The City of Santa Monica, named as defendant in the lawsuit challenging plans for an “everyman’s” beach club at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, is confident that it will prevail on all claims, and says that the project is continuing to move forward as planned.
Deputy City Attorney Cara Silver said that although a defendant’s formal response in a “writ of mandate” proceeding such as this is not due for about 60 days, the City has reviewed the complaint, is confident and continues to move forward. “On a parallel track, we are trying to resolve the few issues remaining” with the plaintiffs who brought the legal action, she added.
The plaintiffs – some of the beachfront homeowners in the vicinity of the old Marion Davies Estate which is to become the public beach club – have said that they sued because the City will not “commit” to certain conditions on the use of the property that have already been adopted (but that plaintiffs fear may be subject to change), as reported in last week’s Mirror.
Ms. Silver responds that while the City stands by the agreed-upon use conditions, it does not enter into contracts with neighboring landowners because it would be “illegal to waive the City’s police power – its hands cannot be tied with respect to future use of the property.”
The planned facility is to be located at the former William Randolph Hearst property know as the Marion Davies Estate and is proposed as an “everyman” version of nearby exclusive, members-only beach clubs. The property, which has been boarded up behind a chain-link fence since the 1994 Northridge earthquake, has a storied-past, originally built by Hearst for the newspaper tycoon’s silent movie star mistress. Davies hosted some of Hollywood’s most lavish parties at the estate in an era when the stretch of Santa Monica coastline was dubbed the Gold Coast because of its wealthy residents and extravagant galas.
The public beach club project is funded by an innovative private grant by the Annenberg Foundation, and has been approved by the Santa Monica Planning Commission, the Landmarks Commission and the City Council. John Zinner, vice-president of the Santa Monica Conservancy, said, “Virtually every leader in preservation has spoken out in support of this project. This Annenberg grant is our best chance and probably last chance to preserve this property…The lawsuit is not about improving the project. It’s about stopping the project and denying the public the opportunity to have this incredible beach facility in their neighborhood.”
Those homeowners who have brought the court challenge say they support the project but “are surprised that the City would itself propose operating conditions for the new beach club but not be willing to commit that it will keep the conditions in place for the life of the project,” according to their lawyers.
As the lawsuit progresses in the courts, and as the parties attempt to come to terms on their differences regarding the duration of the use conditions, supporters of the public beach club gathered on the sand in front of the proposed site on Monday, July 3 for what was described by Joel Brand, Chair of Friends of 415 PCH, as “their rally to underscore the spirit of the holiday – freedom, liberty and equality for all – that is also embodied in the fight over an ‘everyman’s’ beach club….”