The hotel building boom of the '80s has largely bypassed Seal Beach, hoteliers apparently preferring to jump across the Los Angeles County line to Long Beach.
But the county's northernmost beach city did score one victory when the 71-room Palm hotel opened in May--the first hotel to be built in Seal Beach in a decade and only the third hotel in town. It joins the 24-room Bay Motel and the 23-room Seal Beach Inn & Gardens.
While the Palm more than doubled the number of hotel rooms in the small beach city, it started life frightened and alone, an independent among chain-operated hotels throughout the county whose names--and advertising campaigns--spread across the land.
The Palm wanted a noteworthy parent.
Joins Reservation System
Early last month, it got one.
Minneapolis-based Radisson Hotel Corp. came along and, through a franchising agreement, wrapped its corporate arm around the Palm, welcoming it to a family of about 100 hotels and plugging it into Radisson's national reservation system.
"Having that name (Radisson Inn) raises the average daily room rate $7 to $8 a day," said Jerald Oates, general manager of the hotel. Single rates now range from $65 to $75.
For right now, the Radisson name is displayed on a banner in front of the $66-million hotel because a permanent sign hasn't arrived.
Oates describes the Radisson Inn Seal Beach as a "corporate-type hotel. The appeal is basically to the vice president," he said. "The engineer will stay at the airport hotel."
Rooms are done in "currently trendy colors, like mauve . . . warm colors," Oates said. "And we have every cable TV setup we could get."
A restaurant will be open in three to four weeks, he said, designed as a "street cafe" adjacent to the swimming pool.
Lest any guest go hungry until then, the hotel has worked out a unique arrangement with five nearby restaurants. After verifying the guest's credit, the hotel issues a card the restaurants can use to charge meals to the guest's hotel room.
When its restaurant is opened, the hotel will add 15 workers to its 25-person staff, Oates said.
To counter the bane of every business-oriented hotel--empty rooms on weekends--the Radisson has arranged several weekend packages, which include trips to Santa Catalina Island and other perks.
Because it is just a few hundred yards from the beach, the hotel anticipates substantial tourist traffic in the summer. The August occupancy rate was 80%, Oates said.
Site Being Studied
That percentage apparently intrigues another major hotel chain, which is exploring a 2.7-acre site in Seal Beach--on Pacific Coast Highway near the Long Beach border. City officials will not identify the company but say its executives are "crunching their numbers." A formal proposal has not yet been made.
Another potential site for a hotel in Seal Beach is a 3.5-acre site on 1st Street overlooking the San Gabriel River. The land, site of an old power plant, is owned by the City of Los Angeles and controlled by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Several hotel chains have expressed interest in the property, but no bids have been accepted because the power plant--built in the early 1920s and closed in 1966--has some pipes wrapped in asbestos, a heat- and flame-resistant material that is believed to cause cancer.
A decision to either sell or lease the land to a developer has been "put on hold pending a clean bill of health," explained Lee Moussafir, the DWP's chief real estate officer.
Clearing the pipes and the old foundation will take several months, he said, and the site still might not "pencil out" economically for a developer because of height restrictions in Seal Beach.
So, for the present, Radisson gives Seal Beach its only "name" hotel.