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Councilmembers Fear Conversion of Santa Monica Beachfront Hotels to Condos


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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 23, 2017 -- Nearly 30 years ago Santa Monica voters approved Proposition S that prohibited further construction of hotels and restaurants along the city’s coast.

City Councilmembers now fear the “control on coastal land use intensification” created by the measure is threatened by the potential conversion of hotels into luxury condos.

Mayor Ted Winterer along with Councilmembers Tony Vazquez and Kevin McKeown have placed an item on the Tuesday council meeting agenda requesting City staff “explore ways” to prevent that from happening.

“International investment trends show multinational corporations gobbling up American hospitality facilities, sometimes to cash them out by conversion of hotels into luxury condos,” wrote McKeown in an email to The Lookout.

He continued, “When Santa Monicans passed Prop S in 1990, we gave a clear signal as to our intent to limit further transformation of our beach.”

At the moment, this scenario happening in Santa Monica appears to be hypothetical.

McKeown did not mention any specific conversion attempts on the horizon, although The Lookout did not ask if there were, nor is this publication aware of any.

Prop S was brought to the ballot for the 1990 election by a group of slow-growth activists as the Save Our Beach Initiative.

Its passage that year created the Beach Overlay District west of Ocean Avenue, where prohibited entities include hotels, motels and restaurants larger than 2,000 square feet and higher than one story.

Prohibited entities existing since before the election are classified as “legal nonconforming” by the City Attorney’s Office, according to a 2012 memo, with reconstruction of them allowed.

The Beach Overlay District does not address condos or any other type of housing, although it states “any [allowable] use not specifically listed” is prohibited.

The listed allowable uses are open space, public beaches, parks, incidental park structures, gardens, playgrounds, recreational buildings, and recreational areas.

McKeown told The Lookout that the existing hotels “provide solid middle-class jobs and reliable revenue to pay for City services,” but that luxury condos would not do this.

Instead, McKeown wrote, they would “diminish the visitor-serving facilities encouraged by California’s Coastal Act.”

He added, “Multinational corporations might profit, while luxury condo owners would further gentrify our beachfront, and our Santa Monica community would be the loser.

"We need to explore ways to control what international money can do with our beach.”


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