Photo by Clara Harter

After a Planning Commission rejection, a City Council rejection and a lawsuit, the Oceana Hotel finally prevailed in its pursuit of a permit to expand its restaurant service to the general public. 

What may seem like a simple ask has been the subject of long and contentious debate within the city and nearby residential community. 

The Oceana Hotel is located on Ocean Ave between California and Washington, where hotels are not a permitted use, but is able to continue operating as it predates this zoning ordinance. In 2021, it applied for a conditional use permit to allow non-hotel guests to dine at its twelve table restaurant.

According to owner Jim Lippman, the expansion is intended to provide more work for restaurant employees, improve the hotel’s business and offer a walking distance restaurant to neighborhood residents. Those opposed to the expansion feared that the additional foot, bike, car and food delivery traffic to the Oceana would impinge upon the relative peace, quiet and parking access enjoyed by nearby residents. 

The Oceana’s permit 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. 

Shortly after denying the Oceana’s request, City Council approved a similar request for the Shore Hotel to expand services at its restaurant and cafe. Council also approved the Shore’s request to add new micro hotel rooms and a massage service. 

The Oceana Hotel subsequently filed a suit against the City alleging procedural irregularities in Council’s vote, which was settled with an agreement to re-do the Council hearing and vote.

Both the Shore Hotel and the Oceana’s expansions required a text amendment to be passed as they overrode existing zoning ordinances. 

During the Council re-hearing of the Oceana Hotel’s request on April 26, Council approved their permits by a 5-2 vote. 

In order to minimize the impact of the expansion on the surrounding neighborhood, the Ocean Hotel agreed to several permit conditions recommended by City staff. 

Food delivery will occur no more than three days a week between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., the hotel will offer a discount incentive program for neighborhood patrons who commute to the restaurant by foot or bike, a valet service will be offered to restaurant patrons, and the hotel will provide an annual report on the restaurant’s compliance with its permit conditions.

“I will not wait for the years to pass to address any concerns of my neighbors that may come up as I intend to continue to be a good neighbor as I have been for the last 30 years. I hope all these changes address the concerns and make the Oceana an even better neighbor in the community,” said Lippman. 

Mayor Sue Himmelrich repeated her no vote as she is opposed to text amendments on principle and has said she believes zoning should be shaped by Council’s overall beliefs and not individual projects. Councilmember Christine Parra also repeated her no vote.

Councilmember Gleam Davis was absent for the first vote, but voted in favor of the redo vote. Councilmembers Phil Brock, Lana Negrete and Kristin McCowan repeated their yes votes, while Councilmember Oscar de la Torre changed his initial no vote to a yes vote. 

Thank you [Lippman] for your responsiveness, every problem that has surfaced so far you have been agreeable to finding a solution for us. I appreciate that,” said de la Torre. “I think that shows you’re being responsible in terms of the concerns that the residents are raising.