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Santa Monica Slow-Growth Group Gives Miramar Hotel's New Plan Negative Reviews, Residocracy Leader Says


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By Jorge Casuso

April 13, 2018 -- If the initial reaction from members of Santa Monica's largest slow-growth group is an indication, the redevelopment plans unveiled by the Miramar Hotel this week could meet some stiff opposition.

As of noon Friday, some 1,500 members of Residocracy Santa Monica's Facebook group page -- or nearly half of its members -- had gone on the site since the new design was posted Wednesday evening, said Armen Melkonians, the group's leader.

There had been 235 comments posted (with some members weighing in more than once), and most have been negative, Melkonians said. Many of the comments focused on the size of the proposed 502,157-square-foot project and its potential impacts on traffic and parking, .

"We're putting it out to the membership, and they're definitely saying it's too big," he told The Lookout Friday. "What are the impacts to the community, and is there a trade off?

"We'll have to see where it goes in the process," Melkonians said. "They have to work not only with the (City) Council, but also with the community. The community has to live with it."

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The latest plan by the Miramar's owner MSD Capital, L.P. -- which was submitted to the City on Wednesday -- lowers the height of the hotel from the originally proposed 320 feet to conform to Downtown's recently approved 130-foot maximum height ("Past, Present and Future of Santa Monica, Developers Say," April 12, 2018).

The new design accommodates 312 luxury hotel rooms (up from 300), as many as 60 condominiums (half of what was originally proposed) and approximately 475 on-site underground parking spaces for guests, residents, workers and the public (nearly triple the existing number).

On Wednesday evening, Melkonians posted his "Question of the Week" with a link to the Miramar's site.

"Does a new sparkling 130 ft high hotel and luxury condominium building at Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Blvd float your boat?" he asked and added, "is it still too big for Santa Monica?"

A few of the comments were positive.

"It seems to fit well height wise with the surrounding buildings and the height of a lot of buildings along Ocean," wrote Eric Clarke. "And I love the open space they have created around the tree. It’ll be nice to have what seems to be a public area on the east side of Ocean."

But most of the comments have been posted by those who oppose the new design, Melkonians said.

One of those commenting was Phil Brock, a slow-growth advocate who was narrowly defeated in his bid for City Council four years ago.

"One way to mitigate the impact," Brock wrote, "is to only allow the replacement of the current tower with a new tower and not allow the additional construction along California and 2nd Street."

"I'm dreading the construction of this building if it goes forward," wrote April Rocha. ""Let's oppose this!"

If there is enough community opposition to the project, Melkonians said, Residocracy would put it on the ballot for Santa Monica voters to decide.

"If there is support from the community for a referendum, that's our hammer, our strength," Melkonians said. "I can tell you it's dead on arrival at this point."

Residocracy has been successful stopping a major project before.

Four years ago, the Internet-based slow growth group launched a petition drive that gathered more than 13,000 signatures to place the 767,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village approved by the Council on the 2014 ballot.

Instead of placing the referendum on the ballot, the council voted to rescind the proposed development, with Council member Gleam Davis casting the decisive vote ("Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development," May 14, 2014).

Emboldened by their newly won power, the group extended its reach with a 2016 ballot initiative requiring most projects taller than 32 feet to win voter approval.

The measure failed at the polls by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote after opponents raised some $1.2 million to stop the measure ("Santa Monica Council Incumbents Sweep, LV Loses Big," November 9, 2016 and "More Than $1.2 Million Spent to Defeat Santa Monica’s LUVE Measure," February 6, 2017).

Last September, Melkonians, who had laid low after the election that also saw him fail to win a Council seat, threatened to place the Miramar, along with the nearby The Plaza at Santa Monica project on 4th and 5th streets and Arizona, on the ballot.

“Those are the two (developments) in our sights,” Melkonians told the Lookout. “There are voices against those projects.

"We’re still here, alive and well," he added. “There are more battles to be fought. There will be referendums against" the Plaza and Miramar ("Santa Monica Slow-Growth Leader Vows Referendums on Major Downtown Projects," September 26, 2017.)


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