In a contentious decision that sparked over two hours of public comment and accusations of an ethics violation, the Los Angeles City Council voted against halting the construction of the controversial Bulgari Hotel project in Benedict Canyon. The proposed hotel has been a subject of intense debate and has drawn the ire of some local residents.
During the council session, Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, representing the Fifth District, introduced a motion to direct the city planning director to reconsider the General Plan amendment necessary for the hotel project to proceed in a residential area. However, the council deadlocked in a 7-7 vote, resulting in the motion’s defeat.
The Department of Planning had previously approved the initiation of the amendment process, allowing for a specific zoning designation for the Bulgari Hotel project. While the rejection of the motion does not guarantee the project’s final approval, the council will revisit the issue once the Planning Department releases its environmental impact report.
Yaroslavsky cited several reasons to support her motion, including a potential ethics violation involving her predecessor’s planning and land use deputy. Records from the Ethics Commission revealed that Stacey Brenner, while her husband Shawn Bayliss served as the planning and land use deputy for former Councilman Paul Koretz, received over $174,000 for lobbying efforts related to the General Plan amendment. Yaroslavsky pointed out that Brenner personally submitted and signed the amendment application.
The councilwoman also raised concerns about the developer, Gary Safady, who reportedly spent nearly $3 million on lobbying for the amendment. Yaroslavsky further argued that the proposed project posed significant environmental threats and increased hazards for canyon residents. She emphasized that her constituents, along with Mayor Karen Bass and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, overwhelmingly opposed the project.
The Bulgari Hotel project, introduced in 2018, would be situated at 9704-9712 W. Oak Road and encompass a 32.67-acre property. Plans include a 59-room hotel, eight single-family homes, 18 buildings, a parking structure, funicular railway, and various amenities. Safady assured that events at the hotel would be smaller in scale compared to neighboring hotels, and a 4-to-1 tree replacement policy would be implemented for any trees affected during construction.
The issue has divided celebrities as well, with Mark Wahlberg, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Gerard Butler showing support for the project, while figures like Dr. Phil, Robby Krieger of The Doors, and actress Stefanie Powers voiced opposition.
Despite the impassioned arguments, the city council rejected Yaroslavsky’s motion after going into closed session to consider its legal implications. Council members Kevin de León, Heather Hutt, Traci Park, John Lee, Monica Rodriguez, Curren Price, and Paul Krekorian voted against the motion. Councilwoman Rodriguez expressed skepticism regarding the ethics violation claims, and Councilwoman Park stated her intention to await the environmental impact report’s findings before making a decision.
The fate of the Bulgari Hotel project now hangs on the forthcoming environmental assessment, which will play a crucial role in determining its future. The contentious debate surrounding the project serves as a reminder of the complexities involved in balancing development interests with community concerns.