Why You Should Vote ‘YES’ on Measures ‘B’ and ‘C’ | Guest Editorial

I am writing to explain why I think that you should vote “YES” to allow the Cheval Blanc hotel project to be built.

First, some background.

We moved into our new Hillside area house in 2016 after a four-year process of designing, permitting and constructing. Even though it was entirely “by right,” it took a long time because the city has elaborate processes that are taken seriously by the planning staff, our residents, the Planning Commission and the City Council. These processes ensure that anything that is built is appropriate for our special city.

Shortly after moving in, we learned that the owners of a city hotel were attempting to use a ballot initiative to bypass the city’s processes. They sought a simple vote of the city’s residents to authorize a high-rise tower approximately three times the height of any other building in the city.

I voted against that initiative because I concluded that the city’s processes, including public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council, were more effective to ensure that any development would be consistent with the best interests of the city.

Thankfully the initiative failed.

The Cheval Blanc Hotel project, in direct contrast with the initiative, went through an unusually exhaustive review process.

As a member of the Planning Commission, I spent many hours considering and helping to revise the Cheval Blanc plans that ultimately resulted in approval of this project.

Specifically, the review started with a Scoping Session (an initial presentation of the project that our city voluntarily conducts to afford an early opportunity for public comment), followed by five Planning Commission public hearings and three City Council public hearings.

Numerous public comments, for and against the project were received. Written responses were provided to every comment.

Now we must address a referendum that attempts to revoke entitlements to construct the Cheval Blanc granted after years of review and revision.

An outside labor union has spent large sums to gather signatures of residents to have a vote to overturn the processes of the city.

As a resident and as a member of the Planning Commission, I am offended and alarmed by this intrusion.

Now, notwithstanding thorough and time-consuming analysis, the union-sponsored petition has relegated this project to stand or fall in a political contest.

When we cast our votes, “yes” will maintain the carefully considered entitlements; “no” will revoke the entitlements.

Further, a “no” vote likely ensures that any development of the vital, currently vacant sites on Santa Monica Boulevard between Beverly and Rodeo drives will be delayed for years or decades.

Please consider the merits of the entitled project before casting your ballot.

Objectively, the proposed Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills hotel will be a magnificent addition to our city from an architectural and commercial point of view.

Commercially, it is undeniable that this landmark structure will maintain and greatly enhance our city’s unique brand. It will provide great benefits to our city’s commercial sector and retail and restaurant businesses and generate enormous new city revenues.

This contribution is vital to ensure that we will continue to enjoy city services and facilities that are vastly superior to any of our neighboring municipalities.

In my opinion, it is not an overstatement to observe that it would be a tragedy if our residents reject this extraordinary development.

Now, a few words to those who may have reservations about the project.

After numerous hearings and changes, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the project. By a 4-1 vote, the City Council did as well.

The claim that the project will cause increased traffic was carefully considered and numerous changes were made to minimize adverse impacts.

The claim that the project is “too large” was evaluated. Notably, numerous buildings including those nearby are as tall or taller. The proposed number of hotel rooms is a fraction of the number of rooms at other city hotels.

I have also heard that a “no” vote should be cast as a “protest” of larger buildings being constructed in certain multi-family areas.

This makes no sense for at least two reasons:

Larger multi-family buildings are a result of state incentives, not any action of the council, and are unrelated to Cheval Blanc; and it is never a good idea to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The principal objection expressed by the lone council dissenter was that the developer was not paying the city sufficient funds up front in addition to the enormous new revenues that would be realized once this magnificent project is completed.

Ironically, most cities would have been pleased to offer Cheval Blanc generous financial incentives to build within their borders. Because of the unique qualities of Beverly Hills, Cheval Blanc has agreed to pay our city many millions of dollars to locate here.

In my view, the benefits to the city, financial and otherwise, will be extraordinary.

Rejecting this project will be a missed opportunity that we shall regret for decades.

Please join me and vote “yes” on BOTH measures to uphold the carefully considered entitlements.

Peter Ostroff and his family have lived in Beverly Hills with some interruptions since 1979. His children attended the Beverly Hills schools. After retiring from a 50-year full-time practice as a trial lawyer in 2017, Ostroff began his term as a member of the Planning Commission in 2018. Two years later, he became Chair of the Commission at the start of the lengthy review process for the Cheval Blanc project. For three years, he was actively involved in analyzing the project and obtaining substantial modifications of the proposal resulting in the current version approved by a unanimous Planning Commission. In addition to the Planning Commission, Ostroff served as Chair of the BHUSD 7-11 Surplus Property Committee and is now participating in efforts to develop the District Offices site on S. Lasky Drive and developing proposals for the use of the Hawthorne School property once its students are moved to the new El Rodeo School. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the City’s Climate Adaptation and Action Plan now being prepared.