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Hermosa Hotel Project Back to Square One; Quashed by Tie

November 01, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

The off-again, on-again hotel proposed for the only vacant beachfront property in Hermosa Beach is off again.

An appeal court last week threw out one of the votes cast in a 1985 referendum on the controversial project, which at last count had been approved by one vote. The resulting tie means the project is dead--unless the developers appeal further.

The city-owned site has been a source of controversy almost since the former Biltmore Hotel was condemned in 1965. Five elections have been held on various development proposals since 1972, including a high-rise hotel and a time-share project. Three of the developments were soundly rejected by voters and the fourth--a hotel proposed by David Greenwood and Joe Langlois--was rejected by 19 votes.

The two developers scaled down their hotel proposal and took a similar plan back to the voters six months later, in June, 1985. Initial results of that election showed that the hotel lost by four votes.

Margin Reduced

Three days later, the opponents' margin was reduced to just one vote when City Clerk Kathleen Midstokke counted 10 challenged ballots and one overlooked vote.

A recount nearly two weeks later raised that margin to two votes--2,400 against and 2,398 for.

In September, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Philip M. Saeta tentatively decided to count two yes votes not counted by the city clerk, making the election results a tie--meaning that the hotel still could not be built.

Two weeks later, the judge made final his earlier ruling and also decided that Midstokke incorrectly counted a no absentee ballot, which gave hotel proponents a one-vote victory--2,400 to 2,399.

Opponents appealed, and last week the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that one vote should not be counted because the voter--Councilman Tony DeBellis--did not vote in the precinct where he resided.

Mailed Change of Address

"I feel badly for the proponents of the hotel for losing--no matter whose vote it was," DeBellis said. He said he mailed a change of address to county voting officials after he moved--about two months before the election.

When he was not notified of a new polling place, he called City Hall and was told to vote at his former polling place, he said.

The court "said he didn't take enough steps to change" his address, said City Atty. James P. Lough.

Langlois and Greenwood could not be reached for comment. They are expected to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case, but Lough and Sheila Donahue Miller, attorney for the hotel opponents, said they doubt that the higher court will accept the case.

"I'm absolutely delighted. I've lived in Hermosa absolutely all my life," Miller said. "I think the community has spoken that they don't want it. . . . "Anybody who fails to vote and thinks their vote does not count, this is certainly a good example that it does."

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