This is Part II of a two-part series; for Part I, click here.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted unanimously in a 12-0 vote to not grant Silversand Properties the right to build a proposed 72-hotel room, 33-condo building at Ocean and Cherry where the current, dilapidated Beach Plaza Hotel currently sits.
The project faced a large array of opponents, largely led by hotel labor union Unite Here! and the Palacio Del Mar and Park Regency HOAs. I myself was one of the proponents of the project (this is, after all, a livability advocacy website)—and we’ll get to why in a bit.
While the HOAs were worried about increased traffic (oh, those pesky tourists who give us money!) and loss of parking (because, after all, it should be the city’s top priority to provide people public space to store their private property in urban areas, right?), Unite Here! had an argument that the CCC wouldn’t fight against: the project is blatantly in violation of the Local Coastal Program (LCP), which protects the three low-cost motels along the bluff in order to provide low-income families and individuals with access to the beaches of Long Beach.
“I am still stunned on how the whole thing went down,” said Mike Murchison, the man hired to represent the project publicly. “It just amazed me that we couldn’t get a continuance to try and negotiate—is that difficult?”
The CCC was quite clear that it wasn’t going to set a precedent of going against the LCP—hence their unanimous vote. But the interesting thing is not why they voted so; that is quite clear. The question is: wasn’t the precedent already set?
Silversand Properties, the owner of Beach Plaza, already has a CCC-approved entitled project. That’s right: right now, Silversand can demolish Beach Plaza and begin their 40-key, 56-condo project approved all the way back in 2007.
So why wasn’t this project started to begin with? Designers at Studio 111 noted the many flaws in its design, including limited views from both inside the building and from the street, as well as a lack of interaction with the neighborhood. The modified design—the one rejected by the CCC last week—created beautiful views of the Spruce Goose Dome and Queen Mary, along with a public-accessible corridor straight through the building that provided access to a balcony and views of the beach from the sidewalk. It included a restaurant space which would provide the only coast-side restaurant in between Belmont Brewing Company and Shoreline Village. It would have a bike facility. It would even have more parking—yes, more parking: the current Beach Plaza hotel is vastly under the required code for parking (25 spots when 40 are required).
Even Councilmember Suja Lowenthal noted in her opposition that the “entitled project has less access by way of having fewer hotel rooms and more condominiums.”
In other words: the modified design is smarter design. You have the entitled project—and that is why I support the modified project. The developer, despite what has been said about the modified project, is not going to let their chance at a new hotel slide by. And for me, it is absolutely baffling to shoot down a more accessible project in favor of an entitled one that—oh the irony—worsens everything the union was arguing for.
All too often, the word “gentrification” comes with this evil tinge, as pundits and naysayers call it nothing more than an eradication of culture and a further marginalization of poor populations. While this is sadly true on some accounts, gentrification is not an entirely evil word (ask any of the owners of businesses along Retro Row, for example, or perhaps reach out to the residents around Berlin and Fingerprints after they moved in). We had the chance to turn a space that “attracts more hookers than it does poor people” (per a comment in a previous article) into not just a beautiful space, but a safer, more accessible, and cleaner space. Paired with the upcoming update of the Bixby Park Master Plan, we could have actually made a statement as a community. This isn’t to mention the $1.3M that the owners wanted to put into a fund to create a coastline youth hostel (that doesn’t cater to marginalized travelers at all now, does it?).
Bafflement and bemusement don’t even begin to describe my sentiments when trying to wrap my around this logic: “Yes, we approved that but after realizing the mistake of approving that, we don’t want to improve upon that so let’s just go with what we approved despite the mistake that that is.” Thumbs up, guys.
“Well, the community doesn’t get the great project, but they will get a project as ownership is moving forward with the entitled project,” Murchison said.
Make way for the less accessible, less well-designed, more obstructive hotel.