SaMo Hotel Boomlet?
A South Beach with jammed 40-story towers it will never be, but a handful of new hotels near the shore may help an outdated downtown Santa Monica inch its way into the higher-density 21st Century. That's timely as the Expo Line arrives next spring with tens of thousands of new visitors a day. Of course, plans have to be approved first.
The most dramatic new design would be Frank Gehry's on Ocean between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona. Developers Jay Paul and Jeff Worthe are heading to the planning commission, and—if all clicks—could be in front of the City Council in about a year, with shovels in the ground 12 months later. At 22 stories, it would feature 125 hotel rooms, 22 high-end condos, 24 affordable units, 460 parking spaces and a public observation deck. No-growth groups will protest, but it may be hard to challenge a popular icon giving his hometown a new architectural landmark.
Michael Dell’s investment company has long been requesting permission to replace its aging Fairmont Miramar with a structure that would take up only 50% of the existing footprint but rise 21 stories as in this original design, featuring 280 hotel rooms and (together with other buildings) up to 120 market rate condos, 40 affordable units, a spa, conference space, shops and 484 parking stalls. There would also be 15k SF of restaurant space to build on the success of Miramar’s Bungalow nightclub that every Millennial in town seems to find after 5pm. Dell has famed Cesar Pelli and his son Rafael working on a revision.
The '60s-vintage Wyndham near Ocean and Colorado would be replaced by three strikingly tiered buildings with 211 hotel rooms and 25 residences.
Designed by the Jerde Partnership for FelCor Lodging Trust, the tallest structure could rise 195 feet, but block no more than sight of the 10 Freeway. FelCor now has another architect refining the design. The Gehry, Dell and FelCor visions are the only shorefront hotels under serious discussion. As for anything actually on the sand as in Miami, nothing has been allowed since Prop S passed in 1990, with Shutters and Casa Del Mar grandfathered in.
Several lower-key hotels are underway a few blocks inland. At 5th and Colorado, OTO Development is building both a Courtyard by Marriott and a Hampton Inn. Across the street from where the Expo Line will stop, it represents SaMo’s first branded “limited service” in 25 years.
Using designs by Howard Laks, developer Alex Gorby of Maxser is building 275 rooms at 710 Wilshire, including adaptive reuse of a 1928 Spanish colonial revival office building.
The Plaza at 4th and Arizona (currently a Bank of America and adjoining parking lot) will have 120k feet for a hotel, in addition to 200k SF of office, 40k of retail, 65k SF for a public plaza and terrace and cultural space, 48 "very low income" affordable units, and an ice skating rink. Developers are Metropolitan Pacific Capital, Clarett West and DLJ.
Refereeing a lot of this before it gets to the Planning Commission and City Council is Santa Monica planning director David Martin, whom we snapped the other day in his office. From Montclair in the Pomona Valley, he did urban and regional planning at Cal Poly Pomona, and became a planner in Santa Monica in 1987, serving 12 years. To get a private sector perspective, he joined noted CIM Group for a decade. Back he came to SaMo in 2009, assuming his present post after a couple of years. Reporting to the City Manager, he has 120 folks working for him in six divisions like building and safety, planning and code enforcement. But the action David often prefers is rollerblading on the beach—even though as an incurable wonk, he does so listening to podcasts.