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Grand Ave. project backed

A council panel rejects a hotel's challenge of the downtown L.A. effort.

September 12, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday rejected an effort by the Westin Bonaventure Hotel to derail a $2- billion mega-project that would bring a luxury hotel and more than 1,300 homes to downtown.

The council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted in favor of tract maps for the Grand Avenue project despite accusations from the Bonaventure's lawyer that the project would violate a downtown redevelopment plan by adding too many housing units.

Bonaventure attorney Christopher Sutton refused to discuss his client's challenge. But in an Aug. 24 letter opposing the project, he said Councilwoman Jan Perry should not have voted on it since she lives less than two blocks from the project site.

"Until and unless all alleged conflicts of interest are eliminated, the city as a whole must not even consider these land use matters," Sutton wrote.

Perry said she reviewed the issue three years ago, asking her attorney to confer with the city attorney's office and determine whether she needed to recuse herself. "They reached the conclusion that there was no conflict," said Perry, who represents much of downtown. "I had no greater benefit from this project than anyone else in the area."

The council approved environmental documents for the Grand Avenue project in February, voting to provide up to $66 million in tax breaks.

Related Cos. had been scheduled to break ground Oct. 1 on the project's first phase, which is east of Walt Disney Concert Hall and will include two skyscrapers housing a Mandarin Oriental Hotel and 500 homes, one-fifth of them designated as affordable.

Because of the pace of the permitting process, construction is now scheduled to begin in December, said Related Cos. spokeswoman Beatrice Hsu.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been trying to strike a deal with Bonaventure owner Peter Zen that would head off a time-consuming legal battle over the project. Zen issued a similar legal threat two years ago when the city offered tax breaks to L.A. Live, another hotel mega-project being built near Staples Center.

In that case, Villaraigosa reached an agreement that allowed Zen to convert some of his hotel rooms into condominiums if vacancy rates reached a certain threshold.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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