LONG BEACH — The owner of the 61-year-old Pacific Coast Club has filed two separate applications with the city that, if granted, would allow either 70% restoration of the castle-like club or its demolition to make way for an entirely new project.
Under either plan, a 16-story tower would be constructed, but the design and function would vary greatly between proposals.
The restored club would have hotel suites, luxury condominiums and public rooms while retaining the facade of its distinctive predecessor. The second plan provides for a glass-and-concrete structure that would contain only condos.
The restoration plan filed last week drew criticism from the club's neighbors when it was unveiled three months ago. The restored club would extend about 40 feet farther onto the beach than the old one, and neighbors were concerned about their ocean views.
So now, the city has two plans from which to choose.
An attorney for owner Robert R. Bellevue of Burlingame said the two proposals were submitted simultaneously so city officials would clearly understand that Bellevue hopes to restore the historic club but will be forced to demolish it if the city does not approve his preferred plan.
"We're going to give the city its choice of whether it wants to preserve the club or not," said attorney Charles Greenberg of Long Beach.
"We want everyone to face up to a decision. Do they want to save that building or not? . . . Our preference is to preserve the club," Greenberg said.
Some local leaders criticized Bellevue for submitting two plans at the same time.
Proposals Seen as a Threat
Nancy Latimer, vice chairman of the Planning Commission and a former chairman of the city Cultural Heritage Committee, said she sees the concurrent proposals as "a threat" by Bellevue to destroy one of Long Beach's most-valued historic structures if his restoration plan is not approved.
Bellevue has said that restoration of the club is not economically feasible unless he is able to build on the beach area. He said that the club's main rooms occupy much of the bluff, which comprises the bulk of the 1.55-acre site at 850 E. Ocean Blvd.
But Latimer said she thinks restoration is feasible without beach construction and without losing the club's eight-story turreted tower.
"I know that there are other developers who've shown interest in restoring that building with only a few minor changes," she said. She said she knows one developer who offered to buy the site from Bellevue to do just that.
"If this owner is not interested in that," she added, "then my suggestion is to sell it to someone who is, because the people in Long Beach don't want to tolerate any longer developers from outside our city coming in and buying property to destroy it. . . . I'm asked about the Pacific Coast Club all the time. People care more about that building than any other in the city."
A Record of Restorations
Greenberg said that Bellevue, who has a record of restoring important old buildings, has conducted extensive studies, looking for a way to save the club. But he found no way to keep the aging tower, the lawyer said.
"We don't understand how anyone could preserve the tower as it is and have any economical use of the property," he said.
Reaction to the two Pacific Coast Club proposals has been mixed.
City Councilman Evan Braude, in whose 1st District the club is located, said he would oppose any project that would "adversely impact its neighbors. And right now I'm hearing a hell of a lot of complaints from people who don't want that (beach) area built out any further than it is now."
Keith Kleider, a director of the homeowners group at the adjacent Villa Riviera condominiums, said his board opposes building on the beach but would not oppose Bellevue's alternate plan to build condominiums only on the bluff.
Most negative comment has come from people who have not yet seen Bellevue's final plans, which were filed with the city late Wednesday, Greenberg said.
One longtime leader in local preservationist groups, Luanne Pryor, said she saw the Bellevue proposals Thursday and was impressed with the restoration plan.
"I would love to see that happen," said Pryor, a former Cultural Heritage Committee chairman. "That is what I feel preservation is all about. The add-on is exactly the same architectural style as the Pacific Coast Club. It has the same ambiance. But it adds something else. It (resembles) the great old Virginia Hotel that was here. And the same kind of activity will center around this hotel."
Greenberg said he will continue to meet with community groups and the club's neighbors, trying to convince them of the quality of the restoration plan before it goes to the Planning Commission in November.
On Verge of Demolition
The restoration proposal would retain for public use the cavernous main rooms of the club, which was once elegant but has been vacant and on the verge of demolition for several years.
Under that plan, on the back of the site closest to the ocean, 202 hotel suites would wrap around a towering six-story atrium. On the top nine floors there would be 100 condominiums priced at between $175,000 and $375,000 each, Greenberg said.
Bellevue proposes a two-level hotel parking structure on public land behind the Villa Riviera with access off Shoreline Drive. Such a structure would require city approval. The city and the state Coastal Commission would also have to approve any beach construction. Greenberg said strong city support probably would be necessary to gain Coastal Commission approval.
The alternate 187-condo, bluff-top structure, which has a more block-like design, would not require Coastal Commission approval.