New Hotel Rekindles Concerns : Planning: Officials and nearby residents say the Hotel Nikko at Beverly Hills may plan to use more rooms for meetings than allowed. Its manager says the issue is a misunderstanding.


Beverly Hills planning officials have asked the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to withhold a permanent certificate of occupancy for a new luxury hotel on La Cienega Boulevard because they believe the hotel's managers intend to violate restrictive occupancy limits.

The planning officials want the hotel to agree in writing that five ground-floor rooms will be used exclusively as guest quarters. Their request was made in a letter to the department after the Dec. 18 grand opening of the Hotel Nikko at Beverly Hills, during which they were told by hotel employees that the ground-floor rooms would be available for "small luncheons and meetings."

More than five years ago, the Los Angeles City Council, after lengthy negotiations involving the city of Beverly Hills and a local homeowners group, set down special conditions that effectively prohibited the rooms from such use. The first floor was restricted to three meeting rooms totaling 5,975 square feet with a maximum occupancy of 171. The guest rooms on the same floor called for four people each, according to hotel blueprints.

The limits, officials say, were necessary to reduce the crowds and traffic in an already congested area.

"We thought it would be prudent to point out what appears on the surface to be an inconsistency with the original plans," said Ruth Nadel, director of the Beverly Hills Planning and Community Development Department. "In case of any misunderstanding, we want the hotel to know that we view these rooms as guest rooms."

This latest snafu comes on the heels of the disclosure two months ago that the hotel had distributed misleading promotional materials advertising nearly double the amount of meeting space than that allowed under the original conditions, which were approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 1986 and 1987.

About 5,000 advertising packets--complete with a chart and floor plan showing 9,880 square feet split among eight meeting rooms that could accommodate 1,009 people--had been distributed to other North American Nikko hotels and to local clients. The materials were produced by the hotel chain's New York headquarters, which was apparently unaware of the local restrictions. The hotel's general manager, Alphy L. Johnson, said the materials have been corrected.

He maintains that the hotel is geared to the individual business traveler, particularly those in the advertising and entertainment fields. Rooms offer fax machines, computers, stereos and CD players, among other amenities. The hotel staff has not booked large groups or conventions that exceed the occupancy limits, Johnson said.

The 304-room hotel is south of the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, just outside Beverly Hills. Johnson said the matter is a misunderstanding, the result of mistaken information offered by employees during the opening. The rooms in question, now used as storage space, will open as guest suites in late January, Johnson said, adding that one will be set up for display early next week.

All hotel department heads have been told to "clarify with their staff that these are sleeping rooms," Johnson said. Hotel managers held a neighborhood meeting two weeks ago to reassure residents of their intentions.

"It is easy to tell which will be used as guest rooms and which will be used as meeting rooms," Johnson insisted. "Typically, you don't have bathrooms in meeting spaces."

Los Angeles building and safety inspectors have visited the hotel on a number of occasions in recent months and found that it complies with the original conditions. Richard Holguin, who is in charge of inspections for the department, said it is unlikely that the hotel's permanent occupancy permit would be withheld.

"No violation occurs until they rent (the rooms) out for an unacceptable use," Holguin said. Nevertheless, Ginny Kruger, planning deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, has asked the hotel's New York owner, Beverly Park Associates, to sign an agreement that the rooms will be used exclusively as guest quarters; she is waiting to hear from them.

Nadel, of the Beverly Hills planning staff, said such an agreement would satisfy the city's concerns and put an end to any protest over the occupancy permit.

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