Vote Likely on Hotel Despite Court Order to Block It

Times Staff Writer

A special election on a proposed 250-room beachfront hotel probably will be held June 11 despite a recent court order barring it, city officials and several attorneys said this week.

Although Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John L. Cole last week ordered city officials to cancel the election, an appeal filed by the city and the developers of the proposed hotel will tangle the issue in court until well past the election date, the officials and attorneys predicted.

Under state law, filing the appeal stays the Superior Court order until the appellate court considers the issue.

"We will be filing a motion seeking an expedited hearing of the appeal, but I think it is highly unlikely that it will occur prior to the election," said Philip Recht, attorney for the development firm of Greenwood & Langlois, which has proposed the $31-million hotel development. The hearing might not take place for 90 days, he said.

Nullify Results

City Atty. James P. Lough said the city will simply nullify the election results if the appellate court upholds Cole's ruling.

Opponents of the proposed hotel said this week that they will not attempt to block the election through further court action while the appeal is pending.

City Clerk Kathleen Reviczky, whose office administers local elections, said materials for the June special election are being processed on schedule and sample ballots have already been mailed. The $22,000 election expense--as well as the cost of the appeal--is being paid by the developers, city officials said.

Cole ordered the city to cancel the special election at the request of the Referendum Committee of Hermosa Beach, a group of residents opposed to the proposed hotel development. Cole, noting that Hermosa voters rejected a similar hotel project in a special election last December, ruled that state law prohibits residents from voting twice in less than one year on the same ballot measure.

Referendum, Initiative

Recht and Lough have argued, however, that the two special elections--one an initiative and the other a referendum--do not fall within the prohibition cited by Cole. The attorneys maintain that state law prohibits elections for two initiatives or two referendums within one year, but does not address the issue of one initiative and one referendum within the same time period.

The special election in December was a referendum, meaning voters were asked to uphold or repeal an ordinance enacted by the City Council.

In June, voters will consider an initiative that asks them to approve or reject a proposed ordinance submitted by the developers.

Proposal Is Different

In addition, the attorneys argue that the new hotel proposal differs substantially from the project rejected by voters in December and therefore qualifies as a new and separate issue. "The new proposal has addressed every objection that the voters had," Recht said.

But opponents of the hotel dispute those claims, saying they object to any beachfront hotel development on the Strand between 13th and 15th streets, where the project would be built. The vacant one-acre parcel, owned by the city, was the site of a Biltmore hotel that was torn down in the late 1960s.

Voters have rejected proposed hotel development at the Biltmore site three times since 1972.

"I think it is a shame that we have to go through this since there is little chance that they will win on appeal," said Sheila Donahue Miller, an attorney who has represented the referendum group. "But there should be no confusion about it. There will be an election. And once again the voters have to come out and tell the developers what they think of the hotel."

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