Construction has started on a 15-story hotel on the Los Angeles side of Burton Way, across the street from Beverly Hills where a three-story limit is in effect.
The work began last month after a building permit was issued for the 388-room hotel that will include a helipad and banquet facilities. Developers Robert and Joseph Cohen have put the price tag at $60 million.
The start of construction angered Beverly Hills officials who said they were aware that the project was under consideration but had assumed that Los Angeles would conduct public hearings at which they could oppose it. In Beverly Hills, public hearings are routinely called when large developments are planned.
Hearings were not scheduled, however, because the 15-story hotel was allowable under zoning codes in Los Angeles. "A permit was issued because the project was within code," said Carl Deppe, supervisor of major construction in Los Angeles' Department of Building and Safety.
"The first time I learned that the developers were granted a building permit was when I saw the digging," Mayor Edward I. Brown said. "At the same time the city staff began its investigation. . . . We don't think that a project of that size and magnitude should not be discussed by the people who live around it, and Beverly Hills is around it."
Developer Robert Cohen dismissed the complaints as a "Beverly Hills issue."
"I don't know what that has to do with our side (of Burton Way)," he said. "Los Angeles needs the kind of quality hotel being built there, and the Beverly Hills merchants do too."
Cohen said his plans were proceeding long before the hotel controversy surfaced in Beverly Hills. "Our hotel has been in the planning stages for five years," he said.
Cohen said he asked the Los Angeles Planning Department for a zoning variance last year to move the parking and public entrance of his hotel from Burton Way to Wetherly Drive.
He said he was told that a variance would require an environmental impact report and public hearings. Cohen said he dropped the request and redesigned the project so that it could be built entirely under code and therefore would not require a public hearing.
Beverly Hills Councilwoman Donna Ellman, a critic of Beverly Hills' height limits, predicts that other developers will follow Cohen's example. She said that the failure of voters to approve a referendum last year allowing hotels to exceed the city's height limit in the business triangle will result in more large-scale hotels across the city's border.
'We Have Control'
"Part of the reason why I was so supportive of hotels in our business triangle was to discourage the development of hotels in Los Angeles adjacent to our residential areas," she said. "At least in Beverly Hills we have control over such projects in terms of size and impact on parking and traffic in our residential areas."
She said the city also receives bed tax revenues when hotels are located in Beverly Hills. But on projects like Cohen's, she said, "we will receive all the headaches and none of the benefits."