Council supports 130-room hotel

There were mostly good feelings all around as the Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday took a step toward putting a 130-room hotel at the former City Hall site in Lido Village.

And despite R.D. Olson Development winning the evening and the initial round, the Irvine-based firm was complimentary of its two competitors for the project: the Shopoff Group, which wanted to build a 99-unit, mixed-use residential complex, and Sonnenblick Development, which wanted to construct a 148-room hotel.

Mayor Keith Curry preceded the call for a council vote with "here it is, folks." The council chambers was so packed that for the first time since the council began meeting there in December, it was standing-room only.

What came next was a 6-0 vote in favor, with Councilman Mike Henn abstaining because of a business conflict.

The council's action also included creating an ad-hoc negotiating committee, made up of Councilmen Ed Selich and Rush Hill, and modifying the land-use rules and zoning code for the 4.3-acre former City Hall site at 3300 Newport Blvd.

City officials said the project still faces various administrative hurdles, including approval from the city's Planning Commission and the California Coastal Commission.

Councilman Tony Petros called Tuesday's vote something comparable to finding "a dance partner" and starting the dance, "and that dance will lead to a series of negotiations."

According to the city's 170-page report, the 130-room Lido House Hotel is anticipated to cost $46.6 million and generate $1.53 million in annual revenue through its lease agreement and taxes. Room rates will average $279 a night.

Frequent council critic Jim Mosher objected, calling the project, which would come with a 99-year lease, "unproven" and not innovative.

Bob Olson, president and chief executive of R.D. Olson and a longtime Newport resident,

described the facility as "Newport nautical" with Cape Cod roots. Other words that describe it, Olson said, are "balanced, appropriate, realistic, feasible, thoughtful, connecting" and, true to the city's name, "Newport" and "beachy."

He told the council that his firm has met with various area homeowners associations and "virtually everywhere we've gone, we've received a lot of support. We're very humbled by the response we've received."

He also acknowledged that "we've still got work ahead" for the Lido House Hotel, which will also include a spa, dining options and some public areas.

Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said she was concerned about hotel's parking situation, particularly for the employees.

"That's a lot of cars coming in," she said. "As much as we'd like, they're not all going to be taking public transit and riding bikes."

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