Santa Monica Lookout
Hotel-Commissioned Poll Shows Santa Monicans Divided Over Development
By Jason Islas
October 4, 2013 -- A poll of Santa Monican voters, paid for by the Huntley Hotel, shows that the community is split over questions of developing the bayside town.
Over five days last month, 404 residents were asked to answer general questions about development in Santa Monica over the phone by Lake Research Partners, the firm which conducted the survey.
Residents were also asked what they thought about plans to redevelop the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel in Downtown Santa Monica.
The Huntley Hotel, which is across the street from the Miramar, has been a staunch opponent of the Mirarmar's $250 million plans to overhaul its four-acre property.
The Huntely has spent much time and treasure in a campaign against the Miramar's plans, which include building a new 21-story tower opposite the Huntley's property.
Specifically, respondents were asked about the Miramar's plan to “turn the current hotel into a mixed-use hotel and condominium residence, 320 feet high with 21 stories, with up to 120 market-rate condominiums and between 12 and 40 affordable housing units, 280 hotel guest rooms, underground parking, food and beverage facilities, retail space, spa, meeting and event facilities, and open space areas on site.”
A press release put out by the Huntley's PR Firm, Sugerman Communications Group, says that 57 percent of those who responded opposed the plan.
However, representatives from the Miramar said that the poll was “obviously biased.
“We have known about this survey for weeks,” said Alan Epstein, lead negotiator for MSD Capital, a part-owner of the Miramar.
“We know the deliberately misleading questions that were asked and we know that the Huntley’s paid telephone operators pushed people toward certain responses, without giving them honest options,” he said.
“If it was not biased in the way questions were asked, they would have released the entire survey and results,” he added.
Sugerman Communications declined a request by The Lookout to see the full survey but the group did include three questions -- counting the one about the Miramar -- in its press release.
The poll also asked, “Do you favor or oppose changing height and density requirements to allow more high rise and higher density buildings in Santa Monica?”
According to the press release, 69 percent of said they oppose changing requirements and 26 said they were in favor.
Residents were also asked, “In general, do you favor more development in Santa Monica, less development in Santa Monica or is the amount of development ... happening in Santa Monica about right?”
The Sugerman Group said that 52 percent of respondents answered that they favored less development while 15 said they favored more, while about a third agreed that the current level of development is just right.
Bob Meadow, a partner at Lake Research Group, said that the residents surveyed were a mix of renters and homeowners from a variety of age groups living in different places around the city.
What they had in common, however, was that they had all voted in off-year -- non-presidential -- elections or they had only recently registered to vote, Meadow said.
He said that since 2014 would be an off-year election, the survey targeted voters who were likely to vote then.
“There's some possibility that the issue (of development) might be referended,” Meadow said.
“These results are consistent with the messages being delivered by City residents to officials over the last year,” Sugerman representatives said.
Epstein, who maintains that the Huntley is simply trying to stop competition, does not agree.
“The Huntley will do anything to divert attention away from their own building, which is one of the tallest and most dense in the city,” he said. “It is almost triple the density of the proposed Miramar Plan and has ZERO open space, and could never be built under the zoning that the Huntley now proposes.”
The Surgerman Communications Group announced the results of the poll less than two weeks after the City Council approved a $32,135 contract with the polling firm Godbe Research.
The City commissioned the poll after much controversy surrounding proposed development in Santa Monica, including the Miramar's plans and two other hotel projects that would range in height from 195 feet to more than 300 feet.
The City expect Godbe Research to begin drafting its poll after October 16.
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