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'Monolithic' Miramar Not Fit for Santa Monica, Commission Says

Planning Commission takes issues with the design and mass of proposed hotel expansion. It is equally unimpressed with the so-called community benefits.

The Planning Commission wants plans for a considerably unpopular, "monolithic" overhaul of the to move forward, but not as proposed.

The would-be renovation and expansion is too dense, the architecture too generic, and the so-called community benefits the developer is offering aren't generous enough, the commission said Wednesday night.

Its criticisms will be heard by the City Council in the coming months as the council considers signing an agreement that would allow the project to be built. As proposed, it exceeds the city's zoning standards for height and density

Plans to overhaul the 4.5-acre site along Ocean Avenue would more than double the square footage of the existing hotel. It would include the construction of up to 120 condominiums—a mix of luxury and income-restricted units—and the addition of more than 18,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

"My general impression of the proposed project is that it’s large, monolithic and visually uninteresting," said Chairwoman Gerda Paumgarten Newbold.

The commission's review came two weeks after residents, merchants and community leaders packed City Hall to voice their opinions—many of them negative—about the proposal. One resident likened the development to Miami Beach.

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A commissioner said Wednesday the proposed hotel looks like a fortress with no openings or view corridors. The architecture could be found at any fancy beach spot, another said. A few agreed that denser portions of the project should be built along Wilshire Boulevard, where they would be farthest away from any beachfront homes.

"You say you want be iconic? You have a long way to go," said Commissioner Ted Winterer.

"The buildings are unacceptably large… and it’s just not working," said Commissioner Richard McKinnon.

In exchange for building a hotel that's over-sized, the developer has to offer the city a number of community benefits. Typically, such benefits include building public parks and extra parking—beyond what's required in the city’s zoning ordinances—paying fees to improve nearby public infrastructure and the like.

But what's being offered by Miramar owners "doesn't excite us," said Commissioner Jim Ries.

The Miramar owners are proposing to preserve the historic Moreton Bay fig tree and Palisades Building; building a public plaza on one-acre of private green space; building to LEED certification, and several others.

"I was surprised when I read the community benefits—a lot of them don’t seem like community benefits at all," said Chairwoman Paumgarten Newbold.

Several commissioners suggested Miramar developers commit to hiring local workers and to making financial contributions to future public projects in downtown, such as the or the , and to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation.

"For a project with 400,00-500,000 square feet of development, if we're not asking something for education, we’re not trying," said McKinnon.

Nelson Davis February 23, 2012 at 06:15 PM
As a Santa Monica resident of three decades, I applaud those who question the practicality and life-style impact of such a large hotel development. Santa Monica is a city where families live and do business, not a resort seperated from the things that people must do every day such as banking, laundry, the library and community activities. If you look at Cancun or Miami Beach and ask yourself if you want to live there, your honest answer should dictate your actions regarding this hotel development. Would the Hotel Belair or the Beverly Hills Hotel expand in this way? I don't think so. N. Davis
Nelson Davis February 23, 2012 at 06:15 PM
This is crystal clear.
Paul Rich February 23, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Interesting Nelson you bring up the Hotel Bel Air as I plan on checking their renovation out this Sunday while attending an Oscar party. That said, I too applaud the commission for rejecting this monstrosity. I'm all for architectural renovation but in my own experience fighting Universal City's expansion plans back in the 90s (we won), major developers see local residents as a nuisance and give them lip service and dupe, coerce or bribe city council members to get their way. I have a personal attachment to the Miramar as my mother worked there in the '40s and '50s and my honeymoon night was there. Santa Monica's unique heritage must be preserved while simultaneously encouraging responsible growth.

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