To build or not to build: it is a question that always seems to be asked in Santa Monica, what with multiple projects proposed or already under construction in the City’s urban core.
A poll was recently published where Santa Monica residents challenged the notion of “build it and they will come.”
Respondents were asked three questions about development, density, and height. Lake Research Partners conducted the poll among likely Santa Monica voters.
The poll’s results indicated a majority of Santa Monica residents felt there was too much development in the suburban beach city.
Those who participated in the poll also indicated they did not want to see taller or denser buildings in Santa Monica. Nearly four in seven respondents were not supportive of the Fairmont Miramar’s plans to expand its hotel property, which included a proposal to build a 21-story condominium tower.
Survey participants were asked whether they favored, in general, more or less development in Santa Monica. According to the poll results, 52 percent answered less development while 15 percent said more development. Participants were also asked if the level of current Santa Monica development was just right.
The second question asked by surveyors was whether residents either favored or opposed changing density and height requirements to allow for denser or taller buildings. According to the published poll results, 69 percent opposed changing density and height requirements while 26 percent thought such changes were acceptable.
Finally, poll participants were asked whether they favored the Miramar’s expansion plans.
The question was specifically phrased as such:
“As you may know, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard has proposed a redevelopment of the current property that would turn the current hotel into a mixed-use hotel and condominium residence, 320 feet high with 21 stories, with up to 120 market-rate condominiums and between 12 and 40 affordable housing units, 280 hotel guest rooms, underground parking, food and beverage facilities, retail space, spa, meeting and event facilities, and open space areas on site. From what you’ve heard, would you favor or oppose this redevelopment?”
According to the poll, 57 percent of participants opposed the Miramar’s plans.
Bob Meadow of Lake Research Partners explained to The Mirror in a phone interview how the poll was conducted. He said it was a survey of likely Santa Monica voters who have a history of voting and were most likely to vote in 2014. Those who vote only in presidential elections, for example, were not factored into the survey.
In all, 404 people were interviewed. The caller heading into each survey knew the age, gender, and party affiliation of each respondent.
Calls were made three nights between 5 pm and 9 pm, both via cell phone and landline. Calls were made Sept. 10, 11, and 12. A few calls were made during the day of Sept. 14.
The calls were made by professional polling organizations of five or six phone banks, Meadow said.
“There is no predetermining outcome for surveys like this,” Meadow told The Mirror. “They (the caller) have no idea who the client is. One day they could be calling Santa Monica, another day South Dakota.”
However, MSD Capital’s Alan Epstein released a statement saying there were more than three questions asked and the researchers have not released all of the responses. Further, he implied the Huntley Hotel was behind the survey and hoped to elicit with the results negative viewpoints of the Miramar’s expansion.
“We know that they only released three questions from a 20 minute survey,” Epstein said. “We know the deliberately misleading questions that were asked and we know that the Huntley’s paid telephone operators pushed people toward certain responses, without giving them honest options.”
Calling the poll a “typical P.R. ploy” by the Huntley, Epstein further said the hotel across the street from the Miramar had a specific agenda to “stop all competition,” “fight unions,” and “stop the affordable housing on Second Street.”
“The Huntley will do anything to divert attention away from their own building, which is one of the tallest and most dense in the city,” Epstein said.
Alin Wall, a CPA and partner with Family Wealth Group, said the Miramar is off base in questioning the poll results.
“The Miramar’s ‘issues’ with the poll are predictable,” Wall told The Mirror in an email. “They have absolutely no knowledge of how residents feel about their proposed development in particular and height in general nor do they want to know. Residents do not want any taller buildings in downtown and they do not want the Miramar as presently designed.”
Wall added she believed the “questions were straightforward and unbiased.”
Meanwhile, Recreation and Parks Commission chair Phil Brock told The Mirror in a phone interview polls can always be slanted, but many Santa Monica residents he spoke with were not happy with the density and height issues.
“They need to scrap the condos,” Brock said. “Santa Monica is overdeveloped. They (the Miramar) are a lightning rod for density and height. I think they should pull back the plans, hire an architect, and give the City and residents what they want. They can make it a beautiful 10 to 12 story hotel.”