Opponents of high-rise hotel construction in Beverly Hills are seeking to prevent a developer from building a 200-room luxury hotel because they say he would exceed the city's height limit by two feet.
The Belvedere Corp. has proposed a four-story hotel on a city block bounded by Santa Monica and Charleville boulevards and Durant and Lasky drives.
The city code requires builders to adhere to a three-story or 45-foot height limit, whichever is less. The code allows four stories when the ground floor is called a basement and is only eight feet above street level.
Belvedere plans to use the first story as a basement, as allowed. It needs city approval for the project because it is two feet over the 45-foot limit.
The environmental review board ruled on June 5 that the additional two feet would not have a negative impact on the community. Opponents do not agree and have appealed the decision. They also consider the basement clause a loophole in the code.
The City Council has agreed to conduct a special hearing on the matter on July 9.
Pete Kempf, a spokesman for the developer, said that the hotel could have been built within the 45-foot limit had it not been for a Planning Commission requirement that the parking entrance be moved from Durant to Santa Monica Boulevard to lessen impact of traffic congestion. He said that the two additional feet are needed because the property on the Santa Monica Boulevard side is higher.
"I wish I knew why they (opponents) are against the hotel, but I really don't know what motivates them," Kempf said. "We are a tad off the code. It is an odd position to be in. We were pushed to the Santa Monica (Boulevard) side where we don't want to be and now they are saying that we don't meet the code. I wish they would leave us on Durant."
The controversy over the additional two feet threatens to reopen the debate over hotel development. Last year voters overwhelmingly defeated a referendum to allow developers to build above the three-story limit in the city's business triangle.
Muriel Finerman, a resident who opposes hotels in Beverly Hills, filed the appeal on the Belvedere proposal along with 14 other residents.
"We met with the Belvedere people for almost a year and we were constantly told this would be a three-story hotel," Finerman said. "I don't like being lied to, I don't like being deceived."
Betty Harris, another opponent of the plan, said, "If the city does not do something to stop this, there are people who are willing to have another ballot referendum."
On Tuesday council members expressed differing opinions on the issue.
Councilwoman Annabelle Heiferman said that the vote on the referendum has convinced her to stay within the three-story limit. "As far as I am concerned," she said, "the voice of the people has been heard and it will be upheld. We have a three-story height limit in the city.
Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro agreed. "If we allow them to build a four-story (hotel), it would set a precedent and everybody would be trying to do the same thing. Either we have rules or we don't have rules," she said.
"Twenty-four inches, just 24 inches and the reason why they are asking for it is because they were asked to move there to accommodate the neighborhood," said Councilwoman Donna Ellman, sympathizing with the developer.
Ellman said that the opponents were seeking to create a political issue with which to pressure the council in the April, 1986, municipal elections.
In recent months the city has received three proposals for hotel expansion or development:
- DMG Ltd. asked for council approval to build a nine-story hotel on Bedford Drive, but was told it would have to stay with the three-story limit.
- The Beverly Wilshire applied to add nine hotel suites to its hotel but withdrew the proposal.
- The Beverly Hilton has recently asked to add 136 rooms and 355 parking spaces to its hotel facility. An environmental impact report is being prepared.