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11th-Hour Offer Fails to Save Plan for Murdock Hotel

April 23, 1987|DAVID FERRELL | Times Staff Writer

Developer David H. Murdock's plan to construct a 14-story, 215-room luxury hotel near Westwood Village was unanimously defeated Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council, climaxing more than three years of bitter controversy over the project.

The 12-0 vote came without council debate despite a last-minute offer by Murdock officials to scale down the project.

Company officials said they were willing to build a 13-story, 175-room project, but the proposal was described as too much, too late by Westwood-area Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.

Yaroslavsky, who once supported a hotel project on the site, said increased traffic and commercial development in the area have made the proposal less desirable.

"To the best of my knowledge, I don't think they can make anything work" on the site, Yaroslavsky said after the vote, which served to rescind a series of zoning approvals granted last year by the city Planning Commission.

No More Compromise

Those approvals were designed to encourage a compromise, 118-room project, but Yaroslavsky said the compromise no longer seems appropriate for the half-acre site at Wilshire Boulevard and Gayley Avenue.

Neither Murdock officials nor community groups were willing to accept the compromise, and city planners are now making revisions to Westwood zoning plans that would make even the 118-room project too large, Yaroslavsky said.

"There is no point leaving any ambiguity about it," the councilman said in an interview. "The new Westwood plan is coming forward. That is the plan for the future of Westwood--not some (proposal) initiated nearly four years ago and modified along the way."

Murdock, however, refused to concede that the project was dead. Asked whether the company had any further options, the powerful financier said he hopes to persuade the council to change its position.

"We've been working 3 1/2 years trying to build this hotel, which is very badly needed in Westwood, and we do not plan on giving up," Murdock said in an interview. "We worked on this site because, early on, we had Councilman Yaroslavsky's support. We had assurance . . . that we had a good project.

Won't Give Up

"We don't plan on giving up that easily. I intend to continue pushing forward on this site."

Yet Murdock said it may be impossible to further reduce the size of the project without jeopardizing the hotel's financial feasibility.

The firm's executive vice president, Gerald Tyler, told council members that a recent marketing report examining the Planning Commission's 118-room proposal concluded that the project "was not economically practical . . . and probably would not be undertaken by any developer."

Tyler and architect Arnold Savrann argued that a 175-room project, containing mostly luxury suites, a four-level underground garage and built without banquet facilities, would form an appealing southern gateway to Westwood Village. The project was planned to be built of brick and granite on a site now occupied by a car-rental office and a gas station.

Since launching the project in late 1983, Murdock has made numerous changes in the design to make it more appealing to residents, Tyler said. The firm reduced the number of rooms, originally set at 250, and limited the height to 154 feet--the size of a neighboring office tower, he said.

Tyler also noted that city planners consider a hotel preferable to an office project, which could on the site under current zoning, because hotels tend to generate less rush-hour traffic.

"The hotel would stimulate the economy, improve property values . . . and bring needed hotel rooms to Westwood," he told council members. "If a hotel is a desirable use (for the site), then this hotel should be built."

Yaroslavsky said he is no longer concerned that developers would build an office tower on the site because the new Westwood zoning plans--due for adoption this summer--will address limits on development there.

In urging council members to turn down the project, Yaroslavsky cited the increasing traffic congestion and high-rise office development that have triggered the two zoning plans--one for Westwood Village and another for greater Westwood.

"Since 1983, when this project was proposed, a lot of things have changed . . . in Westwood," Yaroslavsky reminded other council members. "Not only is the community against (this project), but our Planning Department is against it, our Planning Commission is against it, and our own (planning) consultant is against it.

"It's a grand slam, across the board."

Residents who fought to limit the project to no more than three stories were "gratified" by the council's action but concerned that planning commissioners even considered allowing a 118-room proposal, said Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood.

"The position of Friends of Westwood is, take what you're entitled to, but don't ask for more," Lake said. "The Planning Commission and the City Council are just starting to understand that more is not always better."

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