Photo by Clara Harter

The Oceana Hotel is hoping the third time’s a charm as they are slated for a re-vote on the appeal decision made by City Council over the hotel’s request to open their restaurant to the general public. 

This request was initially denied by a 3-3 Planning Commission vote in June 2021 and the appeal of this decision was also denied by a 3-3 City Council vote in November 2021. The Oceana Hotel then filed a suit against the City alleging procedural irregularities in Council’s vote, which was subsequently settled with an agreement to re-do the hearing and vote in a Council meeting before July 15. 

A few weeks after having denied the Oceana’s request to expand its restaurant service, Council approved a similar request from the Shore Hotel to expand its amenities.

Both decisions required conditional use permits and text amendments as the zoning ordinances in the hotels’ respective neighborhoods did not allow these expansions of services.

The Oceana Hotel is located in the Wilmont area, which is an R2 and R3 zoning district, where hotels are not a permitted land use. However, because the hotel was built in 1958 before this zoning requirement was in place, it is allowed to continue operating, but is only allowed to offer food and beverage services to guests. It seeks to expand its food and alcohol service to support its business and offer a new walking distance dining option for local residents. 

Councilmembers Phil Brock, Kristin McCowan and Lana Negrete voted in favor of expanding the restaurant’s clientele, while Councilmembers Oscar de la Torre, Christine Parra and Sue Himmelrich voted against it. Councilmember Gleam Davis was absent. 

The Shore Hotel is located in the Downtown area and sought a text amendment to the Downtown Community Plan as well as a conditional use permit to add 14 micro hotel rooms, a cafe with alcohol service, a restaurant with alcohol and entertainment, and a massage service. 

The Shore Hotel is required to add the micro hotel rooms as part of a legal settlement with the California Coastal Commission over the hotel’s failure to meet its obligations to provide affordable hotel rooms. The other amenities are add-on requests by the hotel.

Councilmembers unanimously supported the Shore Hotel’s request to add the micro hotel rooms. Councilmembers Lana Negrete, Oscar de la Torre, Christine Parra and Phil Brock voted in favor of expanding the Shore Hotel’s amenities, while Councilmembers Kristin McCowan, Gleam Davis and Sue Himmelrich voted against the request. 

The Shore Hotel has been the subject of community controversy both during its redevelopment and subsequent operation. In 2019 it received a $15.5 million fine from the California Coastal Commission—the largest in the agency’s history—for failing to produce the affordable hotel rooms required by its coastal development permit. 

City Council is set to re-hear the Oceana Hotel’s request during an April 24 meeting where all seven members are expected to be present.