Competing hotel interests pumped almost $500,000 into the campaigns for and against a Beverly Hills hotel referendum, making that ballot measure the most expensive election in the city's history, according to final campaign disclosure statements filed with the city clerk.
The statements released by the clerk show that most of the contributions in the November election came from hotel interests fighting for a place in Beverly Hill's business district. The voters rejected Proposition F by a 2-1 margin, 9,935 to 4,897.
The referendum would have allowed hotel developers to exceed the city's 45-foot height limit to build in a triangular area bounded by Canon Drive and Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.
There were three major committees in the campaign. The Yes on F Committee, which supported the measure, spent $286,000. The Citizens Against Proposition F spent $195,500. And Residents United to Stop High-Rise Hotels listed $9,200 in small donations from individuals.
The Yes on F Committee received most of its money from hotel chains with plans to relocate in Beverly Hills--Four Seasons Ltd. of Toronto, the Atlanta-based parent company of Ritz Carlton hotels and TKL East of Troy, Mich. The parent company of the Beverly Wilshire hotel provided the bulk of the money to Citizens Against Proposition F.
The cost of Proposition F surpassed the April council election in which seven candidates spent a record $350,000 competing for three seats. In that election Charlotte Spadaro was the first candidate to spend more than $100,000 in a council race.
The cost of the Proposition F election prompted calls from some residents for limits on campaign spending.
"It is the latest example of how politics and politicians are getting carried away with themselves," said Ken Goldman, a spokesman for the Residents United to Stop High-Rise Hotels. "How can we expect to encourage people to take an active role when they are looking at campaigns of $100,000 and up?"
Shortly after the election, Goldman asked the City Council to enact campaign spending limits. But several council members questioned whether limits would be constitutional.
"Any campaign today is going to be expensive," said Mayor Annabelle Heiferman. "I don't think we could legally do anything about that if we wanted to. But we are not alone in this problem. Throughout the country it is very costly to run for office."
Councilman Benjamin Stansbury said the spending helped publicize the issue. "The community responded with an outstanding turnout and in that sense the process was served well," he said.
Stansbury said he has not seen a plan to limit campaign spending that is fair to all parties.