The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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Former Mayor Issues Warning About Sale of Santa Monica Beachfront Property

Following is Former Mayor Michael Feinstein's testimony to the City Council Tuesday, September 13, 2012 concerning the sale of the property at 1920 Ocean Way to the Edward Thomas Hospitality Companies (ETC), which owns the neighboring Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach hotels, for $13,150,000.

I was part of the organizing effort for Prop S, written by former Planning Comissioner Sharon Gilpin, which was approved by local voters in November 1990 to prevent any new hotels, or intensification of use of existing hotels along our beachfront.

Less than ten years later, I was on the City Council reviewing an application to convert what was then the Pritikin Institute, into what we now know as the Casa del Mar hotel.

I voted no along with former Councilmember Ken Genser. We disagreed with an overly generous interpretation of the zoning code, that suggested the Pritikin Institute was an existing hotel, and that ignored the proposed on-site intensification of use that would add alcohol service, and a substantially higher turnover rate in overnight guests and increased daytime use.

Had Councilmember Genser and I prevailed, our intention was to require the project to go through appropriate environmental review, and then to support a Prop S amendment that would have allowed the new hotel, as long as there was appropriate mitigation.

Because of the leverage we had at the time, I believe a plan could’ve been negotiated would’ve exchanged the city-owned property at 1920 Ocean Way in exchange for Casa to put their expanded parking needs underground at 1828 Ocean Ave., then allowed the city to build a great deal of affordable housing on top.

The sale you contemplate tonight has been decoupled from any prospect of large-scale affordability at 1820 Ocean Ave. While the significant incoming affordable housing nearby in the Civic Center is great, it does not compensate for the lost community benefit of affordablity at 1828 Ocean Ave.

Part of the intent of Prop S’s beach overlay zone, as well as our RVC zoning, is to limit gentrification and to promote a multi-class dynamic along our beach front.

We lost part of that opportunity when Casa was approved as is, many years ago, without mitigation – and now any new housing at 1828 and 1920 will be upscale and our diversity along the beach will suffer as a result.

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