Following direction from Los Angeles City Council, the city’s planning director revoked approvals for the Bulgari Resort in Benedict Canyon this week, putting an end to the long-planned and highly divisive project.
The proposed 58-room luxury resort located at 9704-9712 West Oak Road received the green light from the city’s Planning Commission in 2017. Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, whose fifth district includes the project site, led the charge to unravel approvals citing concerns about the hotel’s environmental impact.
She spearheaded a vote to have the council direct the planning director to revoke the General Plan Amendment granted to the development. Her motion initially deadlocked 7-7 in May, before passing 8-6 in an Aug. 16 meeting, prompting Planning Director Vince Bertoni to send a Sept. 6 letter to the developer Gary Safady revoking the amendment and killing the project.
“This is a monumental win for our mountains and sends a clear message that our hillsides are worth defending,” said Yaroslavsky in a statement. “The city of Los Angeles hasn’t allowed a new hotel in these mountains in nearly 100 years, and thanks to hundreds of community and environmental leaders, it won’t anytime soon.” Mike Gatto, a retired State Assemblyman and personal attorney to Safady, issued a statement expressing his frustration with the city’s decision.
“This project has been in the works for six years, has invested millions, and has followed all procedures,” stated Gatto. “This action sends a message to all looking to invest in Los Angeles that the city can’t be trusted to follow its own rules.”
The luxurious development would have been nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains to the north of Beverly Hills and featured 58 hotel rooms, eight private residences, a spa, gym, theater, sushi bar and fine dining restaurant.
Supporters touted its economic benefits and world class amenities, while detractors said it would have negative environmental and traffic impacts.
Mark Levin, board president of Save Our Canyons, an organization of local residents opposed to the hotel, issued a statement praising Yaroslavsky for her “strong leadership” on this issue.
“The decision to stop processing the Bulgari hotel application demonstrates that the people who represent us can differentiate an inappropriate project from appropriate development,” stated Levin. “The community has always been very clear that the high fire severity zones of the hillsides are not the right place for this kind of use.”
Safady, for his part, had previously emphasized his desire to build the hotel in harmony with the surrounding habitat.
“I want to do something where the homes can blend in seamlessly with the environment and put the environment first,” he said in a May 16 Council meeting. “Our ethos is sustainability, our ethos is wildlife, our ethos is fire prevention.”
The project was estimated to bring 50 to 70 new jobs to the area.
Gatto expressed concerns about both the loss of these jobs and the message the city is sending to other developers.
“If one accepts it is this simple for the NIMBYs on council to kill projects they don’t like, then nothing—no housing, no new businesses—will ever get built in Los Angeles,” he stated. “All this has done is undermine the city’s credibility and taken away hundreds of jobs from the working people who need them.”
This decision is one of several high-profile referendums on luxury development near Beverly Hills and in the Santa Monica mountains.
In May, luxury retail conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton saw its development agreement for the proposed Cheval Blanc hotel project revoked through a Beverly Hills Special Election.
In addition, the LA City Council is currently considering a controversial Wildlife Ordinance that would place strict limits on all mountainside development in the name of protecting the environment.