LA City Halts Benedict Canyon Hotel Project

Close Up Of Hardhats On Table At Construction Site

Photo: Ketchana Jedsenarak / EyeEm / EyeEm / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A much-debated hotel project in Benedict Canyon that has drawn the ire of some neighbors, who expressed concerns regarding the impacts to the environment and public safety, was officially halted by the Los Angeles City Planning Department.

City Planning Director Vincent Bertoni notified developer Gary Safady Wednesday that the city was revoking its approval for his Bulgari Resort Los Angeles, a proposed 58-room luxury hotel in an area of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Mike Gatto, Safady's attorney, said his client "has put millions of dollars into the proposed hotel, which has been in the works for six years," The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday evening.

Gatto told the Times that the decision to halt the project "sends a message to all looking to invest in Los Angeles that the city can't be trusted to follow its own rules."

L.A. City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, whose 5th District includes Benedict Canyon, argued the hotel would pose a danger for its location and negatively impact residents -- emphasizing the growing threat of fires in the hillsides.

The Council voted in support of the hotel earlier this year. However, in August, when the item came back for another vote, members voted 8 to 6 to support a motion asking the city's planning director to consider halting the project.

The motion directed the city planning director to reconsider the initiation of a General Plan amendment -- which the Planning Department and Planning Commission previously approved -- that gave a specific zoning designation for the proposed Bulgari Hotel to be built in a residential area.

The Council's call for a reconsideration of zoning for the project was not binding on the city planning director, but the department said it would review the action.

"The Department of City Planning will carefully consider the request from the City Council to rescind the director's initiation of a General Plan amendment for the Benedict Canyon hotel project," according to an official statement. "The department will review a number of factors, including those cited in the City Council motion and during council deliberation, and render a decision."

On Wednesday, Bertoni wrote a letter to Safady, stating the proposed hotel "would be inappropriate" for the project site, which has "sensitive habitat areas and areas that may be home to protected or endangered species."

"While the Department of City Planning anticipated some impacts to the area, the extent of the impacts disclosed by the initial study and further identified through technical reports and in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, are far greater than initially anticipated," Bertoni wrote in his letter.

In a statement, Yaroslavsky said, "This is a monumental win for our mountains, and sends a clear message that our hillsides are worth defending."

The proposed hotel -- which would have been located at 9704-9712 W. Oak Road -- was in the environmental review process. As part of Safady's plans for the hotel, he proposed dozens of bungalows, a restaurant, spa and eight homes on the property ranging from 12,000 to 48,000 square feet each.

In addition, Safady noted that any trees displaced by construction would be replaced on a 4-to-1 basis, among other tools to preserve and mitigate impacts to the flora and fauna of the area.

Yet, the project was met with strong opposition from residents of Benedict Canyon, community and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, who urged the L.A. City Council to deny the proposed hotel, citing it would be detrimental to the environment and public safety.

Meanwhile, labor organizations such as the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council argued the project would bring hundreds of jobs and benefit the city as a whole.

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