Beverly Hills News – Mirisch Moves to Buy Wanda Approval by Announcing Development Agreement Prior to Council Review
Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2016 – 5:26 PM
By Victoria Talbot
A Beverly Hills City press release sent at 10:41 p.m. Friday evening extols an “Unmatched Agreement with Wanda Group” that promises “an additional $550 million in payments to the City over 30 years.”
The proposed development agreement includes $60 million in upfront fees. The press release claims that the project will bring in $820 million dollars in 30 years.
By comparison, the Hilton will bring in $1 billion over 30 years.
The project has not received final approval, and there are major issues with the entrances and the loading dock. Without knowing the details, there is no way to verify these numbers.
Publicizing the agreement in advance of a confirmed project is highly unusual. It is likely unique in the history of Beverly Hills. The Courier is concerned as to why the agreement was released prior to approvals, as much can change in the process.
The announcement has the affect of souring any public comment.The City Council has not yet finished their review – and do not yet know the details of the project, the impacts, or the details of the Development Agreement.
“It is completely premature and highly unusual for the City and Wanda to jointly announce and publicize a Development Agreement making it seem that the Wanda project is a done deal when it hasn’t even been reviewed or approved by City Council,” said Hilton spokesperson Marie Garvey.
The announcement of a pending agreement comes amidst a fog of controversy over Mayor John Mirisch’s ex parte communications with Chairman Wang Jianlin and Wanda Group associates.
Mirisch, who has accused the Hilton of trying to buy an election with their HH Initiative, has all the appearance of selling Beverly Hills to Wanda with a deal that concluded after the close of business on a Friday a week before the project is scheduled to appear on the City Council agenda.
The Courier is also concerned with the hasty way the project is being pushed through the process for no apparent reason, since the City Council members have not had their own chance to examine the project. Why has this project been fast-tracked?
Mirisch will be asking the council to approve the project on three consecutive hearing dates, Nov. 7-8-9, which includes Tuesday’s national election, for hearings on the Wanda project. It appears that the Mayor, who had a secret meeting with Wang Jianlin when he visited China last summer, has been fast-tracking the approval so as to avoid scrutiny.
The Wanda project, originally approved for residential only, is proposing 200,000 square feet of commercial space, including five restaurants, bars and lounges, meeting rooms, and ballrooms. The project would include one of the largest commercial spaces in the City.
When the Hilton negotiated their agreement, it was the second highest in Beverly Hills history at $10.2 million. The 9900 project was the highest at $30 million with the 2008 approved deal. The new proposal – of $60 million – is the highest priced buy-in in City history – for 134 hotel rooms.
The City bureaucracy, at the encouragement of Mayor Mirisch, is fast-tracking a project of 901,514 sq. ft. including the proposed 200,000 square feet of hotel, ballrooms, restaurants and bars. The mysterious haste to approve such a project in three days is reminiscent of the City’s still unresolved lack of transparency in matters surrounding Lots 12 & 13.