After roughly two hours of deliberation and public comment, the Beverly Hills Planning Commission on Dec. 14 unanimously approved a suite of operational changes at the L’Ermitage Hotel, 9291 Burton Way, including increased hours of the ground-floor restaurant and the construction of rooftop bar and dining areas.
Much of the discussion centered around the zone text amendment that allows for the increased hours and rooftop dining but does not apply to any other hotels in the city, including the three other hotels also located in multiple residential zones. The L’Ermitage rooftop already includes a pool and hosts live events.
The commission also approved a conditional use permit that amended existing restrictions on dining and other operations, and renewed existing entitlements including a conditional use permit, a development plan review and extended hours permit.
“I believe that this is the right project at the right place at the right time,” Commission Chair Gary Ross said. “I think that this project is wholly consistent with our general plan [and] land use policy … Coupled with the fact that this property is pretty much on brand for our city, I will vote for it enthusiastically.”
Most public commenters shared Ross’s enthusiasm, saying the amendments and additions would modernize and improve services at an already world-class hotel that supports the local community. Resident Steve Mayer, however, said he and other neighbors had lodged complaints at successive public meetings that the changes would increase congestion and noise pollution in nearby residential areas.
Trying to allay these concerns, hotel representatives said they would construct a glass sound wall surrounding the rooftop areas and had commissioned a series of studies showing that parking impacts would also be negated.
“As you’re aware, our team was actively engaged with over 400 members of the Beverly Hills community through door-to-door outreach, community meetings and site visits,” representative Spencer Kallick said. “At the last hearing [on Oct. 26], we all observed the outcome of that outreach. We heard from 74 members of this community expressing very strong support for what is proposed, the majority of which live within two blocks of the hotel.”
Some commissioners still had worries. Commissioner Peter Ostroff said he had “some discomfort” with plans to leave open the entrance door to the downstairs indoor dining room. After a back and forth with hotel staff, he said he would let them decide whether it made sense to keep the door open or closed.
Commissioner Myra Demeter asked to clarify language in the draft resolution restricting rooftop uses to hotel guests, and said she was worried that hotel staff hadn’t done enough to satisfy residents’ concerns and was initially reluctant to approve the resolution.
“It will pass with or without my vote,” Demeter said. “The only comfort I take is that Mr. Kallick did explain that there were various overtures to the dissenters … and that would propel me to think about this in a different way.”
The commission also directed city staff to amend the language on who can access rooftop amenities before approving the resolution.
The Dec. 14 decision represents a long-sought win for the L’Ermitage staff, which has been working for almost three years to gain approval for the changes and additions, Kallick said. In 2021, the hotel was acquired by real estate firm EOS Investors and put under new management.
“The zone text amendments and modifications to the existing entitlements will allow L’Ermitage to remain competitive in today’s hospitality landscape,” General Manager Scott Berger said. “These updates will allow the hotel to take full advantage of its existing facilities by creating additional dining options that our clients expect, and our competitors already offer.”
The zone text amendment approved on Dec. 14 allows the restaurant to convert ground floor meeting rooms into additional dining and kitchen areas and to replace existing rooftop storage facilities with an outdoor cabana, bar and dining seating and a kitchen, according to a staff report.
The amended conditions of approval further allow the hotel to increase the number of tables and chairs in the outdoor dining area from seven tables and 20 chairs to 10 tables and 26 chairs. The amended conditions also allow for “amplified sound to project from the inside of the restaurant to the outdoor dining area,” and increase the outdoor dining area’s closing time from 10:30 p.m.-11 p.m.
Following the council’s decision, the ZTA will go before the City Council for final approval, and the public can file an appeal of the decision within 14 days.