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Residents Alarmed by Hotel’s Ads : Development: Group seeks to delay opening after materials indicate larger rooms than agreed to. City says blueprints match earlier agreement.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A luxury hotel on La Cienega Boulevard scheduled to open in mid-December has run into stiff opposition from a homeowners group because of misleading promotional materials it distributed to prospective clients.

A floor plan and a chart for the Hotel Nikko at Beverly Hills (which is actually just outside Beverly Hills in Los Angeles) advertises 9,880 square feet of meeting space split among eight rooms that can accommodate 1,009 people.

The numbers far exceed official limits placed on the hotel more than five years ago, when the Los Angeles City Council approved the project. The council, after lengthy negotiations involving the city of Beverly Hills and the Burton Way Homeowners Assn., restricted the hotel to three meeting rooms totaling 5,975 square feet, and a maximum occupancy of 171.

The homeowners group contends that the hotel, located just south of the Beverly Center, is gearing up to serve conventions. If that is so, they say, it will contribute more traffic and crowds to an already congested area. The group has asked the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to issue a stop-work order.

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“We feel we have been deceived,” said Harald Hahn, president of the homeowners group. “Conditions were set down, but somehow changes have taken place. What’s going on here?”

Hotel blueprints indicate that the number of rooms and the occupancies are consistent with the original regulations. Officials from the Department of Building and Safety, who inspected the hotel last week, said they found it to conform to the original plans and said they see no reason to delay the hotel’s Dec. 18 opening. Inspectors suggest that the problem lies with the advertising information itself, which was prepared last spring by the hotel’s New York headquarters.

Hahn, unconvinced, said his group will monitor the hotel’s use of its meeting rooms to make sure it abides by the earlier agreement.

The hotel is part of the Nikko Hotels International chain, which uses established guidelines to set occupancies for each of its hotels, according to Tom Elbe, vice president of marketing for the parent company. Elbe said his staff was unaware of the local restrictions when it prepared the materials. About 5,000 promotional packets--complete with the chart and the floor plan--have since been distributed to six U.S. hotels in the chain and to another in Mexico City.

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The hotel’s general manager, Alphy Johnson, said he was aware of the misleading information, but unaware that it had been included in about 40 packets distributed by his staff to prospective clients locally over the last two months.

Johnson insists that the hotel is aimed at individual business travelers, particularly those in the advertising and entertainment fields. Guest rooms will feature fax machines, computers, stereos and CD players, among other amenities. The hotel has not booked any groups that exceed the occupancy limits, Johnson said, adding that his staff has already turned away at least three groups.

“We do not have the facilities to be a convention-destination hotel,” Johnson said. “To be quite frank, we do not foresee much group activity.”

Hotel managers said they recognize neighbors’ concerns over increased traffic and crowds. The hotel will provide 619 underground parking spaces, nearly double the amount needed, and the number of rooms has been reduced from 395 to 304, in part to lessen the impact, they say.

“We want to be sensitive to the needs of the community,” Johnson said. “Our intent is to be in full compliance with all of the conditions set down by the City Council.”

Katharine Macdonald, press secretary for Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the hotel site, said the hotel has been advised to correct the promotional material. Nikko’s New York headquarters would not confirm whether it will do so.


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