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$35-Million Hotel Contract Brings Joy to Carson

August 13, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

With a bit of non-alcoholic bubbly, Carson officials toasted the end of years of effort to get a $35-million hotel and office complex near the Community Center.

"To the new hotel," declared Mayor Kay Calas with her glass held high during the celebration in council offices Monday.

Calas, who abstained from voting on the project because she owns land nearby, had just signed a deed conveying a 6.3-acre parcel of land from the city to two developers for $3.3 million.

The property, which is on Carson Street east of the Community Center, is to be the site of a 225-room Ibis hotel and a six-story office building.

"Finally, there will be a place in the center of town where people can stay in a full-service hotel," said Councilman Michael Mitoma.

"We labored so hard to make it come to fruition," said Councilman Tom Mills. "Even an elephant does not take that long to be born."

The city, which has been negotiating with developers since 1984 and saw one group abandon the project in 1985, signed a preliminary agreement with the current group on Feb. 3, 1986, and extended deadlines several times before reaching final agreement Monday.

Demolition of a vacant car-dealership on the site is expected to begin by the end of the month. Spokesmen for Gestec Properties, which is to build the hotel, and the Muller Co., which will construct the office building, said they would open for business a year from now.

"I feel it will help Carson," said Christian Frere, Gestec president.

The city expects to gain 1,000 permanent jobs and $250,000 a year in bed and sales taxes and enhance use of the Carson Community Center's banquet and conference facilities.

"It's a boon to the city," said Councilwoman Sylvia Muise.

The city also will regain most of the $4.2 million it paid for the site in 1984. "It is going to take a financial load off the city," said Mitoma.

And city officials hope the hotel and office building will be a more positive and dignified landmark for the city than the Goodyear blimp launching field and the forests of refinery towers belching smoke and flames that are now Carson's most prominent sights from the Harbor and San Diego freeways.

The two buildings, both about 85 feet high, will be the second tallest in the city, after the Nissan Motor Corp. building, which is 114 feet high.

The Ibis hotel will be part of the Paris-based Accor SA, which Gestec's Frere said is the fourth-largest hotel company in the world, with 550 hotels and 2,000 restaurants. Gestec is a United States development arm of the Accor group.

Aside from its benefits to the city, the project may also be a boost to upcoming political campaigns. The three incumbents who face reelection in the spring elections--Calas, Mayor Pro Tem Vera Robles DeWitt and Michael Mitoma--all will be able to take credit for getting the project started.

"I am happy it is over," Mitoma said. Referring to the developers, he said, "These poor folks have been put through an incredible process, which is typical of the city."

Mills, who is politically aligned with Councilwoman Muise against Mitoma, Calas and DeWitt, said: "I am certain they are going to take credit." Mills, who also favors the project, s aid that DeWitt, as well as Calas, did not take part in several recent votes on the project.

DeWitt, who abstained because of a possible conflict of interest, said: "I'm proud to say I helped facilitate communications among all parties. I can take a little credit for that."

DeWitt's potential conflict arose because the councilwoman, who is a temporary office worker, recently put in a three-month stint as a secretary for the Seeley Co., which is the leasing agent for the office complex. Although City Atty. Glenn Watson said in opinion that she had no conflict, DeWitt decided to wait for the state Fair Political Practices Commission to issue an opinion.

Before working with Gestec Properties and the Muller Co., the city negotiated for three years with the Feinberg Group to erect a Hilton hotel on the site. Feinberg owns a hotel in Long Beach. That deal evaporated in 1985 with city officials saying the Feinberg Group failed to obtain financing and J. Jay Feinberg, president of the development firm, saying that the city did not approve the project on several occasions when financing was in place.

At the meeting Monday, disputes that had held up the deal were forgotten and the conversation turned to lighter matters.

With Gallic chagrin, Frere, who is a Parisian, bemoaned city regulations that prevented him from serving champagne at City Hall.

"We were told some people might become very excited" if the real thing were served, he said. Instead he provided carbonated grape cider imported from France.

"Not artificial champagne," he said. "That is awful stuff."

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