As briefly noted in last week’s Mirror, Santa Monica’s City Council voted September 23 to approve the Travelodge Hotel project so that the existing Travelodge at 1525 Ocean Avenue, the Pacific Sands Hotel at 1515 Ocean Avenue, and their annex at 1530 2nd Street can be redeveloped by their owner, Ocean Avenue Management LLC, into a new “limited-amenity” Travelodge that will include two buildings with a total of 89,750 square feet, be four stories high (45 feet tall) with 164 affordable guestrooms, contain approximately 4,670 square feet of ground floor commercial/retail uses, include a public plaza, and have a subterranean parking garage with 294 spaces.
The matter came before the Council on two appeals from the Planning Commission’s approval of the project. One appeal came from a project neighbor, Hertz Investment Group LLC of 1522-24 2nd Street, which objected to the four-story height of the new project because it would block the public ocean views from the viewing decks of the Santa Monica Place mall. Michael Farzam, the owner’s Director of Operations, responded that Macerich Company, which operates the mall, supported the proposed four-story height. The Council then denied this appeal by unanimously approving the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which found that the project would have unavoidable impacts on the ocean views.
The other appeal was made by the project owner, who objected to the fact that the Planning Commission had approved the project with only a one-level pedestrian bridge across 1st Court alley to connect the two buildings, rather than the three-level bridge proposed by the owner. Farzam explained that the three levels were necessary to make access between the two buildings safer and more convenient for hotel guests. The Planning Commission and City staff had been of the view that the three-level bridge would be too massive and obstruct the view corridors. The Council disagreed and approved the project with the three-level bridge.
The project owner also appealed the Planning Commission’s condition that the owner should pay the City a mitigation fee for removing existing affordable lodging from the market because, the owner argued, the new affordable hotel project is replacing the existing affordable hotel lodging being removed. This aspect of the appeal was granted by the Council, and after the vote Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom moved, and the Council voted, that City staff review the City’s policy on affordable lodging with the goal of increasing the affordable lodging stock.
After the hearing, Farzam said, “We are very pleased with the outcome and look forward to proceeding now to the ARB [Santa Monica Architectural Review Board] and [California] Coastal Commission,” where the project is headed next. The owner hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2009 and to have the project complete by the fall of 2010.