The Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills luxury hotel project took another step forward during a special session of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission on Oct. 28. The Commission offered consensus support for a draft of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared by city staff and presented at the meeting after almost a year-long process. The final report is expected in early 2022.
The ultra-luxury project proposed for Rodeo Drive would rise four stories from street-level and up to nine stories at the back of the structure. The proposal includes a hotel with up to 115 guest rooms as well as ground-floor retail and dining. It is expected to open in 2025.
“I think it’s a beautiful project that will add a beautiful feature to our city,” said Planning Commissioner Peter Ostroff at the hearing.
As part of the city’s review process for projects like this one, an EIR must be submitted to publicly identify impacts the development project might have on the local environment. Other than noise vibrations expected during construction, the city expects no significant environmental impacts from the project as it is proposed.
“I thought the EIR was extremely thorough,” Ostroff said. “None of these [reports] are perfect, but this one is pretty darn good.”
The draft EIR covered the project’s possible impacts on traffic, wildlife, air quality, sound pollution, cultural resources and more. The EIR also suggested protections for any indigenous artifacts or remains that could potentially be found at the site during construction.
“Every Environmental Impact Report requires a substantial amount of work. This work is both on the EIR document itself as well as the supporting background reports and studies referenced in the EIR,” Beverly Hills City Planner Masa Alkire told the Courier in an email. “This work is necessary to make sure the document is consistent with the requirements of CEQA legislation and CEQA related case law.”
CEQA (pronounced sea-kwa), is the acronym for the California Environmental Quality Act first passed in 1970. Impact reports like the one in question are required under CEQA.
A 45-day public comment and review period for the draft EIR ended Nov. 1. City staff are now in the process of preparing the final draft. The final EIR will be presented at a future Planning Commission meeting with possible minor changes and considerations for public input on the project. The Planning Commission will then vote on whether to recommend the report for approval by the City Council.
“Fortunately, the closest residential area is separated from the hotel by Beverly Gardens Park, along with Santa Monica Boulevard and Little Santa Monica Boulevard,” said Nooshim and Yar Meshkaty in a statement read at the Planning Commission meeting. “This fact, combined with the results of the noise study makes it easier to support the Cheval Blanc project.”
Nooshim Meshkaty serves as Chair of the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission.
The hotel’s parent company, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has five similar Cheval Blanc luxury projects with locations in Paris, the French Riviera, the Maldives and Saint Barth. When completed, Beverly Hills would be the first of the Cheval Blanc collection in the Americas.
The proposed project would occupy almost 1.3 acres along S. Santa Monica Boulevard between Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive. Four buildings currently sit on the space, including the former sites of Brooks Brothers and the Paley Center, as well as the Celine building. The project proposal includes rooftop pools, a private club and penthouse space, and a street-level pedestrian plaza at the corner of Rodeo and S. Santa Monica Boulevards.
The project proposal also includes a major change to a service alley at the site, raising some concerns among neighboring businesses. Specifically, the project contemplates a 90-degree turn in a section of the one-way alley that currently runs straight, north to south. The change would mean vehicles would enter the alley from Beverly Drive rather than S. Santa Monica Blvd. as they currently do.
Representatives from Hermes and Chanel voiced concerns during the Planning Commission meeting that the changes to the alley could create a hazard and impede their business. Neither organization voiced opposition to the Cheval Blanc project beyond this detail and LVMH offered no rebuttal during the meeting.
“I think we are going to have dueling reports as to whether and to what extent traffic can pass through the newly configured alley,” said Commissioner Gary Ross at the meeting. “It’s early in the process and we can all study that.”
Planning Commission Chair Andy Licht tabled discussion of the alley until a future meeting–the October hearing was held only to discuss whether the EIR draft passed muster with state and local EIR requirements.
“I’m sure we’ll get much more into these operational issues in our next meeting,” Licht said.
The Commission also requested the three companies work together to “iron out” these details before the next review meeting when the Commission expects to discuss the merits of the project proposal itself. That hearing is expected to take place in the beginning of 2022, according to city staff.
“I think it’s a marvelous project,” said Planning Commissioner Myra Demeter at the hearing. “I think it will add a lot to our city, but these little things have to be worked out. Then we can proceed at full speed.”