DOWNEY — City Council member Diane Boggs recalled the first time she noticed the color of the city's new eight-story hotel at Firestone Boulevard and Dolan Avenue.
"I looked out of the third-floor window at City Hall and I was stunned," she said.
"I said, 'Oh my God, that can't be the color of the hotel. That must be a cement sealer.' But when they took down the scaffolding, I knew we were in trouble."
The exact color of the new Embassy Suites Hotel depends on the eye of the beholder.
To developer Joe Harris, Embassy vice president, the Mediterranean-style hotel is an attractive salmon color that is "highly visible, highly recognizable" and has been used on other Embassy hotels under construction or already built in Anaheim, El Segundo, Texas, Arizona and Florida.
The color is featured in Embassy's nationwide advertising campaign for the hotels and, Harris told council members Tuesday, the salmon shade is "as important to us as McDonald's Golden Arches are to them."
To Boggs and other startled city officials, however, the color is too visible. In fact, as far as Boggs is concerned, the color is a downright "offensive" shade of reddish orange that detracts from the earthy beige and brown tones of the city's Civic Center, which is next to the hotel.
"It's a hot color, it's not a comfortable color and what I object to is that it stands out like a sore thumb, which is exactly what it was intended to do," Boggs said.
Angry over the salmon paint job, city officials dusted off plans submitted by the hotel developer to the city in 1983 and discovered a rendering of the hotel that depicted it in beige. In April, city officials sent a letter to Harris, informing him that the salmon color was not approved by the city of Downey.
After conferring with city officials, the developer applied to the city's design review board for permission to retain the salmon color. But in May, acting on a city report that found the color "extremely bold" and out of character with the Civic Center, the board voted 4 to 0 to deny the request.
With the $13-million, 220-room hotel scheduled to open in October, Harris said he found himself faced with a repainting job that he estimated would cost as much as $50,000. The developer appealed to the Planning Commission, but in July, the commission upheld the design review board's decision on a 2-2 vote.
That left Harris with one last chance, an appeal Tuesday to the City Council. On a 4-1 vote, with Boggs dissenting, the council agreed to let the hotel retain its current color.
"I will admit orange is not my favorite color, but what my favorite color is isn't the issue here, " Boggs said in an interview.
"The issue is how it got to be that color," she said. "It wasn't like it was a shade or two different from the rendering. It was a different color. I think they (the developer) pulled a fast one."
Harris could not be reached for comment.
Grown Used to Color
Council member Bob Cormack, who had previously spoken against the color, apparently spoke for the majority of council members when he said that he had grown used to it.
"Even my wife advised me she liked it, and that's a strong pressure on a politician," Cormack said during the meeting.
Explained Louise Cormack after the meeting, "I didn't like it at first either. It was too orangy and too bright. But since then it has faded a little and now I think it's pretty."