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‘Yes On H’ Supporters Celebrate ‘Importance Of The Project’

At the home of Stacia and Lawrence Kopeikin on North Elm Drive last  Sunday afternoon, supporters of The Beverly Hilton Revitalization Plan celebrated the campaign kick-off.

The couple’s backyard was transformed into headquarters with large colored posters showing the final rendition of The Revitalization Plan from The Beverly Hilton’s renovated entrance to the development  of the Waldorf-Astoria Residences, along with drawings showing what proponents believe will be a reduction of traffic flow.

On top of a large table stood a virtual model of the revitalized nine-acre site plan, located outside the business triangle on Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards. Proponents of the plan say they’ve  galvanized the support of a large segment of the community. Signs are seen on their properties.

 “Today is important to highlight the importance of the project – the need to get the word out, accurate information out to the community. If we do that, we are confident we’re going to win,” said Ted Kahn, president of The Beverly Hilton.

In a glossy brochure mailed to local residents, The Beverly Hilton’s owner Beny Alagem clearly laid out the concept in detail. Alagem, who bought the property in 2003, said the final version is a result of 10 planning commission meetings and nine city council  hearings.

Alagem promises the $500 millon will create the biggest economic public benefit in the City’s history for schools, residents and an advantage for both fire and police departments and local businesses.

“We are just looking to put the facts out there to the public so they know all the facts and the tremendous benefits to our City: on the  traffic, on open space and a tremendous economic engine for this great City,” said Alagem, who was busy greeting residents.

The finished property is expected to reduce the area covered by buildings from 67 to 47 percent by removing the five-story, 150,000 square-foot parking structure, eliminating the four-story, 181 Palm Court and removing periphery offices facing Wilshire Boulevard, 36 cabana rooms and outlying buildings.

The plan offers 4.5 acres of open space, public gardens, fountains and art, a five-star, 170-room Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Waldorf Wilshire Residences, Waldorf Santa Monica Resi-dences and underground parking.

“Waldorf-Astoria deserves Beverly Hills. And we deserve Waldorf-Astoria,” said longtime resident David Peterson, who plans to vote yes for Measure H on Nov. 4.

Resident Barbara Peterson stated: “I have traveled all over the world. When you say Beverly Hills, everybody stops and listens. I really think we should have a really nice hotel to be proud of.”

Another aspect Hilton officials say the plan provides is the spillover effect to other businesses in Beverly Hills from a vibrant hotel business, Kahn said, “Our customers support all the businesses in the City. The accumulation of all that spending supports all the programs in Beverly Hills.”

“I think it seems like an excellent project,” said Dr. Howard Richmond, whose dental practice is located here. “It will beautify the City in a commercial area where it is being changed. I think it’s going to add jobs to the area plus the hotel part is going to bring a lot of tourists that benefit all the local merchants.”

“I see all the positives and see no negatives,” said Dr. Richmond’s wife, Esther.

“The Beverly Hilton has been in Beverly Hills for a long time. I visited Rodney Danger-field when he lived there and Merv Griffin,” said resident David Richmond.

“How much income has this hotel over the decades brought into this community? To not let Beverly Hilton project expand after all those years of doing excellent business in the City, I think is wrong.”

The plan is expected to bring in $390 million over 30 years, about $12 million a year in new revenue for fire, police, city services and neighborhood schools.

The Revitalization  Plan is committed to reducing traffic congestion by investing $5 million in a Traffic Improvement Trust Fund.

As far as environmental sustainability, officials with The Beverly Hilton said practices are in place along with an intensive green program.

City councilman and former mayor Jimmy Delshad stopped by to show his support. He said: “Beverly Hills has never had an occasion to improve its City besides this project.”

He sat through the many presentations made by Alagem and his staff and thinks residents should say “yes” to Measure H come November.

“Voters are smart enough to know what’s really good for the City or not , and see the fluff from the facts. And the facts speak loudly,” said Delshad, who added that this is an opportunity to tax visitors and not residents.

Some residents are not sure whether they’ll say yes or no. For Debbi Cowan, the kick-off event allowed her to learn more about the issue.

“At the moment from everything I know, it sounds like a win-win, but I want to know everything about it before I make a final decision,” she said.

Steve Webb, also a former mayor, supports the plan. “The only issue is aesthetics – one of height,” Webb said.

“It’s located adjacent to Century City where there are many buildings that are much taller than this. If you take away the height, there is no reason not to support this project. Overall it is positive—I can’t see why people oppose it.”

The new Hilton project would be two-stories taller than the existing Hilton, proponents say.

Acknowledging there are residents opposed to the plan, Alagem is not letting that stop him from moving forward.

“I have a lot of respect for what they are saying, except for when facts are misrepresented. … I feel the public will make its decision. The residents of this City are smart, knowledgeable and care about this city; so they will take opposition facts, our facts and go on Nov. 4 to vote.”

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