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Santa Monica's Miramar Gathers More than Four Tons of Food for the Hungry

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 10, 2013 -- More than 700 Santa Monica residents donated more than four tons of food at Sunday's Meet Me Under the Fig Tree event at theFairmont Miramar Hotel.

It was the time in several years that the hotel has held the holiday event, which this year doubled as a canned-food drive for the Westside Food Bank.

“The event was a fun celebration of the season with a focus on families,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor, one of several City officials who attended the event. “But what was inspiring was the great support given to the Westside Food Bank, especially the volunteer efforts of the Police Activities League.”

Community members gathered beneath the Miramar’s famous century-old Morton Bay fig tree despite the chilly weather to enjoy free food, holiday music by members of the Santa Monica High School orchestra and other festive activities.

Santa Claus was there to pose for pictures with the kids. There were gingerbread houses in the Miramar’s lobby, decked out for the holidays.

The Santa Monica Fire Department displayed one of the City’s fire engines beneath the 80-foot-tall fig tree. And, there was even a corner where families could check out pets for adoption.

Over the course of four hours, those volunteers collected more than four tons of non-perishable food that the nonprofit will eventually deliver to its more than 70 partner food pantries.

“It was a nice thing they did for the food bank,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who was also at the event Sunday. “I thought it was really well-done and elegant.”

Holbrook and O’Connor were joined by their colleagues Council members Gleam Davis and Ted Winterer. Santa Monica Police and Firefighters were also out in force at the event.

“I even saw a few police officers patrolling the gingerbread house neighborhood on display in the lobby,” O’Connor said.

To take the edge off the unusually cold weather, there were cups of hot pumpkin soup and Mexican hot chocolate, among other treats.

While for many years, the Meet Me Under the Fig Tree event was an annual tradition for the 86-year-old hotel, during the recent economic downturn, the Miramar took an hiatus from hosting the event.

Alan Epstein, lead negotiator for MSD Capital and part-owner of the hotel said that he was “delighted” that the event returned this year.

“This is a true community event that allows everyone to come celebrate the holiday season while enjoying our landmark Moreton Bay Fig Tree,” said Epstein, who flew in from New York for the event.

“We wish all our friends and neighbors a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014," he said.

The historic hotel has recently been at the epicenter of major controversy after developers proposed a $255 million overhaul of the hotel’s four-acre campus at Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

Among other things, the plan includes a 22-story tower and up to 120 luxury condominiums, a fact which has riled some members of the community, including the 19-story Huntley Hotel, neighbor to the Miramar and fierce opponent of the proposed project.

At Sunday’s event, however, none of the controversy was apparent.

Sunday "was about the holiday time and providing food for people who are less fortunate," he said.

“I appreciate any group or hotel or any business that would make that kind of effort for the community,” he said.

Holbrook noted that the Miramar has a history of hosting many charitable event. “They’ve always been a good neighbor," he said.

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