In what Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter predicted will be "the wave of the future," the developers of a proposed 515-room hotel near Los Angeles International Airport have agreed to separate recyclable items from the hotel's trash in exchange for city approval of the project.
Galanter, who represents the airport area, said the recycling program is the first imposed on a large commercial development in the city. The city has run a voluntary recycling program in several Westside residential neighborhoods since 1985, and early this year expanded that program to portions of the San Fernando Valley.
"We have worked out what we think is really a landmark mitigation measure," Galanter said Tuesday. "This hotel is going to become the first fully recycling hotel that we know of anywhere in the country. They are going to recycle their own stuff so that they won't have to put it in your landfill."
Paul E. Kuster, vice president of corporate development for Ramada Inc., said the Arizona-based hotel chain agreed to the recycling requirement as part of a deal arranged over the past few months with Galanter's office.
In August, Galanter wrote a letter to the city's Planning Commission objecting to the height of the proposed 11-story hotel, saying it should be at least one story lower.
Although she did not formally oppose the project, she wrote that her district "needs 270 residential units far more than it needs another 500 hotel rooms," and she complained the height could pose safety problems because of the project's proximity to the airport.
As part of the deal with Ramada, Galanter dropped her objections to the hotel's height and endorsed Ramada's bid for zoning and height-limitation changes needed to build the project.
Rick Ruiz, a spokesman for Galanter, said the councilwoman, a self-professed environmentalist who was elected last summer on a slow-growth platform, still objects to large commercial developments such as the proposed hotel.
He said she compromised on the Ramada project, however, because it was far along in the planning process when she took office. A determination last year by the Federal Aviation Administration that an 11-story project would not pose safety hazards at the airport also contributed to Galanter's decision to back off, he said.
"If the FAA says it is safe, it is more productive for us to concentrate on something that we can have an effect on," Ruiz said. "The city is facing an imminent solid-waste disposal crisis. The city's landfills are going to be filled within the next decade, and mandatory recycling is going to be necessary."
Also as part of the deal, Galanter agreed to side with Ramada against city planning officials over a five-foot buffer zone required on the north side of the property.
City officials wanted the landscaped buffer zone to separate the hotel from the street, but Ramada said that would push the hotel's parking garage too close to a rear alley. Galanter said it was important to preserve the area along the alley since it has been designated for recycling bins.
The councilwoman believes that "the hotel's willingness to take part in what we think will really be the wave of the future in large commercial developments . . . more than compensates for not backing the structure up an additional five feet," Galanter told her colleagues on the council's Planning and Environment Committee, which unanimously approved the deal on Tuesday. The City Council is expected to approve the project late this month.
Gary Petersen, president of Ecolo-Haul, a Pacific Palisades recycling company, said he has been working with Ramada to come up with a recycling program for the proposed hotel, which will be built at Airport Boulevard and 96th Street in Westchester.
An existing two-story 149-room Ramada Inn--built 35 years ago and believed to be the first hotel at the airport--will be torn down to make way for the development.
Petersen, who has worked with the city on its residential recycling program in Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and West Los Angeles, estimated that one-third of the trash from the hotel will be able to be recycled.
The agreement with the city requires the hotel to separate glass, metal and paper from the hotel's garbage and glass from its restaurant and bar. Items that cannot be recycled will be hauled away by a commercial disposal company.