Homeowners on Bentley Avenue in West Los Angeles have won the support of City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky in their fight against the proposed expansion of a hotel on Sepulveda Boulevard.
Yaroslavsky favored an earlier plan to renovate the Best Western Royal Palace hotel, but he said he decided to oppose the latest version after neighbors protested the owner's request to increase the number of rooms from 55 to 87.
"I have no problem with him renovating it or replacing it with up-to-date facilities, but . . . expanding it by 30% is just out of the question," Yaroslavsky said after meeting with homeowners Monday night.
"You're backed up against single-family homes there," Yaroslavsky said. "It would be detrimental to those homes and just inappropriate."
John Beccaria, owner of the hotel, said he will pursue his effort to win approval from the city despite Yaroslavsky's opposition.
"He's running for mayor, so he has to do what he has to do to get his votes," Beccaria said. "Too bad he didn't choose to oppose the big projects that went up in the area in the last 10 years that generated all the traffic and problems that we have now."
Beccaria said merely renovating the property would cost too much unless he could increase revenue by adding extra rooms at the facility, which a sign declares to be "the finest little hotel in the world."
A hearing before a zoning administrator on Beccaria's request for a permit to build up to 87 rooms is set for the West Los Angeles City Hall at 2 p.m. on Aug. 29.
The hotel, one block south of Pico Boulevard, was first expanded four years ago when Beccaria bought two small apartment buildings just south of the brick-faced main building and converted them to hotel use on the eve of the 1984 Olympic Games.
Neighbors complained of late-night noise from the outdoor swimming pool and spa, both of which are at the back of the hotel property, next to their back yards. They also said children have been shocked by seeing nude sunbathers on hotel balconies.
"We're not complaining about the hotel being there, but if it should expand, the little nuisances that exist now would double or triple," said Alice White, a 14-year resident of Bentley Avenue.
Jeanette Christensen, an attorney and Bentley Avenue resident who is heading the homeowners' protests, said that a larger hotel would also worsen the traffic and noise in the area.
Under Flight Path
The neighborhood is within sight of the intersection of the Santa Monica and San Diego freeways and under the path of airplanes flying into and out of Santa Monica Airport.
"To have all these people right behind us in heavy-density use would be really unbearable for us, and I think Mr. Yaroslavsky understood that," she said.
When Beccaria won permission for his renovation plans last year, the city required that the hotelier pay for widening Sepulveda Boulevard and that he build underground parking to provide a minimum of one parking space per hotel room.
The swimming pool and spa were to have been at least 30 feet from the back property line and trees were required to screen the hotel from view.
"That wasn't an expansion. It was just replacing what was there and solving a number of problems on the site," said Penelope Simison, a Yaroslavsky aide.
But Beccaria said he could not afford to do all that without tearing down the 22 units in the two former apartment buildings at the southern end of the property and replacing them with a new wing at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.
If his plans are defeated, Beccaria said, he will leave the hotel as it is.
"They'd lose a lot of benefits," he said. "The pool will remain where it is, right on the property line; the spa will remain there too. Everything I have there now is legal to be where it is, and I'm not going to change it."
That would be fine, said Christensen. "That's what we're hoping, that he doesn't build at all," she said.