LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Los Angeles City Council committee did not take up an item today regarding the Bulgari Hotel project, a controversial proposal in Benedict Canyon that has united opponents running for city office and pitted celebrities against each other.
The Planning and Land Use Committee voted 4-0, with Councilman Gil Cedillo absent, to continue the item to a later date. The committee was scheduled to recommend a zoning decision to the full council on whether to allow the commercial project in a residential area.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the chair of the committee, did not provide a reason for the continuation. Dozens of people still called in opposing the project, including Councilman Paul Koretz. Koretz introduced a motion last year calling for the city to rescind a General Plan amendment for the project. Koretz, speaking at a news briefing Monday, vowed to not allow the hotel to be approved in the few months he has remaining on the council. He said he hoped the project could be re-imagined to fit the parameters of the city code, comply with environmental protection regulations and have a developer who “actually works closely with the community to make it work for everyone.”
“Bringing in guests and increasing traffic to what was previously not a commercialized canyon — and never should be — will not benefit the community and it is clearly not advocated for by the community,” Koretz said.
More than 11,000 people signed petitions opposing the project, according to Save Our Canyon. Opponents claim the project would create a fire risk and set a precedent to allow commercial development in the Santa Monica Mountains. The project, introduced in 2018, would be located 9704-9712 West Oak Road. It would create nearly 60 guest rooms within 19 buildings, according to Koretz’s motion. The main hotel building would span 146,610 square feet, and include a restaurant and bar area, a spa, fitness facility, pool and 260 parking spaces. The hotel would also host events, such as weddings, dinners and film screenings, according to the motion.
Gary Safady, the developer proposing the project, told the Los Angeles Times that he was working to contain events on site “as much as possible, making the hotel seem to blend in with the environment.” Safady also said that the events would be smaller in size than two nearby hotels — the Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel — and that any removed trees would be replaced on a 4-to-1 basis.
Celebrities lined up on both sides of the issue. The Times reported that Mark Wahlberg, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Gerard Butler were among the neighbors who signed letters in support, while those opposed included Phil McGraw, better known as Dr. Phil, Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and actress Stefanie Powers.
Both Los Angeles mayoral candidates, Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass, issued statements in opposition. Caruso, a billionaire who made his fortune as a developer, said he was with “the residents, the neighborhood associations, and the leading environmental organizations who stand up for communities across Los Angeles and I join their opposition to the proposed Bulgari hotel project.”
Bass said: “One of the things we all value about Los Angeles is its incredible natural beauty including our mountain ranges. I stand with and join the thousands of Angelenos and environmental groups who have voiced their strong opposition to the development of the Bulgari hotel in Benedict Canyon.”
At a news briefing Monday, both candidates running to replace Koretz in District 5 — Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri — spoke in opposition. Both also called in to Tuesday’s committee meeting. Yaroslavsky said she had never seen a project that had as much universal opposition.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it, or how pretty the pictures are, or the fact that it has a designer name attached to it,” Yaroslavsky said. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig here and get away with it.”
Yebri called the project “massive, out-of-scale” and “ill-conceived.” “This canyon, these hillsides, are the heart of Los Angeles,” Yebri said. “And they are not for sale now, or ever.”