A proposed 156-room hotel and sports complex at King Harbor, which developers once hoped would be the home of the U.S. Olympic water polo team, may not even include an Olympic-size swimming pool under a development agreement approved this week by the City Council.
The bitterly disputed project, which was first proposed two years ago, can be built with either the Olympic-size pool or a smaller "lap" pool, according to the agreement. The council agreed to leave the decision to developer Les Guthrie, whose Marina Cove Ltd. is the master lease holder of the property.
The $14-million complex will be built near the Southern California Edison Plant on Harbor Drive and will be called the Inn at King Harbor. Guthrie says he hopes to break ground for the project in May of 1986.
The council originally approved construction of the project, including an Olympic-size pool, in late 1983. The California Coastal Commission issued a development permit for the hotel and sports complex last September, on the condition that several changes be made to the project.
Proposed Additional Changes
Since then both Guthrie and the council have proposed additional changes, which have been incorporated into the new development agreement along with the Coastal Commission requirements.
According to the new agreement, Guthrie is required to build the "redesigned project"--which differs in height, parking facilities and other ways from the original proposal--if he can win approval for the changes from the city's Harbor Review Board, the City Council and the Coastal Commission. The council's approval is considered a formality.
If Guthrie does not obtain all of the necessary approvals, he will be required to build those portions of the redesigned project that are approved, or, if none of the changes are approved, to build the original project. The original proposal was approved by the necessary panels and commissions, but several changes mandated by the Coastal Commission still need to be reviewed by that group.
Pool Would Bring Traffic
In response to concerns raised several months ago by Councilwoman Marcia Martin and others that a large competition pool would bring intolerable traffic and parking problems to the already congested harbor area, the plans were redesigned to include the smaller lap pool instead of the Olympic-size pool--assuming the smaller pool could obtain state and local approval. But the City Council this week, with Martin's consent, amended that portion of the development agreement to give Guthrie the option to build the larger pool even if the smaller pool receives the necessary approval.
"I don't think it is now the time to impose restrictions on the pool," said Councilman Jack Chapman.
Guthrie had once touted the project as the future home of the water polo team, only to acknowledge later that the team had never agreed to leave its current home in Long Beach. He said last week that the pool will be offered free to Olympic team members who live in the Redondo Beach area and want to train there, as well as to other water sports groups.
According to the agreement, Guthrie must "diligently pursue" city and state approval to build the redesigned project, which includes:
- Building the hotel 15 feet from the water's edge. Portions of the originally proposed hotel extended to the water's edge.
- Allowing the hotel to rise an additional 10 feet to compensate for the rooms lost in the move away from the water. The hotel would rise 75 feet, instead of the originally proposed 65 feet, with mechanical rooms for elevators permitted to rise to 85 feet.
- Increasing the number of parking spaces to 231 from 216 at the hotel and sports center if the smaller pool is built, leaving more room for the spaces.
Required Park Improvements
The agreement also requires Guthrie to donate $125,000 to the city to help it build a 1 3/4-acre park at Mole B, a man-made jetty that extends into the harbor near the hotel site. In its approval of the original hotel development proposal, the California Coastal Commission required that park improvements be added to Mole B and that it remain accessible to the public through the hotel property.
Guthrie said in a written statement that he sought the development agreement from the council, which is not necessary to build the project, as a protection from further changes. "A small group of individuals have tried to make a major political issue out of this matter," he said.
The agreement protects the project from adverse changes in zoning or development standards for three years, according to city Harbor Director Sheila Schoettger.
The project had been the focus of a petition drive--organized by Mayor Barbara Doerr, City Treasurer Alice DeLong and City Clerk John Oliver--that would have placed strict limits on development in King Harbor. The effort failed, however, when not enough signatures qualified. The initiative would have restricted building heights to 38 feet and was intended, in part, to block the Guthrie project, opponents said.
Mayor Opposes Project
Doerr said at the council meeting this week that she still opposes the project, particularly if it does not include an Olympic-size swimming pool. "The one redeeming factor is the swimming pool," said Doerr, who urged the council to make the larger pool a condition of the agreement.
Doerr's request for the Olympic-size pool brought an outburst from recently elected Councilwoman Kay Horrell, who chastised the mayor for opening old wounds.
"For God's sake, let's get this council on track on a positive stance and move forward," Horrell said. "I can see right now it is tearing at the seams, and I don't want to be part of it."
Guthrie, who said he has spent $300,000 for studies and "administrative activities" trying to get the project under way, also blasted Doerr for her unyielding opposition to the development. He said there have been 10 public hearings on the issue.
"No one is going to force me to build any damn thing that is not economically sound," he said of the mayor's proposal that an Olympic-size pool be required. "If you don't approve it, that's the end of it. I am finished."