The Beverly Hills Courier Endorses a “Yes” Vote on Measures B and C

The Beverly Hills Courier has served proudly as the “voice of Beverly Hills” for almost six decades. When the present ownership took over four years ago, it did so with the stated goal of elevating the paper into a world-class publication. Soon afterwards, the Courier began to garner some of the most prestigious awards in journalism, with sights set on even more.

A city the caliber of Beverly Hills deserves nothing less.

The Courier’s award-winning team covers the business of the city–and city businesses–objectively and dispassionately. The paper’s editorial philosophy is that a local mom and pop shop deserves the same attention as a multi-national corporation or luxury conglomerate such as LVMH Moe?t Hennessy Louis Vuitton (“LVMH”). Without a doubt, LVMH is an iconic presence in the world of luxury, and a retail powerhouse in Beverly Hills, employing hundreds and generating millions in tax revenues.

However, we make our first endorsement swayed only by facts and what we believe is best for the city.

A referendum set for May 23, 2023, asks residents to vote on Measures “B” and “C.” The language of the two measures seeks to uphold the Development Agreement and the ordinance approving the Specific Plan Zoning and Map Amendments for the LVMH-owned and operated Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills hotel project.

After thorough consideration, the Beverly Hills Courier Advisory Board has unanimously decided to endorse both measures. We urge residents to vote “yes” on Measures “B” and “C” on their referendum ballots.

It is not a decision made lightly, but one based on economic benefits and risks, and the long view of what it means to live and work in Beverly Hills.

The Courier has diligently followed and reported on the actions of the Planning Commission and Planning Department, the Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, and others since the review process for the Cheval Blanc project began in March 2020.

The inescapable conclusion is that this project has completed every required step of the vetting process. No steps were skipped or “rushed through” despite claims to the contrary. The parties hired and heard from experts. Concessions were made, concerns were raised, studied–even to the point of pausing proceedings–and addressed.

After careful deliberation, the city certified the project’s Environmental Impact Report and eventually went on to approve, among other things, a General Plan Amendment, Zoning Map and Zone Text Amendment, Specific Plan and Development Agreement.

It is not in the best interests of the city to nullify the painstaking work of the elected City Council, the appointed members of the Planning Commission and the expert city staff that advised them through this process.

Nor should the voices of those who provided feedback in countless public meetings be silenced. Hundreds of residents have come forward publicly to express their support for Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills. And perhaps even more significantly, the project has also ignited the enthusiasm of the business community.

The economic benefit that Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills brings to the city is undeniable. By conservative calculations, the project will generate nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in the next 30 years.

Revenues will redound to the city from the enhanced Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) of 19%, a surcharge over the 14% paid by other hotels. Additional revenue streams include property taxes, sales taxes, business taxes and environmental mitigation and sustainability fees.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District is set to benefit by another $100 million, based on a statutory allotment from increased property taxes. And the project’s role in creating high-paying, meaningful jobs cannot be overemphasized. The hotel will provide employment for thousands of union workers during its construction phase and exceptional, long-term career opportunities for hotel employees, with extensive benefits and a strong focus on training and development that has long been a part of the LVMH culture.

It is important to note that the Development Agreement for Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills provides economic benefits to the city outright. To wit, a $2 million payment, which will enhance art and culture programs. In addition, a $26 million contribution to the General Fund comes without restrictions, making it available for any purpose or city services deemed necessary now or in the future.

City services, such as those rendered by exceptional police and fire departments, are a great source of pride in Beverly Hills. But peace of mind comes with a substantial price tag. Presently, the yearly budget for police and fire services is approximately $150 million. Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills is poised to provide the city with unprecedented fiscal advantages that can be used for these crucial services.

We also recognize the need to address additional concerns.

First of all, the city’s General Plan absolutely contemplates exceptions to height and building size limits in cases of anchor projects at important gateways that meet strict design and quality standards. Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills, located at the critical gateway of Rodeo Drive and South Santa Monica Boulevard, fits that bill perfectly.

Additionally, the project’s features are designed to enhance the visitor experience in this critical corner of the Golden Triangle. The design by acclaimed architect Peter Marino steps much of its height back away from the street. Key street-level elements, such as a pedestrian plaza, landscaped walkways, art installation, restaurant and retail space will revivify an historically underperforming area of the city.

And we note another fact that is often overlooked, namely, that Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills is a boutique hotel. It has no conference, event or banquet spaces. A guest room count of 109 is only slightly higher than that of the now-closed Luxe Rodeo Drive. Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills will be the smallest luxury hotel in the Golden Triangle, but it will become its new center of gravity.

In sum, Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills is an unprecedented opportunity that the city cannot afford to miss. It will anchor one end of Rodeo Drive and serve as a counterweight that propels the city forward.

On the southern end of Rodeo Drive, the historic Beverly Wilshire Hotel will soon celebrate its centennial. That esteemed property is a testament to the old-world glamour and luxury that made Beverly Hills famous. Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills, as an icon of a new era, will set the standard for world-class excellence for the next 100 years.

For all these reasons, the Advisory Board of the Beverly Hills Courier believes that a “yes” vote on Measures “B” and “C” is essential for the future of Beverly Hills.