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Los Angeles City Council to Vote a Second Time on Benedict Canyon Hotel Development

Bulgari Hotel Development Faces Scrutiny Over Different Issues

By Keemia Zhang

A City Council vote on for the approval of a controversial Benedict Canyon hotel development will take place on Wednesday. Bulgari Hotels, an upscale hotel chain with ties to the luxury brand, has faced local backlash from a local activist group, Save Our Canyons, as a result of environmental and political concerns – while the opposing developer-supported group, Enhance Our Canyons, represents the hotel as an ecological sanctuary.

Alongside partner Gary Safady, the chain is set to develop Bulgari Resort Los Angeles on a 33-acre property in the hills of Benedict Canyon, at 704-9712 West Oak Road – however, a second City Council vote on whether the hotel’s construction should move forward, in a motion proposed by Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents the Canyon’s District 5,will take place on Wednesday, August 16. 

The project has faced dissent due to concerns to preserve the environmental condition of the Santa Monica Mountains, as well as conflict of interest concerns as a result of Paul Koretz’ staff ties with a land consultant from the project, with Yaroslavsky alleges were not reported to the city. Koretz initially appeared to back the project, but later came out against it.

If successful, the motion will compel City Planning Director Vincent Bertoni to reconsider a General Plan amendment required for the construction of the hotel. Records from the Los Angeles Ethics Commision display that Shawn Bayliss – one of Koretz’ planning and land use deputies – is married to land consultant Stacey Brenner, who was paid $174,000 for being a lobbyist and signatory of the General Plan Amendment.

“This is a bad project,” Yaroslavsky stressed. “The process was deeply flawed. It’s Exhibit A for the idea that if you pay enough money to enough lobbyists and you pay for a [project labor agreement], you can build whatever you want, wherever you want.”

The previous vote drew a rare 7-7 tie, spurring the second meeting. Concerns about hotel construction in a “low density, fire prone residential area” has also drawn opposition from Yaraslavsky, who previously worked for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Safady previously stated that developers would plant over 1,000 new trees, and let existing wildlife roam free on the property. 

Bulgari has planned to develop 58 guest rooms and eight private residences, alongside a spa and Michelin-star restaurant. Several celebrity canyon residents previously signed a letter backing Bulgari’s development. Safady referred to Yaroslavsky opposition efforts as “a shame – I think it’s based on a campaign pledge without having any knowledge of the property or merits of it,” he remarked. “There’s codified procedures that are built into the city to protect against stuff like this, so her actions are completely contrary to that.”

The vote to oppose is backed by the Benedict Canyon Association, which aims to “Monitor crime, safety, traffic, development and quality of life in the canyon.” The group has led opposition to real estate development in the area before, garnering substantial public support for a successful bid against Mark R. Hughes’s 45,000 sq ft villa, and an unsuccessful bid against a 85,000 sqft compound built by Saudi Prince Abdulaziz. 

The City Council meeting will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber, Room 340 at City Hall, on 200 N. Spring Street at 10am, and is open to public attendance.

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