It was 9:20 p.m. and a seven-hour public hearing on the Ma Maison Sofitel Hotel was winding down.
A weary member of the Board of Zoning Appeals rested his chin in the palm of his hand. An attorney for the hotel removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. A water pitcher and coffee pot were empty.
Harald Hahn, president of a group of homeowners who live near the hotel, walked slowly toward the podium. The board had stopped taking public testimony half an hour earlier, and Chairwoman Ilene Olansky reminded Hahn that he could not speak except to ask a question.
'Like to Make a Statement'
"I am not going to ask anything," Hahn replied angrily. "I would like to make a statement."
"No!" Olansky protested. But Hahn continued to talk over her.
"Since it appears that the board is granting everything that the (hotel) wants, we would like to recede from our request to close the terrace at 10 o'clock," said Hahn. His group had requested that the hotel's outdoor restaurant close at that hour to control late-night noise in nearby neighborhoods.
His voice now swelling with bitterness and sarcasm, Hahn sneered, "We . . . feel this (terrace) may be the only place we will be able to enjoy ourselves in this area."
It was the end of a long and disappointing day for Hahn and other homeowners near the $41-million luxury hotel, which is being built across from the Beverly Center mall on Beverly Boulevard.
The board was considering a request from the hotel for a permit to serve alcoholic beverages, and the residents had mounted a formidable campaign to force concessions on parking and other issues from the developers in exchange for the permit.
But by the close of the Tuesday night hearing, the campaign had all but collapsed. The board was about to grant the permit without imposing some key conditions demanded by the homeowners. Most of the 100 residents who had packed the hearing room had gone home. Hahn's mocking capitulation on the terrace issue marked the homeowner's final surrender.
"We want to be at least gracious Americans to our French manager here and allow him to operate this facility," Hahn said, gesturing to the hotel's French operator, who had assured the board that residents' concerns about the 311-room hotel were unfounded.
Olansky and the other board members grumbled.
"Let's get a motion," snapped board member Nikolas Patsaouras, who had apologized to both the developers and homeowners for having to endure the "torture" of such an exhaustive hearing. "In 30 seconds I am leaving. One, two . . . "
The board voted 3 to 1, with Patsaouras dissenting, to grant a conditional use permit to the hotel's developers that allows them to serve alcoholic beverages on the premises.
Reborn Ma Maison
When the 11-story hotel opens in August, it plans to have two restaurants that will serve alcohol, including Patrick Terrail's reborn Ma Maison Restaurant, which closed on Melrose Avenue in 1985.
In granting the permit, board members said they tried to address some neighborhood concerns. They slapped occupancy limits on the hotel's banquet facilities, meeting rooms and restaurants--reducing total capacity by about 40%--and stipulated that developer Sheldon Gordon and his partners provide 118 additional parking spaces within three years. If the developers fail to meet the parking requirement, the board said the hotel will be prohibited from increasing occupancy levels.
The residents had asked for a lot more.
They said the hotel, being built in an area that has been inundated with new commercial projects, will worsen parking and traffic problems in their neighborhoods. They wanted the board either to require the hotel to provide several hundred additional parking spaces or to remove its banquet facilities and meeting rooms. If the developers would not comply, the residents suggested that the request for a liquor permit be denied.
The residents had argued against limitations on occupancy levels, saying they would be impossible to enforce. The hotel is being built to accommodate 1,160 people in its restaurants, banquet facilities and meeting rooms. Even with the board's decision to limit total occupancy to 678 people, the residents worried that the hotel would be tempted to fill to the 1,160 capacity.
Need for Parking Structure
To accommodate cars the hotel would be likely to attract, "a parking structure is the answer," Hahn, president of the South of Burton Way Homeowners, told the board.
Diana Plotkin of the Beverly-Wilshire Homes Assn. said that neighborhoods near the hotel should not be asked to bear parking, traffic and other problems that she said typically come with businesses that serve alcohol. Her impassioned remarks were greeted by applause from the audience, and Patsaouras later praised her oration.