The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District's 2-year-old proposal to build a $25-million hotel and office complex on the site of its administrative headquarters has drawn unexpected opposition from a group of lawyers who want a courthouse and law offices on the property.
Howard W. Rhodes, representing the group of about a dozen attorneys, labeled the school district's proposal as "ill advised" and asked the Santa Monica Planning Commission Monday night to delay its decision on the proposed hotel project for 60 days to give his group time to come up with an alternative plan.
"We can't say there are funds available, but in 60 days we will get serious indications whether the money is available," he told the commission. "We could use 10 additional courtrooms in that area."
The district hopes to put a seven-story, 255-bed hotel and office complex on the valuable 2.25-acre parcel on 4th Street across from the Santa Monica Superior Court.
The attorneys want the county to take over the property and build additional courtroom facilities to relieve overcrowding.
School Supt. George Caldwell said, however, that the district had already considered that option, but was told last fall by representatives of Supervisor Deane Dana that the county did not have the $2 million to $3 million it would take to lease the property.
The proposed hotel is a joint venture between the school district and Midis Properties Ltd./City Developers Inc. of Westlake.
The developer, in exchange for a long-term lease arrangement, has agreed to build a new $2-million school headquarters and pay almost $1 million a year in rents on three properties--the administrative office, a former maintenance yard at 900 Colorado Ave. and a former alternative high school at 1651 16th St.
The Planning Commission was to make a final decision on the district's proposal Monday night, but decided to wait until April 7 to allow more public testimony.
The commission said the April 7 meeting would focus on parking and traffic. The delay angered school officials.
"We can't afford to wait three to five years for the county to get its act together," said school board member Connie Jenkins. "We are extremely upset about this. They are second-guessing a publicly elected body about what is best for the children."
School board member Mary Kay Kamath said that the district needs the hotel to remain economically sound. "There has been criticism about the shadow that the hotel will cast on the athletic playing field of the high school," she said. "Well, the shadow cast on the district by not allowing a hotel would be far greater."
Superior Court Judge Raymond Choate spoke against the hotel at the meeting. "The county would be an ideal tenant and would be better suited for the property than a seven-story hotel," he said.
However, Choate said the district might have to wait. "A glacier moves at blinding speed when compared with county government."