Hotelier Severyn Ashkenazy has lost a bid to force the Ma Maison Sofitel--owned by rival hotelier Sheldon Gordon--to provide more parking if it wants to keep serving liquor.
Superior Court Judge Kurt Lewin ruled that the Los Angeles City Council acted properly last year when it approved a conditional-use permit enabling Ma Maison, across the street from the Beverly Center, to serve liquor in exchange for the hotel's submission of an improved parking plan.
Lawyers for Ashkenazy had argued that the council should not have approved the permit, alleging that the hotel's existing parking plan does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and is insufficient "to protect the quality of life" of residents near the hotel.
But in a ruling issued last week, the judge said the plan "fully complied with all of the CEQA requirements" and that the City Council acted properly in granting the permit.
And, in a reference to Ashkenazy, the judge said: "The petitioner's purpose in bringing this action is wholly for its own self-interest."
Lawyers for Ma Maison's Gordon claimed that Ashkenazy was attempting to force Gordon to buy an abandoned nightclub property Ashkenazy owns at 8511 Beverly Place, near the hotel. The former nightclub is one of the last vacant properties suitable for parking in the heavily congested area near the hotel.
Ashkenazy, whose hotel group includes L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills, has frequently opposed Gordon--who also developed the Beverly Center--over development of the 10-story, 311-suite Ma Maison, which opened in December.
In 1981, Ashkenazy unsuccessfully challenged a minor zoning variance that made it possible for the hotel to be built. In 1985, when the nearby city of West Hollywood sought an injunction to prevent the hotel's construction, lawyers for Ashkenazy filed an almost identical suit.
Last year, Gordon paid three homeowner groups $250,000 and deposited another $800,000 in a bank account controlled by him and the homeowners to find more parking, in return for the homeowners' agreement to drop their opposition to the hotel.
But the settlement has done nothing to deter Ashkenazy from opposing the hotel.
"I think the judge's decision totally vindicates what we've been saying all along, and that is that the suit (by Ashkenazy) had no merit and was designed to achieve an ulterior motive," said Ronald J. Silverman, a lawyer for Gordon.
In his argument before the judge, Silverman called the suit "the mischief of a disgruntled bankrupt hotelier who is trying to do everything he can to make life miserable for a competitor."
Ashkenazy Enterprises has been operating under federal bankruptcy protection since 1986.
Meanwhile, the law firm that represents Gordon is, with Gordon's encouragement, representing a group of residents opposed to liquor licenses for a couple of posh West Hollywood hotels that Ashkenazy manages.
The group, headed by Jeanne Dobrin, is asking the city of West Hollywood to deny conditional-use permits for the Valadon and Le Dufy. Ashkenazy needs the permits to obtain liquor licenses from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Ashkenazy Enterprises last year reached an agreement with West Hollywood allowing it to convert five apartment buildings--including the Valadon and Le Dufy--into hotels in exchange for a promise to pay the city $4.9 million over the next 20 years.
The agreement, however, is contingent on the company acquiring a variety of conditional-use permits from the city involving the hotels. Tonight, the city Planning Commission will begin a hearing on the permits, including those the residents represented by Gordon's lawyers are opposing.
A second session is scheduled for July 6. But because of the complexity of some issues involved in the settlement agreement, West Hollywood officials have said the hearing may require additional sessions.