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Hotel Height: 'A Desire, Not a Need'

Holiday Inn talks to Planning Commission about the need to renovate its 1963 building at Colorado and Ocean.

Remodeling the Holiday Inn in downtown Santa Monica so it soars to 195 feet is a "desire, not a need," Tom Corcoran, the chairman of the hotel's parent company told the city's Planning Commission this week.

The Holiday Inn is proposing to convert its existing building into three towers with heights of 50, 80 and 195 feet.

The Holiday Inn is less than .5 miles from where another developer proposes building a Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Hampton Inn. At 120 Colorado Ave., it's also on the corner of Ocean Avenue, where two other tall hotel towers are proposed by the Fairmont Miramar at Ocean and Wilshire Boulevard and by Worthe Real Estate Group at Ocean and Santa Monica Boulevard.

At a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night, when the main item on the agenda was downtown circulation, about a half dozen residents said adding more high-rises to Ocean Avenue would turn Santa Monica into Miami Beach.

"We want to be able to see the ocean, it’s a treasure us," said Taffy Patton, co-chair of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition. "We want to smell the ocean breezes."

Corcoran, Felcor Lodging Trust chairman, attended the meeting to ask commissioners to consider allowing the Holiday Inn, which is one of eight Felcor hotels now under the management of Wyndham Hotel Group, to plan for an entrance on Main Street.

The property is one of seven designated by city planners as a so-called opportunity site, meaning development could be taller and denser than what's allowed under the city's zoning codes, if the project incorporates "extraordinary community benefits" in exchange, such as public parking lots, pedestrian pathways and parks.

The renovation isn't necessary, Corcoran admitted when prompted by commissioner Richard McKinnon, who said the hotel "produces a powerful cash flow" for Felcor. "It does make money, so we don't have to do it," Corcoran said.

When asked about the need to build to 195 feet, Corcoran responded, it's "a desire, not a need." But he added, "It's a great piece of real estate, if you do it right, it could enhance the overall appeal."

People describe the 1963 building as ugly—part of it faces the ocean but doesn't have any windows, he added.

"People are expressing a lot of concern about the height issues. At what point does it become too hard to do a redevelopment for you?" McKinnon asked.

Corcoran said he didn't know, but did acknowledge the opposition the project is likely to face from neighborhood groups, saying it would be much easier to build in Kansas or Texas.

"I still believe in the project a lot," Corcoran said. "I appreciate the fact people do care what's built in Santa Monica—that's part of the charm."

Brenda Barnes March 10, 2013 at 10:38 PM
So people who care about what is built in SM are now charming. I like that better than being called a NIMBY, as Tumlin, the Council consultant who's gotten a fortune for THREE jobs to suggest no parking be required for new developments, calls us. The City spends TAXPAYER money they get by charging each developer $3-5 million and putting that together with other money they get by lying. Then they use that to try to make up for mistakes in approving the last 10 developments. Try to do something about traffic. Try to provide enough green space. Try to get some ocean breeze past 100 five-story buildings. I really don't want to be called anything by people flying in from their corporate headquarters--or even somehow getting past traffic jams SM caused on the 10 and the 405. I just want them to go build in Kansas or Texas already and leave us to try to fix the mess that's already here. Recall the four Council who voted for this and will keep on, until we get them out. O'Connor, O'Day, Holbrook, and Davis. Then see if the others, who can talk big when the vote is 4-3 yes for every development, have a plan for running the City without developer money. Recall Santa Monica City Council Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Take-Back-our-City/?gj=ej1b&a=wg2_rdmr Save Village Trailer Park Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Village-Trailer-Park/174220219339324 All planning and legal documents we have filed: www.occupysmresources.weebly.com
Brenda Barnes March 10, 2013 at 10:58 PM
I like this guy. At least he admits the Holiday Inn makes money as is. Unlike Marc Luzzatto, who keeps claiming Village Trailer Park loses money. Sure it does, after he and co-owners demolished 40 trailers and refused to rent out spaces for 16 years. On the other hand, before they started this campaign to get rid of opposition to their development plan, for over 45 years this mobilehome park had been in business. Did owners have negative cash flow for 45 years? Not on your life. I figure when Luzzatto started claiming this Park was losing money that at full occupancy this Park made $500,000 a year. If that wasn't a fair return, they could have applied for rent increases. No owner ever did. If infrastructure needed improving, they could even get increases approved in advance for proposed improvements, to be able to get financing. No one ever applied. Then Luzzatto came along in 2006, paid $2.5 million for a half interest in the Park--or got an option, we don't really know, he hedges when asked--and suddenly it's losing money, according to him. Coercing people into moving worked at 505 Olympic, so the City thought if they helped, which they have for six years, it would work here. Everyone would move if they claimed if we didn't we'd be left homeless. The City sent six employees at a time, including a City Attorney and the head of the Rent Control Board, to tell us that. It's refreshing to have any developer tell any part of the truth in SM.
Tom March 11, 2013 at 06:50 AM
Funny how the city counsel can allow something to change under certain codes yet when it came to a 60 year tradition with the banning of the nativity scene, there is no moving. Oh ya MONEY!!!! I do agree that the Holiday Inn does need improvement. But why so tall?

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