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OPINION: Miramar Go-ahead Right Thing to Do

By Paul Rosenstein

April 30, 2012 -- The City Council took the appropriate action last week by moving forward the process of evaluating the redevelopment of the Miramar hotel.  The City will now review the hotel’s proposal, explore alternatives and analyze the impacts -- like traffic, parking, design, massing, shadows, views, economics and community benefits. (Santa Monica's Miramar Hotel Redevelopment Gets Initial Go-ahead," April 25, 2012)

Some of the nearby residents have expressed concerns about the views from their homes, the impact on property values and the affordable housing that is proposed (across 2nd Street from the hotel).  The view impacts will be studied, and property values may well rise with a rebuilt hotel. 

Views issues can be tricky to assess -- who knows how long it will be until the two-story office buildings across the street are redeveloped.  Frankly, if anything is out of scale in the area, it is the 17-story Huntley House hotel.  

It is disappointing, but not surprising, that there are fears about the affordable housing proposal.  Virtually all affordable housing in the city has been met with unfounded fears by some neighbors.  Yet, the care we give to these buildings has made them assets, not detriments, to their neighborhoods. 

In this area, there are successful buildings on 3rd, 4th and 5th streets (in pretty much the same location north of Wilshire).  Housing like this Downtown helps to minimize traffic and parking impacts.  However, there should be more than the proposed 12 units and they should be for families (who need them the most).

The hotel and the union need to be congratulated for their agreement that humanely protects the workers during the construction phase.  Employees who want to return will get their old jobs back and maintain health benefits during the transition (the union is confident that it can get them temporary jobs in other hotels). 

The Miramar will continue to be a union hotel.  This is quite a contrast to the Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel (among others) who fired their long-time unionized employees, rebuilt and reopened with a new non-union workforce.

A surprising number of the 80-plus speakers at the public hearing sounded like amateur architects critiquing the proposed design.  Everyone, including the Miramar, says they want a world-class design, but it will be quite a challenge to get any consensus on one.

One of the features of the proposal is to provide a grand lawn on Wilshire and Ocean Avenue that will compliment Palisades Park and open to the public’s view the magnificent Moreton Bay Fig tree (that is largely hidden now).  The Council will have to make sure that it will truly be a community benefit.

Hopefully, this process will enable the Miramar to continue to be an important asset to the city. 

Paul Rosenstein is a former mayor of Santa Monica.

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