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Neighboring Condo Residents File Lawsuit to Halt Miramar Project

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

December 14, 2020 -- Residents of an oceanfront condominium tower have filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the redevelopment of the neighboring Miramar Hotel approved by the City Council in September.

The lawsuit filed last week contends that the 502,157-square-foot project at 101 Wilshire Boulevard violates the coastal land use plan (LUP), the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Following the law would "greatly benefit" nearby residents and workers "who will bear the brunt of the demolition and construction" of the "oversized project design," said Kay Ward, president of the Santa Monica Bay Towers Homeowners Association Board of Directors, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The planned 312-room hotel redevelopment project -- which adds 60 luxury condominiums on the top floor and a 42-unit affordable apartment building across Second Street -- was approved September 29 by a 4-2 Council vote ("Council Approves Miramar Hotel Redevelopment," September 30, 2020).

“All they (the City Council majority) cared about was money,” said Frank Angel, who represents the plaintiffs. “And all they did is convert a playground for the rich into a Taj Mahal for America’s uber-wealthy elite.

"Guest rooms in a five-star, full-service hotel and $7.5 million+ condominiums offer zero lower-cost overnight access to the Santa Monica coastal zone.”

In a press release issued Thursday, the plaintiffs noted that three of the four council members who backed the project lost their seats in the November 3 council race.

“Our lawsuit is not to say ‘no’ to any redevelopment activity on the Fairmont Miramar property,” Ward said. “It is about requiring the Miramar hotel & condo developer to follow the law, just like other developers in the city must," Ward said.

Officials of The Athens Group, which is leading the redevelopment project, issued a statement Monday calling the complaint "baseless."

"We are disappointed that following an exhaustive 10+ year public process, a small number of self-serving individuals are seeking to delay a project that will bring much needed revenue, jobs and affordable housing to this City, because the decision did not go in their favor," the statement said.

The proposed project is "entirely consistent" with the City’s General Plan and Downtown Community Plan -- which allows a height limit of 130 feet at the 4.5-acre Miramar site -- and exceeds the environmental standards required by the State, the developer said.

"Throughout the City approval process, we have been committed to a thoughtful and thorough analysis of the impacts of the proposed project," the statement said.

The project "enjoyed broad and overwhelming support at the public hearings and, following certification of the independent EIR (Environmental Impact Report), was approved by the Santa Monica Planning Commission and City Council."

The lawsuit is the latest volley fired by opponents of the plan to redevelop the century old iconic hotel.

The battle escalated shortly before the Council's vote with a mailer fired off by Santa Monicans Against the Miramar Expansion (SMAME) that was widely denounced as an anti-Semitic attack on the hotel's owner, tech billionaire Michael Dell.

In a statement, SMAME said the caricature was not intended to be anti-Semitic and noted that the group's leader, Steve Linett, a resident of Santa Monica Bay Towers, is Jewish ("Cartoon Ad Opposing Miramar Project Sets Off Firestorm," September 28, 2020).

The 91-unit, 13-story condominium tower across California Avenue from the Miramar was built in 1964.

Units for sale range from $899,000 for a small one bedroom to $1.75 million for a three-bedroom unit, according to listings posted on the internet.

Editor's note: This report was updated at 10:15 a.m. Thursday to correct the reference and attribution in paragraph 3 and the reference to the council in paragraph 5.

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