4-Story Calabasas Hotel is given the Thumbs Up by Planning Panel

4-Story Calabasas Hotel is given the Thumbs Up by Planning Panel

Here is the article from The Acorn:

The Calabasas Planning Commission voted 3-2 for a plan to build a four-story hotel on Las Virgenes Road, despite criticism by residents who are worried about the impact of the tall building on the scenic west side of the city.

The project will go to the City Council Feb. 24 for final review.

Richard Weintraub, a Malibu-based developer, wants to build a 73,000-square-foot Marriott-brand hotel on a 4-acre parcel next to the eastbound freeway on-ramp at Las Virgenes Road. The 127-room hotel would be built on a previously graded vacant commercial site at 26300 Rondell Road.

An environmental study said the development, known as Rondell Oasis, would not create significant negative impacts on traffic or natural resources in the scenic corridor.

“I think that we’ve done our job,” planning commission vice chair Dennis Washburn said.

Residents and business owners attended a pair of public hearings Feb. 3 and 4 to discuss the hotel. Many were concerned about the building’s four-story, 50-foot height.

“This is squeezing something that doesn’t fit,” project opponent and Calabasas west side resident Mary Hubbard said.

According to city staff, the four-story, U-shaped hotel featuring earth-tone Monterey-style architecture will blend in with the natural landscape. Half the parcel will remain undeveloped.

City staff said there are other buildings in the commercial corridor along the 101 Freeway in West Calabasas that are taller than 35 feet. Weintraub said the fourth floor is essential to the Marriott brand. Reducing the height would require a redesign, a new hotel operator and more land coverage.

The project includes 151 parking spaces that can be used by the public between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., as well as five stalls near the de Anza trail at the site. There are also six parking spaces for bus commuters.

The developer is working with the Santa Monica Conservancy to improve the trailhead. Currently, there is no public access to the trail, Weintraub said.

Opponents said the city’s calculations for parking and traffic are flawed. Many worried about setting a precedent for taller buildings and were concerned about cumulative impacts of development in the area. Another property owner plans to build a four-story hotel and 71 homes 150 yards to the south on Las Virgenes Road.

“You need to take the time to get it right. Once the bulldozers come in, it’s too late,” resident John Suwara said.

The city sees the Rondell hotel as a major revenue producer. The hotel could bring up to $625,000 in annual tax revenue for Calabasas, according to a report. But instead of seeking new money through development, one speaker said, the city should consider reducing what is perceived to be a bloated city staff that is paid exceptionally high salaries.

Residents who support the project said it will improve what’s now an unattractive parcel.

“I believe that this area, at this time, is a blight and an eyesore,” longtime Calabasas resident Ellen Pangarliotis said.

“It will offer the lowest possible traffic impact for the site’s zoning,” speaker Rahsaana Allen said. “It will include improvements for the historic trail and have dedicated parking for the public. It will also bring significant revenue, which is another win.”

After eight hours of public testimony and debate, commissioners Washburn, Mark Sikand and Wendy Fassberg felt the panel had done all it could to ensure the project is ready for the next step, and voted in favor of recommending it to the City Council.

“The bottom line is, for a project like this, we are constrained by laws and the guidelines set forth by the city,” said Fassberg, who urged Weintraub to work with city staff to reduce the height and density of the building and other concerns with regard to bus parking and trail access.

John Mueller, planning commission chair, felt the commission should have more time to fine-tune the project. Though he doesn’t oppose a hotel at the site, Mueller said it’s important for the commission to explore other options to ensure the structure is suitable for the scenic corridor. Commissioner David Litt and alternate commissioner Steve Roseman agreed.

“This is such an important project for the City of Calabasas. It’s going to shape the future. This is setting precedent (and) should go back to the drawing board,” said Litt, who joined Mueller in voting against the project.

Councilmember Fred Gaines, whose law firm has represented Weintraub Real Estate Group on projects outside of Calabasas, will not participate in the council’s upcoming debate over Rondell due to potential conflict of interest.

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