Hilton Project Opponents Hold Kick-Off Rally For ‘No On H’
It isn’t every day Ruth Kraft, a long-time resident of Beverly Hills, has security standing in front of her home on Trenton Drive to protect the peace. It’s not every day hand written signs are hammered into her lawn that read, “Attention Residents: Your Voice–Your Choice.” City councilmembers, past and present, don’t usually meet in front of Kraft’s swimming pool to protest.
What caused almost 75 residents to unite in her home Sunday afternoon? Their opposition to the $500 million Beverly Hilton Revitalization Plan which will demolish part of the property to add a 12-story Waldorf-Astoria hotel, one six-eight story condominium tower along Wilshire Boulevard and one 16-18 story condo tower on Santa Monica Boulevard.
“(The plan) is just too big,” said former planning commissioner Rose Norton as she stood in Kraft’s outdoor patio, blocks from The Beverly Hilton.
“It’s just too big” has become the platform for the Citizens Right to Decide Committee, an organization dedicated to stopping the project from moving forward. The four-word slogan is seen on their blue, red and white mailers, or along the bottom of their “500 lawn signs” dispersed throughout the City.
Since the project was introduced by The Beverly Hilton’s owner Beny Alagem in 2003, these “grassroot” volunteers have been successful in slowing down its construction.
Originally approved by the City Council in May by a 3-2 vote, the revitalization was stopped after the organization gathered 3,092 signatures to call for a referendum. It is now on the Nov. 4 ballot for residents to decide.
Sunday, the Citizens Right to Decide Committee kicked off their campaign against Measure H with a rally that included attendees City Councilwoman Nancy Krasne and former Mayor Richard Stone.
“We are here today because the election is Nov. 4, absentee ballots will be mailed out at the end of the month,” said Larry Larson, treasurer of the Citizens Right to Decide Committee, while greeting guests inside Kraft’s home. “(We are here) to get out the true facts, to counter balance the Hilton.”
Opponents say the project will “almost double the square footage at the site” and “overdevelop” the property.
The project’s 18-foot tower would be seven stories higher than the tallest building in Beverly Hills, 10 stories higher than the existing hotel. It might increase traffic as the hotel doubles in size, and is short almost “1,900” parking spaces, opponents claim.
“(This) is the right fit for Century City,” said Larson in his speech Sunday. “It is the wrong fit for Beverly Hills.”
Opponents also attacked Alagem’s promise that this project will create “the biggest single economic benefit” in history for residents and Beverly Hills Unified School District schools.
Larson claims that potential financial benefits are derived from the hotel, not from the condo towers. Instead, these towers will add hundreds of residents who will require more police, fire, sewage, infrastructure and water, he said.
“I have always been interested in water issues,” said Norton, who served eight years on the planning commission.
“Adding condos brings huge water issues; it is something we have to take into consideration as the City continues to grow, grow, grow,” Norton said.
Although unable to attend the kickoff, former Planning Commission Chair Stacy Marks had her letter of opposition read after Larson’s speech.
“I have enormous issues with this project,” Krasne said to the dozens of residents Sunday. “No one has ever come to a council, and left with more than what they came with.”
In a recent statement, Ala-gem promised to provide a $3.24 million endowment to the Bev-erly Hills Education Foundation if the condos are built.
Proponents state the project will mitigate traffic by dedicating two-left turn lanes from Wilshire to Santa Monica boulevards. It will provide more enough parking spaces, an average of $12 million a year in net revenue to the City and will be only half the height of nearby buildings in Century City, they claim.
Hilton supporters state the project will increase the size by 1/3 of the nine-acre property, not double.
And, contrary to opponents’ beliefs, it will only be 30 feet taller than the California National Bank Building and 36 feet taller than The Beverly Wilshire hotel tower, the Beverly Hilton spokespeople say about the hotel’s plan.
Four Hilton supporters stood peacefully in front of Kraft’s home Sunday. These Beverly Hilton representatives casually handed out fliers before people walked inside to the “No on H” kickoff.
“There has been so much misinformation communicated by the opposition that we felt it was important to provide the attendees the facts on the project,” said The Beverly Hilton spokeswoman
Marie Garvey, who said the four men were instructed to stand one to two houses away from Kraft’s when passing out Hilton’s fliers.
“We firmly believe that if the people are given the real facts on the project that we will win on Nov. 4,” Garvey said.
It will be a long seven weeks before election day for both parties in what some opponents are calling, “The David and Goliath” battle.
The Citizens Right to Decide volunteers state they will host informational coffees and meetings before the election.