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Downtown Santa Monica Hotel Gets Solid Backing  


By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

January 26, 2012 -- Plans to bring nearly 300 new hotel rooms to the northeastern edge of Downtown Santa Monica will likely move forward after a showing of solid community support during a public hearing at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting.

Though the commission voted to continue the hearing to its February 15 meeting, the proposed hotel at the corner of Seventh Street and Wilshire Boulevard garnered the support a major city stakeholders. They included the Chamber of Commerce, St. Monica's parish, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and Santa Monica's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It's an important anchor location,” Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson told The Lookout Wednesday. “It's the entrance to Downtown at Wilshire. It's a key location that could really use some help,” she added, noting the lack of pedestrians in the area.

The hotel plans call for repurposing one of Santa Monica's iconic landmarks, the Santa Monica Professional Building, a Spanish Colonial Revival highrise built in 1928. They also call for another building along Seventh Street that would stand at the adjacent site currently occupied by a parking lot.

“This project is fundamentally about this landmark and breathing new life into one of the best buildings we have in the city,” said Commissioner Jason Parry.

Commissioner Ted Winterer said, “I think the design we see here is very respectful of the landmark building,” which he added was a result of the developer's close work and courtesy reviews with the Landmarks Commission.

“While [the design] is respectful, it's not as inspired as it could be,” he said, adding that input from the Architectural Review Board (ARB) could help.

As the plans develop, they will be subjected to a joint review board made up of members of the Landmarks Commission and the ARB, called the LARB.

One question that remains to be settled is how many members of each body to include on the LARB.

Much of Wednesday's discussion focused on the questions of parking, community benefits and the uses of the proposed ground floor retail space.

The wording surrounding a proposed Living Wage provision in the proposed Development Agreement (DA) raised some eyebrows among both members of the public and the commission.

Commissioners Jennifer Kennedy and Winterer were both put off by how recently the Living Wage provision had been revised.

The commission's newest member, Amy Anderson, had reservations about making decisions on a Living Wage provision, a sentiment echoed by Commissioner Gerda Newbold, who said that the issue was the purview of the City Council.

Commissioner Ted Winterer said that he would like make sure that new hotel has on-site car rental as a disincentive to guests to rent from agencies near the airport.

Winterer said that if there is an on-site rental agency, guests would more likely rent only when necessary and would be likely to drive less.

The Commission won't make a decision about whether to recommend the DA for approval to the City Council until February 15.

Commissioner Richard McKinnon and Chair Jim Ries were not present at Wednesday's meeting.


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