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Miramar Flyer Gets Mixed Reaction from Santa Monica Residents

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 1, 2013 -- Two recent brochures fired off by the owners of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel counter attacking the neighboring Huntley’s efforts to squash its redevelopment plans has drawn mixed reactions from Santa Monica residents.

The Miramar’s latest volley -- a four-page color brochure delivered to Santa Monica doorsteps Friday -- accuses the Huntley’s owner of “spending millions to stop competition” from its neighbor’s $225 million overhaul. (“Fairmont Miramar Fires Another Shot in Santa Monica's Hotel Wars,” June 28, 2013)

“I don't think it's contributing toward a civil discourse on the project,” Council member Ted Winterer said of the brochure. “Both hotels need to take a deep breath.

“There are better ways to spend this money,” Winterer said. “I don't think this helps.”

Diana Gordon, founder of the anti-development group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), was skeptical of the brochure’s claims that the Huntley is trying to stop $20 million of new revenue that would be generated by new or rebuilt Downtown hotels while the City faces a looming $13 million deficit.

“It’s ironic that a Texas developer who has excelled in finding loopholes to avoid paying California taxes, now tries to portray himself as a savior of Santa Monica,” she wrote in an email to The Lookout Friday, referring to computer mogul Michael Dell, one of whose companies owns the Miramar.

“To believe him is to believe that without his Miramar condo tower/hotel project Santa Monica will face mounting school, police, and fire cuts,” Gordon said.

The proposed Miramar overhaul would put as many as 120 condos and a 21-story tower on the hotel's campus at the southwest border of Santa Monica's Wilmont neighborhood.

“The flyer intimates we need other hotel projects too!” Gordon wrote.

The Miramar's flyer came in response to an ongoing campaign by the neighboring 17-story Huntley Hotel to scuttle Dell's plans to redevelop the Miramar. And some residents believe that Dell and his partners are right to fire back.

“I think it's appropriate for the Miramar to be fighting back,” said Valerie Griffin, former chair of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition. “I appreciate that they are naming themselves and that they are not doing this anonymously or clocked behind a political consultant or an organization” that can avoid disclosures required of non-profits.

“I think this is basically an honest flyer,” she said. “I don't see anything in there that I find factually dishonest.”

Griffin pointed to Save Santa Monica, an organization started by the Huntley's paid political consultant, Sue Burnside, in 2011 to oppose the Dell's redevelopment plans.

“It's not just about listening to the people who are making noise,” she said. “It's about listening to the people who aren't making noise.”

The Miramar began a PR counter-offensive in June with a flyer that called Huntley owner Sohrab Sassounian a greedy Beverly Hills millionaire after Save Santa Monica circulated a flyer leveling an attack against Dell.

Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition Vice Chair Reinhard Kargl believes residents will see through the PR war and zero in on the issue of development.

"The Miramar's paid lobby is trying to distract us from the fact that they want to erect a skyscraper in a residential area,” he said. “As far as most residents can remember, the Huntley Hotel has always been there. And the Huntley isn't trying to double its size at a time when the city's streets are already choked up with non-residents.

“If it tried, the Huntley would face the residents' wrath as well," Kargl said.

Bob Gurfield, a former Wilmont condo owner and opponent of the project, believes it makes sense that opposing residents and the Huntley would make natural allies.

“We all for our various reasons think that what the Miramar has proposed is not wise for the community,” said Gurfield, who recently sold his Miramar-adjacent condo and now lives in Brentwood.

He said that the PR war was “poisoning the well,” but concedes the Miramar has a right to protect its interests.

The Miramar redevelopment project is currently undergoing the environmental impact report process required by State law and won't go before the Council for approval for almost a year.

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