance findings pursuant to SMMC Section 9.42.020. The way it’s currently presented though prevents staff from supporting the Variance request that would allow the physical expansion of the Hotel with the introduction of a new micro-hotel component.

As a result, it’s been recommended that their inclusion on the listing of Hotel amenities be continued until the hotel’s existing Conditional Use Permit can return for consideration to be modified since staff believes that the review and consideration of Hotel operation and amenities is better accomplished holistically.

Jonah Breslau, a former bellhop at the Shore Hotel who now works at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, said in an interview Tuesday that he feels the project should be wholeheartedly rejected by local leaders.

“The coast is for everybody and we need to protect that access and the ability of people to visit the coast because it’s not something that developers can privatize or take away access to,” Breslau said, detailing how he’s been inspired to fight for coastal access and environmental justice because he’s seen firsthand how hard it can be to speak out about the issue as an employee in the area.

“This is why it’s a little bit disheartening to see that, after so many years of providing affordable access, they’re now asking for permission to become an extremely high-end, luxury hotel, which goes against the purpose of the Coastal Commission’s actions and their original conditions of approval years ago. So, I think it’s important to send a message of: ‘We need to keep finding ways to provide affordable rooms.’ And we don’t necessarily need to add more amenities to the hotel to do that because that will only increase the price.”

Breslau said he hasn’t had any contact with Commissioners so he isn’t sure what Wednesday’s meeting will entail but he believes it’s important for the Commission to reaffirm the Shore Hotel as a limited amenity hotel.

Farzam said he is confident the Planning Commission will agree the variance is needed to build the rooms in the available space since it’s not feasible to build the 14 micro-hotel rooms anywhere else on the property.

“I appreciate that city staff are generally supportive of what we are proposing and understand their point of view related to the variance,” Farzam said, later adding, “There is a lot of misinformation circulating and I want to emphasize that the hotel’s affordability will not be impacted by amending the amenities. 72 of our rooms – almost half – will be offered at an affordable rate in perpetuity per our agreement with the Coastal Commission.”

Brennon@smdp.com