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Santa Monica Residents React to New Plans for Fairmont Miramar Redevelopment

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 22, 2013 -- New plans for the Miramar unveiled Thursday drew a wide range of reactions from Santa Monica residents, but failed to allay fears that the ambitious redevelopment project remains too large and will generate more traffic.

The redevelopment, which includes a 261-foot, 21-story tower running east to west through the middle of the 5-acre property, came after City Council members and Planning Commissioners agreed that the previous design was too monolithic and would create a “canyon” effect along Second Street, north of Wilshire Boulevard.

The plan was unveiled Thursday in articles in the local press, as a newspaper insert in the LA Times and at a meeting for invited guests held at the Miramar.

Council member Kevin McKeown, the only council member who voted against negotiating a development agreement last April, said he still opposes the project, which includes as many as 120 condominium units in the new Ocean Tower.

“I have heard the new design retains the oversized and unnecessary condo development, while shifting some of the mass into an unacceptably dominating central tower,” McKeown said.

“This may be their fantasy project, but disdain for community concerns will be harder to mask as we enter into the evaluative Environmental Impact Report phase,” he added.

Save Santa Monica, a coalition opposed to the Miramar, issued a press release Thursday that echoed the group’s concerns with the original proposal.

“These hugely controversial plans would bring a massive Las Vegas-style condominium/hotel/retail project to a transitional, coastal neighborhood of Santa Monica,” Save Santa Monica officials said.

“The good news is that the process is just beginning, and our coalition is gearing up to be active in ensuring that the City holds this developer accountable to the laws and to our community,” they said.

The Miramar's neighbor, the 19-story Huntley Hotel, has opposed the redesign project since its inception.

Huntley General Manager Manju Raman got a chance to view the new plans Thursday, but felt that she needed more information before commenting.

The previous design, with a 12-story building along Second Street to Wilshire Boulevard, would have blocked the views from the Huntley Hotel, located directly behind the Miramar.

“It's never just been about the views,” said Raman. “It's more to do with traffic.”

Alan Epstein, the lead negotiator for Miramar owner MSD Capital, maintains that the project would not generate any new traffic.

The new proposal reduces the number of hotel rooms from 302 to 280 and decreases the amount of meeting space, offsetting new traffic generated by residents of the new condos, Epstein said.

Not everyone is convinced.

“My main concern has always been the size” of the project, said Bob Gurfield, a resident of the neighborhood surrounding the hotel. He said he was disappointed that developers didn't consider a smaller project.

“It's through the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that we'll have to force them to consider a smaller project,” he said.

The EIR will analyze the impacts the project, as proposed, would have on the neighborhood, including the impact on traffic.

“Show us an alternative with no condominiums and what's the impact of that,” Gurfield said.

Some residents maintain that the proposed 484 on-site parking spaces won't be enough to accommodate future residents, hotel workers and guests.

Currently, the Miramar has 167 on-site parking spaces.

Members of Friends of the Miramar say the project addresses the concerns expressed by its opponents.

“I think that they put their listening ears on and did everything they could to make everybody happy,” said Jenna Linnekens, a member of the Friends steering committee.

The new plans retain nearly an acre of open space at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue proposed in the original plans, supporters noted.

In addition, by removing the 12-story building along Second Street, the new design would open up the property, Linnekens said.

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