Local Hotel Workers Union Backs 4th/5th and Arizona Project


A view from the street of the proposed Plaza at Santa Monica.
A view from the street of the proposed Plaza at Santa Monica.

The new 12-story mixed-use project by world-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas’ firm, OMA, proposed for a prime piece of 2.5-acre City-owned land in Downtown Santa Monica got an extra bump from the regional hospitality workers’ union Monday.

UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents hotel workers in L.A. County, sent a letter to the City Council this morning calling for approval of the new project, dubbed the Plaza at Santa Monica.

The letter comes the day before the City Council will consider whether to have the developer, John Warfel of Metropolitan Pacific Capital (MPC), move forward with the original 148-foot (about 12 stories) design or a revised 84-foot design with less open space, fewer affordable housing units, and a smaller hotel component, which would mean fewer hotel worker jobs.

“This project will set our new standard for community benefits in the City,” wrote UNITE HERE Local 11 President Tom Walsh in the letter.

The letter supports the taller project, citing Warfel’s willingness to work with the union, the number of jobs that will be created, the public open space, and the number of affordable housing units.

“We believe that this project, which is proposed at only 12 stories, not only pays the community back in every inch of its height through aesthetics, impacts, and community benefits, but also has ripple effects that will improve design, wages, housing and public transit all over the City,” Walsh wrote.

“This project will set our new standard for community benefits in the City.” – Tom Walsh, UNITE HERE Local 11 president
[/pullquote]Warfel and his team revealed the two designs at a public meeting last month, highlighting the major trade-offs that would need to happen in order to keep the project within the city’s current 84-foot height limit.

At 148 feet, the building would have a 225-room boutique hotel. The shorter version would have a hotel, but with about 90 fewer rooms. The shorter version would also have 24 affordable housing units instead of the 48 included in the taller design.

“It is no secret that Santa Monica needs housing, especially of the affordable stock,” Walsh wrote. “Just like everyone else, the housekeepers, bellmen, and servers of Santa Monica’s hotels want to live closer to where they work, want to give up the car, or want to give up hours of bus community for a healthy walk to work.”

Reducing the height of the project also cuts the public open space down from 43,650 square feet to 22,384 square feet.

“This project is a mode of how commercial development can be used to maximize public space,” Walsh wrote.

Still, there are those who have come out against the taller project. At the May public meeting, the founder of the no-growth group Residocracy, Armen Melkonians, threatened Warfel with a referendum against the project if the design was taller than 84 feet.

The MPC-OMA team’s design beat out two others in December 2013, but when the City Council tapped Warfel’s team, it also asked to see an 84-foot version of the original design.

Jason Islas
Jason Islashttp://santamonicanext.org
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.

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