Beverly Hills voters seem to reject the luxury hotel project

The people of Beverly Hills have spoken, and they seem to have foiled a plan by the world’s richest man to build a luxury hotel on Rodeo Drive.

In Tuesday’s special election, voters had to decide whether to overturn city council’s approval of a billion-dollar hotel project led by French multi-billionaire Bernard Arnault and his luxury conglomerate, LVMH. Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The referendum was initiated by hospitality union Unite Here Local 11, which collected the signatures needed to force the case through a special election and criticized the city for not prioritizing affordable housing.

Vote totals released Friday afternoon by the Los Angeles County Registrar show the campaign against the hotel leading by just over 120 votes, or about 1.8 percent. The registrar’s office said 135 ballots still needed to be processed, pending verification of signatures; additional mail-in ballots that have been postmarked by Election Day and arrive on Tuesday will also be processed.

Beverly Hills voters appear to have issued a startling rebuke of a massive project backed by four-fifths of the city council, the city’s business establishment and the extremely deep coffers of Arnault and his conglomerate.

In a city with just 22,160 registered voters, LVMH spent at least $2.9 million on its campaign trail, a sum that far eclipsed spending by opponents.

“This is a sad day for our city. While I respect the democratic process, I believe our community has lost an incredible addition to Rodeo Drive that would have provided additional funding for vital city services,” said the Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold, adding that he was “more than unfortunate” that the change “would have to be led by this union or any union.

John Mirisch, the only board member to oppose the project, said he was “a bit shocked and speechless” on Friday afternoon, adding that it was “like the Houston Astros, trash cans and all. .. had lost to the Beverly Hills High School JV baseball team.

He characterized the apparent results as “a major win for Beverly Hills – that is, Beverly Hills is the community, not the ‘brand’.”

Proponents have argued that the Cheval Blanc Hotel would have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue over the next three decades. Critics criticized the scale of the project relative to the surrounding business district, as well as the lack of revenue dedicated to affordable housing.

“If the final vote count confirms the voters’ rejection of our project, we will respect the outcome and will not bring the hotel project back in any form,” LVMH spokeswoman Jessica Miller said in a statement late Friday.

Miller said “the hard work and commitment of so many Beverly Hills residents, elected leaders and others” was deeply appreciated. and noted that the vote would reverse “the results of a years-long comprehensive review and approval process”.

Along with Unite Here Local 11, the project was opposed by Residents Against Overdevelopment, a grassroots group led by former City Council candidate Darian Bojeaux, which helped collect signatures for the referendum. Bojeaux and others in his group argued that the hotel would be too big for the community and would negatively affect the quality of life.

Representatives of the union, which represents hotel workers across the region, said they opposed the hotel because the development agreement did not include money for affordable housing. They argued that cities like Beverly Hills often change development rules to make it easier to build luxury commercial projects, but not always for housing.

“We opposed the apparent priorities of Mayor Gold and former Mayor (Lili) Bosse, and a ‘no’ vote would show that Beverly Hills voters agree that these council leaders made a mistake. We believe the city’s priorities should be building affordable housing and tackling the climate crisis, not changing development rules to make it easier to build luxury commercial projects,” the co-chairman said on Friday. of Local 11, Kurt Petersen.

The proposed hotel would have ranged in height from four stories to a partial ninth-floor penthouse, taller than current zoning rules allow, and would have included a members-only club, restaurants, retail and a spa. . It would have remodeled the northern commercial edge of Rodeo Drive along Little Santa Monica Boulevard and replaced several buildings on Rodeo and North Beverly Roads, including the Richard Meier-designed site once occupied by the Paley Center for Media.

Beverly Hills’ development agreement with LVMH stipulated that the company contribute $26 million to the city’s general fund, in addition to $2 million for arts and cultural programs. The city would also have received an additional 5% surtax over its regular 14% transitional occupancy tax.

According to the city’s analysis, the hotel was expected to pump about $725 million into Beverly Hills’ coffers over the next 30 years, most of it coming from the combined 19% bed tax.

Voters were asked two questions: if they approved of a zoning amendment, which would allow the developer to build a hotel much larger than current rules allow, and if they approved of the city’s development agreement with LVMH. The rezoning and development agreement had already been approved by the city council.

The results were almost identical for the questions, with the “no” campaign leading by around 120 votes on both Friday afternoons.

Voter turnout for the off-cycle special election was nearly 32%.

Looking at early voting results, consultancy firm Political Data Intelligence found that older voters outperformed; residents over the age of 65 made up nearly half of the first votes cast, despite making up less than a third of the Beverly Hills electorate. The racial demographics of special election voters closely mirrored that of the broader electorate, with non-white voters making up just 10% of those registered in Beverly Hills and 9% of first ballots returned, according to PDI.

PDI Vice President Paul Mitchell said he believed election day demographics would be similar to those seen with the first returns.

Los Angeles Times

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