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Council Okays “Affordable” Coastal Hotel

By Jorge Casuso

September 14 – The City Council Tuesday night determined an average room rate of $172 a night is “affordable” for lodgings on Ocean Avenue, with or without the waffles.

The decision paves the way for the redevelopment of the half-century-old Travelodge and Pacific Sands motels, which total 87 rooms, into a new four-story 164--room hotel comprised of two buildings and a connecting guestroom bridge over the 2nd Street alley.

By deeming the proposed rates “affordable,” the owners won’t have to pay an affordable lodging mitigation fee of $1.3 million for demolishing the current motels, where rates can be little more than $100 a night in the off season.

“I don’t worry this will become a $300 (a night) motel,” said Council member Robert Holbrook. “I think its fair to be at the rates proposed.”

When the council established the mitigation fee as part of an ordinance approved in 1989, the Pacific Sands average room rate was between $40 and $45 a night and the Travelodge’s between $65 and $80.

But, in addition to inflation, much has changed in Santa Monica since then – the Promenade was launched becoming a regional and international destination and luxury hotel rates rose to $400 and $500 a night, council members said.

“I don’t think this room rate fixed for time” is fair, said Council member Pam O’Connor. “It’s just a different era. It’s still affordable.”

Worried the new rates would not be affordable for many families, Council members Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown opposed an amendment to allow the higher rates.

“This is a lost opportunity on the council’s part to preserve affordability,” McKeown said.

“Although $172 may be affordable for this location, it’s an average rate, not a maximum rate,” said Genser.

The 4 to 2 vote to approve the proposed rates as affordable came after council members exchanged stories about motel rates in Utah and Nevada and whether affordable lodgings provided such amenities as muffins or waffles.

The council then voted 6 to 0 to certify the EIR and deny a neighboring property owner’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the four-story project.

The neighbor had appealed “primarily on the basis that the hotel should not be permitted to block views of the ocean from the public viewing decks at the Santa Monica Place mall,” according to the staff report.

As part of the main motion, the council also voted to allow the hotel owners to enclose the three pedestrian bridges in glass to keep noise from neighboring residences.

In addition to the guestrooms, the 45-foot-tall structure also will include retail shops on Ocean Avenue and 2nd Street, a publicly accessible plaza garden on Ocean Avenue and 110 additional non-required parking spaces in a 330-space underground lot.

According to the owners, the hotel will not have “multiple room suites, a restaurant, a bar, conferencing facilities, a gym, a spa or similar amenities typically found in more upscale or luxury hotels.”

Ted Winterer for Santa Monica City Council

Dr. Margaret


Vote # 158


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