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Beverly Hills residents to vote on hotel

Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills residents fighting a developer’s plan to turn the Beverly Hilton on Wilshire Boulevard into a high-rise Waldorf-Astoria hotel and condominium complex succeeded Tuesday in placing the issue on the November ballot.

After the City Council voted 3 to 2 in favor of the hotel project in May, opponents began circulating a petition to place the issue on the ballot.

On Tuesday, the City Council certified that the petition contained the required number of signatures, 2,754, more than 10% of registered voters, and voted unanimously to place the issue on the November ballot.

“What the developer had presented was just too large and massive,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker, who voted against the proposal in May.

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“The city prides itself on its passion for quality of life and achieving a complementary balance” between commercial and residential development, he said.

Developer Oasis West, which staged an advertising campaign against the petition, still plans to pursue the project, a spokeswoman said.

“We look forward to the vote in November and are confident that the residents of Beverly Hills will confirm the council’s approval of the project,” said Corrine Verdery, Oasis West’s senior vice president in charge of the Beverly Hilton Revitalization Project.

Oasis West wants to overhaul the 9-acre property, replacing the Hilton with a 170-room, 12-story Waldorf-Astoria hotel -- 47 fewer rooms and four added stories.

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It would be the West Coast’s first version of the New York landmark.

Plans also include two condominium high-rises: a six- to eight-story tower with 26 to 36 units and a 16- to 18-story tower with 64 to 74 units, according to a statement.

A two-story conference center would be replaced, and a park added with 4.5 acres of landscaping and gardens.

The developer has promised to spend as much as $10 million on traffic improvements and estimates that in 30 years, the project would generate $750 million in revenue for the city.

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Opponents fear the proposed hotel complex is too big for the city, would worsen traffic and disrupt local parking.

They say the burden the project would impose on the city in terms of water and other services would far outweigh the property tax benefits, and note that the developers do not plan to offer free parking to the estimated 800 employees.

Larry Larson, a longtime Beverly Hills resident and lawyer, spearheaded the petition effort as treasurer of the Citizens Right to Decide Committee, which he said planned to stage a campaign to build opposition to the project before the November vote.

“We’re going to get the true facts out -- how much financial benefit perhaps the city is going to get,” Larson said.

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If most voters reject the hotel complex plans in November, Oasis West will still have a year to submit new designs to the city Planning Commission.

Larson said it was too early to say what changes would make the project acceptable to his group and other opponents, but said some changes would be necessary, including free employee parking and smaller condominium towers.

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molly.hennessy-fiske @latimes.com

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