Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Council Approves Huge Hotels for 4th and Colorado

Santa Monica is moving closer to bringing a pair of six-story hotels to Fifth and Colorado, just across 4th street and Colorado from the Expo Line terminus and Colorado Esplanade project. The city council preliminarily approved plans for a 131 room Courtyard by Marriott and a 138 room Hampton Inn and Suites.

The path was cleared for the huge hotels, after OTO Development, signed an agreement with UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents Los Angeles County hospitality workers.

While staff only required that OTO agree to a $14.08 minimum wage for workers -- Santa Monica's living wage requirement for all City contractors -- OTO quickly caved into union demands for $15.37 an hour. After all, they're going to make so much money, it doesn't really matter what they pay the bellhop.

"For me, the number one community benefit is how they treat their workers," said Councilmember Gleam Davis, obviously oblivious to the increased traffic the mega projects will add to already stand still downtown traffic. "I think it's so important that we as a community not realize that revenue on the backs of underpaid workers," said Davis, who apparently runs the City as a for profit corporation. Colorado Blvd has been closed permanently to Westbound traffic. But who cares? Residents can bike.

The deal struck between OTO and the union late Friday after months of negotiations meant that UNITE HERE would throw its weight behind the two hotels, which it did Tuesday.

The projects are still early in the design phase (the planning commission previously called the designs "disappointing") and aren't expected to come online until 2015, around the time the second phase of the Expo Line light rail is expected to open (we're counting on 2016).

The council is pushing for the Marriott and Hampton to provide a "livable wage" for employees (i.e., an income needed to afford a place in Santa Monica), along with health benefits and transit passes. The city also wants the developers to protect local landmark that, until now, looked like it was getting the boot to make way for the hotels.

The Landmarks Commission is considering the current Midas muffler shop and the Royal Auto Body shop for historic structure status (a man named Waldo Waterman worked on the design of a flying car there in the 1930s). It's not clear if the car shop will be incorporated into the hotels, which will likely take out a nearby office building. What is certain is that the council is pushing for both hotels to offer a more pedestrian-oriented design that flows seamlessly with the Esplanade.


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