Miramar Plans 2nd Tallest Tower in Santa Monica

Revised plans for a renovated Fairmont Miramar Hotel call for a 21-story building that would top 261 feet. Hotel owners say the new plan is based on community input—but opponents still hate it.

A 261-foot tall tower with new hotel rooms, condos and ground-floor retail is the centerpiece of the latest plan for a major renovation and expansion of Santa Monica's historic Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

Unveiled to the public Thursday morning in an 8-page Los Angeles Times ad and on the Miramar's website, the new plan shows the made-over hotel would be roughly the same 550,000 square feet that was called for in a prior draft. As it stands today, the hotel is about half that size.

The plan does change the shape of the proposed sky-scraping condo tower, called the Ocean Building, from a L to a thinner rectangle oriented east and west. Though it soars nine floors higher than what was last proposed, the Ocean Building "will barely be visible from many points around the city" and "will have minimal impact on ocean views from nearby buildings," according to the hotel's owners, MSD Capital L.P.

The previous plan was widely perceived as too dense—and the new draft has not changed that view.

"It sure looks like they didn't get the memo asking for a smaller project," said Diana Gordon of Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. Her neighborhood group formed in 2005 to oppose a bigger version of the redeveloped Santa Monica Place.

If the City Council allows the Ocean Building to soar to 21 stories, it would become the second tallest in Santa Monica. The highest is 100 Ocean, which is also 21 floors, but 280 feet tall. It is across the street from the Miramar on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard.

The Ocean Building would be 261 feet to the top of the 21st floor, according to MSD Capital's Alan Epstein, but he said that does not include a decorative feature that would top the roof.

For the first time, the new plan proposes the Ocean Building be in the Art Deco style. "Our choice of architectural style was inspired by historic precedents found throughout Santa Monica," said the architect, John Hill of HKS Hill Glazier Design Studio.

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The Ocean Building, which would replace an existing 10-story hotel tower, is one of three new buildings that would be erected under the latest plan. The others are:

  • The Wilshire Building: Four stories at Second Street and Wilshire with a ballroom on the ground floor, meeting rooms on the second floor the main hotel pool on the third floor and a restaurant on the top.
  • The California Building: Six stories on California Avenue and Ocean Avenue with hotel rooms and suites.

In total there would be 280 hotel rooms, up to 120 market-rate condos, up to 40 "affordable" condos and 484 underground parking spaces. There would be 14,980 square feet of restaurant space; 14,100 square feet of meeting rooms; 13,480 square feet of spa and fitness space; and 9,300 square feet of shops.

The prior plan called for a 12-story Ocean Building and an 11-story California Building. There were the same number of condos, parking spots, meeting rooms, hotel rooms, and shops, and 12,080 square feet of restaurant space. 

Both versions would rehab the landmark Palisades Wing, a brick clad, L-shaped building at the corner of Second Street and California Avenue that was built in 1924.

SEE ALSO: Here's What the Miramar Hotel Looked Like 70 Years Ago

MSD Capital says its latest design was inspired by feedback from community and city leaders over the past six years. Opponents who have called for a smaller project disagree.

"My No. 1 concern is the lack of responsiveness," said Susan Scarafia, co-chair of political action committee Santa Monicans for Responisble Growth.

Scarafia was not among the 150 residents who received invitations to a private open house Thursday at the Miramar, but she said Epstein has offered to meet with her to discuss the new plan.

"They're responsive, but they're tone deaf," Scarafia said.

In April, the City Council voted 6-1, with Kevin McKeown dissenting, to begin negotiations for the project's development agreement. At that time, at least several council members said they were concerned about the proposed density.

But McKeown was unable to garner support to require MSD Capital to come up with a plan to reduce the project’s massing by 25 percent.

On Thursday, McKeown said, "I have heard the new design retains the oversized and unnecessary condo development, while shifting some of the mass into an unacceptably dominating central tower."

"This may be their fantasy project," he said. "But disdain for community concerns will be harder to mask as we enter into the evaluative Environmental Impact Report phase."

The former chairwoman of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition, Valerie Griffin, lauded the Art Deco component and the new shape of the Ocean Building. Griffin resigned from her seat after members protested the board's decision to endorse the hotel makeover.

"I do have some reservations about the height," she told Patch. "I'd like to see a 3D model, especially a digital one with lots of the surrounding buildings also in 3D and color."

Reaction from one of the group's new board members, Reinhard Kargl, was harsher. He said the Ocean Building would steal views, light and sea breezes.

"Santa Monica residents have repeatedly said loud and clear: We do not want high rise buildings here," he said. "We want height limits. ."

Paul Rich February 25, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Yes, of course Dan you're '100% right. Although I believe Santa Monica's voting constituency is weighed too far to the left that it's laws and policy makers unintentionally hurt the very causes they espouse, in this case I would hope the activist nature of Santa Monica might actually vote these folks out. The problem is always campaign finances and the war chests they receive from special interests to be their lap dogs. The voters in Santa Monica are NOT against revitalization and growth, as long as it conforms to the sensibilities of the community ... just as a homeowners' association does with their community. It always amazes me how politicians can convince themselves they are representing the people, giving impassioned speeches at election time ... knowing they're lying.
Dan Charney February 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM
I surprised WSmith that you can stand the Marina- all that development and massive condos- I stopped going there years ago - used to have a little sailboat and go there to the jetty to walk- not anymore- it's ruined- and it's all on marsh i think like Playa Vista sits on methane fields - we are next- we will have those massive sky scraper condo developments all over- soon- so odd to see you like it there
Mara T February 28, 2013 at 04:16 AM
21 stories? Outrageous... How about four, and that's stretching it.
Dan Charney March 15, 2013 at 11:32 PM
Land-snatchers indeed- well said and nice info
Frank Fields March 22, 2013 at 06:13 AM
Attention, SM Patch editors: The Patch needs to add "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons, so people who agree or disagree with a comment, but who don't have anything further they want to add, can let it be known where they stand on an issue. Meanwhile, let me add a big Thumbs Up to Claudia Schafer's remarks.


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