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Santa Monica Approves 200-Bed Hostel

February 26, 1987|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday approved construction of a 200-bed hostel on a downtown site adjoining the city's oldest building, the Rapp Saloon.

The $3.35-million project, which is planned for 2nd Street between Broadway and Santa Monica Boulevard, was unanimously approved last month by the Planning Commission.

Opponents of the proposal were led by Louise Gabriel of the Santa Monica Historical Society and David M. Shell of Santa Monicans for Reasonable Downtown Growth. They objected to the location of the four-story hostel and said that the old saloon, a city landmark that occupies about a quarter of the 15,000-square-foot parcel, should be turned over to the Historical Society.

Hostel officials plan to renovate the saloon and use it as a meeting room and lounge for guests. The Rapp, built in 1875, was once Santa Monica's city hall. Construction of the hostel will begin this year and may be completed by summer of 1988 or 1989, said hostel officials.

The hostel, like other facilities run by American Youth Hostels, will offer lodging for about $10 a night, said Ken Genser, hostel western regional development coordinator. Hostel patrons must have a membership in American Youth Hostels, which costs $20 a year for adults.

Hostel rules forbid its 100,000 paid members from staying in any one of the more than 300 dormitory-style hostels in the United States for more than three nights in a row. And as with American Youth Hostels other locations, the Santa Monica hostel will be closed during the day.

The hostel plan was approved last year by the California Coastal Commission, which also agreed to give $730,000 to the project from a fund set aside to aid in the construction of low-cost lodgings.

The council voted 5 to 1 to approve the hostel after a lengthy public hearing during which hostel opponents criticized the lack of on-site parking and the Planning Department's decision not to require an environmental impact report. for the project. Critics also voiced fears that the hostel would not attract affluent patrons who would spend money in Santa Monica.

Mayor James P. Conn did not attend the council meeting.

Shell said a city consultant's estimate that the hostel would attract a maximum of 50 cars a night was too low. "I suggest that 80 parking spaces would need to be available," he told the council.

However, hostel officials said that most of their customers would not arrive by car, which was why they selected the 2nd Street site, which is near 16 bus routes.

Councilman William H. Jennings cast the sole vote against the project. He had urged the council to reject the hostel plan and require American Youth Hostels to conduct additional studies of the traffic and parking impact from the project.

But Councilman Dennis Zane said the hostel would generate less traffic than an office building or luxury hotel project in the same location.

The council acted after discussing City Atty. Robert M. Myers' legal opinion stating that the city could not require the developers to include on-site parking because the development is within the downtown parking assessment district.

"It seems to me that it is quite clear that legally the city cannot do anything to require parking," said council member Christine E. Reed.

All businesses within the district are required to pay an annual fee to fund public parking garages in the area. One garage is located directly across the street from the hostel site.

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