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Four Seasons Finally Opens : Rejected by Beverly Hills, Hotel Is Built Nearby

April 19, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

Canadian-based Four Seasons Hotels has finally realized its decade-old dream with the opening last week of a Beverly Hills-area hostelry.

It's not right in Beverly Hills. Oh, no. It's close--just across the street--in Los Angeles.

Four Seasons gave up opening a hotel in Beverly Hills after fighting a long and expensive battle to build there, a battle one of the world's largest hotel and catering conglomerates might have forgotten.

London-based Trusthouse Forte has announced its intention to build or acquire a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills. (See Hot Property column, Page 4.)

Isadore Sharp, who founded the Four Seasons chain 24 years ago when he was only 28, put aside his elaborate plans to build there after encountering strong opposition from slow-growth advocates and other hotel interests, led by the late, powerful Hernando Courtright, principal owner of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, across the street from the then-proposed Four Seasons site.

Referendum Defeated

The battle eventually led to a referendum in 1984 that would have changed the zoning to allow the Four Seasons to be built. The referendum was defeated with the help of about $60,000 from Courtright and his group.

Sharp's Toronto-headquartered company also spent about $60,000 on the referendum and plenty more on architectural plans and required government approvals. By 1982, the hotel firm already had spent $1.25 million on the project that would never be developed.

The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles is very different from the proposed Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills. For one thing, the Four Seasons Los Angeles is owned by brothers Robert and Joseph Cohen and their sons, Ernie and Eddie Cohen. The Beverly Hills project would have been owned by the Four Seasons company itself.

The design was also changed and scaled down from 350 rooms to 287, including 112 suites. The Four Seasons Los Angeles was designed by Gin Wong Associates of Los Angeles. The planned Four Seasons Beverly Hills was designed by Gene Kohn of Kohn, Pedersen & Fox Associates of New York in association with architect Dan Dworsky of Beverly Hills.

More Traditional Design

Kohn's design was raked, rising from seven or eight stories to a height of 160 feet, about 16 floors. Wong's 16-story, 166-foot-high, rectangular design is more traditional.

The locations are also dissimilar. The one in Beverly Hills would have been on the northeast corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, a busy, commercial intersection. The one in Los Angeles--on Doheny Drive between Burton Way and 3rd Street--is in a quiet residential neighborhood.

Because of its unusual design and difficult site and building restrictions, the Beverly Hills project probably would have cost more to construct if built at the same time as the one in Los Angeles. In 1982, Sharp estimated its cost at $200,000 a room, or $70 million for the whole hotel. The Los Angeles project amounted to $110 million, but that's at today's prices.

Both projects would have had one thing in common, though--Four Seasons as the hotel operator. Four Seasons owns and/or manages 22 hotels throughout Canada, the United States and England. It started with the Inn on the Park in Toronto. Now it runs such famous hotels as the Pierre in New York and Inn on the Park in London.

Known for Services

The Four Seasons chain is known for its services, and the new hotel in Los Angeles is no exception. As Charles Ferraro, the hotel's general manager, explained it, "We anticipate guests' needs."

The hotel has a full-time seamstress instead of a sewing kit. It has a clock radio, remote-control television, refrigerated mini-bar and multi-line telephones in every guest room, and a TV, telephone, hair dryer and terry robe in every bath.

It has non-smoking and specially designed handicapped-accessible rooms on request.

It has a news stand, in-house florist, laundry and valet, twice-daily complimentary shoeshines, translation and twice-daily maid services and a concierge.

It has a swimming pool, whirlpool, exercise facilities and massages.

Designed by Intradesign of Los Angeles, the hotel interiors were patterned after the grandeur of a European manor house, with public areas featuring marble floors and European art and antiques.

All this for a nightly rate of $175 to $1,500.

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