Miramar: The project would redevelop and expand the 101-year-old hotel. Courtesy Image

Developers are moving forward with the Miramar Hotel redevelopment project, more than a decade after the proposal was first conceived and nearly five years after developers released current plans back in April 2017.

If approved, the 262,000-square-foot luxury hotel and an adjacent parking lot will be replaced with a 500,000-square-foot mixed-use development including 312 hotel rooms, 60 condos, 6,600 square feet of retail space, three cafe/restaurants and, across the street, a 40,500 square foot, five-story multifamily residential building containing 42 affordable rental units.

The project — split into two parts — is set to go before the California Coastal Commission during its meeting next week on March 10. Developers are seeking separate coastal development permits: one to demolish a parking lot and build a five-story residential building in its place, and the other to redevelop the current hotel property.

The City of Santa Monica is also requesting the Coastal Commission triple the maximum height allowed for a project at that site. The Commission’s March 10 agenda includes an item to increase the maximum height and floor area ratio (FAR) allowed at the project site to 130 feet and 2.6, respectively. Currently, the City’s land use plan (LUP) sets a maximum building height of 45 feet with an FAR of 2.0.

“After over 12 years of public outreach, including hundreds of meetings with thousands of stakeholders in Santa Monica, we are delighted that our proposed Miramar Santa Monica project has finally reached the California Coastal Commission,” Dustin Peterson and Ellis O’Connor, representing the Miramar project, said in a written statement provided to the Daily Press. “With extraordinary architecture, preservation of the historic features of the site, a significant commitment to new, family-oriented affordable housing, vastly improved public access and a state-of-the-art sustainability program, we are confident that the Miramar Santa Monica will be a dramatic new anchor for Downtown Santa Monica and an important catalyst for the City of Santa Monica’s economic recovery.”

Santa Monica City Council approved the Miramar project in September 2020 following hours of debate and discussion spread across two meetings. The final vote was 4-2, with Council Member Gleam Davis abstaining from the vote due to questions over her husband’s business ties with the hotel’s owners.

Council Members Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich voted against the project, stating that their primary objections were the project’s inclusion of 60 luxury condominiums.

In documents released prior to the March 10 meeting, Coastal Commission staff recommended the statewide body give a green light to the project, which would also signal it was in line with CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.

The meeting’s dual staff reports (one for each portion of the project) offer a window into current plans, which include 428 subterranean parking spaces, secure long-term bike parking and an incentive program for employees to utilize public transit at the current hotel site. The new residential development, which will sit directly across the street at 1127 2nd Street, will include underground parking for 37 vehicles.

The plan proposes to demolish all structures currently on site with the exception of the Palisades Building, the six-story, 78-foot-tall, 62,000-square-foot building that contains 111 hotel rooms. That means the Ocean Tower and bungalows would be demolished for the new project. The project also preserves its iconic 120-year-old Moreton Bay Fig Tree. Both the Palisades Building and fig tree hold landmark status with the City of Santa Monica.

The project has its share of detractors in town, not least among them the Santa Monica Bay Towers (SMBT) Homeowners Association, which filed a lawsuit in December 2020 challenging the approval. SMBT’s suit alleged the project violated CEQA, as well as the LUP and Downtown Community Plan (DCP).

“Our lawsuit is not to say ‘no’ to any redevelopment activity on the Fairmont Miramar property,” Kay Ward, president of the SMBT Board of Directors, said at the time the lawsuit was filed. “It is about requiring the Miramar hotel & condo developer to follow the law, just like other developers in the city must.” That suit was later settled with no changes made to the project’s design.

In regards to the LUP, Coastal Commission staff wrote in the March 10 staff report: “The project does exceed the height limit of the LUP; there is a related, project-specific LUP amendment also on the current agenda, which, if certified, would increase the height limit for this use and allow project consistency with the amended LUP.”

In that agenda item, Commission staff explained why they were in support of the increase in maximum height: “The subject site is already developed with multi-story buildings extending up to 135-ft. tall and a perimeter wall that blocks any public coastal views onsite or through the site from inland of Ocean Avenue; the proposed height and FAR will not adversely impact any existing, public coastal views; views from Ocean Avenue, Pacific Coast Highway, and the public beach will not be affected. Additionally, buildings with significantly higher heights and FARs may be found on each street surrounding the subject site.”

Applicants on the project are named as: The Athens Group, Gaines and Stacey LLP, McCabe & Co., Harding Larmore Kutcher and Kozal LLP.

The California Coastal Commission continues to meet remotely; more information and the meeting stream can be found at coastal.ca.gov.