Beverly Hills Measure HH Puts City Planning In Voters’ Hands
This November, Beverly Hills residents will vote on a ballot initiative that seeks to modify development plans approved by the City Council. Beny Alagem, owner of the Beverly Hilton and the adjacent lot on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd., has set forth Measure HH, which seeks to combine his previously approved 18 and eight story condominium buildings into a single 26 story building. The neighbors and mayor, however, are not excited about the plans, and have mounted a significant opposition.
Current Development Plans For The Wilshire / Santa Monica Blvd. Intersection
In 2008, Beverly Hilton owner Beny Alagem obtained approval from the Beverly Hills City Council for a project to develop the lot on the northwest corner of the Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. intersection. The plans included erecting the Waldorf Astoria, a luxury hotel, along with two separate condominium towers, one at 18 stories and one at eight stories. After city approval, opposition forced the plans to the ballot for a referendum. In November of 2008, the voters approved the plans. The Waldorf Astoria is currently under construction, and is set to open in 2017.
Similarly, The Wanda Group, a Chinese firm owned by billionaire Wang Jianlin, has plans for another luxury hotel (called One Beverly Hills) and condominium building immediately west of the site for the Waldorf Astoria. The Wanda Group’s plans include 13 and 15 story towers, which will house 193 condominium units and 134 hotel rooms. That project is anticipating a start date of 2017 and a completion date in 2020.
Beverly Hills Measure HH Seeks To Modify Prior Plans
Ballot Measure HH seeks to “combine” the currently planned 18 and eight story condominium buildings next to the Waldorf Astoria into a single 26 story building. The purpose of combining the two buildings, according to Mr. Alagem, is to create a 1.7 acre outdoor outdoor space that will differentiate the Waldorf Astoria from other luxury hotels in the LA area. However, rather than seek city approval for the proposed amendment, the developers have decided to go directly to the voters with Measure HH.
Opposition To Beverly Hills Measure HH
Not surprisingly, there is significant opposition to Measure HH, and The Wanda Group and Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch are at the forefront of that opposition. While lack of transparency and improper attempts to avoid city approval have been cited as a primary reasons for the opposition, The Wanda Group’s interest in not having its luxury hotel overshadowed by a 26 story condominium building undoubtedly plays a role in its decision to oppose the measure.
Recently, the dispute has become so intense that both sides are resorting to legal proceedings. On September 22, 2016, Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel workers at the Beverly Hilton, filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Federal Election Commission accusing The Wanda Group of using foreign money in its campaign against Measure HH. Interestingly, Unite Here Local 11’s attorney Gary Winuk has also filed a separate FEC complaint accusing former Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker of violating a city policy that prohibits former officials from accepting paid lobbying work that relates to projects they voted on while in office, and through that lawsuit is seeking to block the One Beverly Hills project.
In the end, it will be up to the voters to decide whether the 26 story condominium building should be approved. Regardless of the outcome, one must wonder what sort of precedent this may set for other developers seeking to “fast-track” their plans by seeking voter approval rather than taking the traditional city approval route.
If you would liketo further discuss how Esquire Real Estate Brokerage, Inc. can help you in the Los Angeles real estate market, feel free to give us a call at 213-973-9439 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org