A plan to renovate the San Vicente Inn, once a center of prostitution and drug use, into an upscale urban inn is being opposed by a company headed by a man from Chatsworth who describes himself as “the instant celebrity maker” and a motivational speaker.
Mitch Carson‘s Neighborhood Planning Support Inc. will ask the City Council tonight to reject a recommendation by the Planning Commission to approve the project. The inn was purchased in 2013 by Jeff Klein, owner of the Sunset Tower hotel. Klein is proposing to convert the existing 29-unit motel into an “urban inn” with a total of 32 rooms and a restaurant and off-site parking while preserving the historic character of the existing buildings. The inn’s three buildings on the west side of San Vicente Boulevard north of Santa Monica and the stand-alone Victorian structure on a lot across the street have been designated local cultural historical resources as part of the Old Sherman Thematic Group. That group takes its name from the period in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Moses Sherman, a railroad developer, created the community of Sherman where West Hollywood now lies.
In a petition to the City Council, Carson claims the project is “out of character” with the residential neighborhood, will not have sufficient parking and will have a negative impact on the environment because of the noise caused by construction, the possibility that a new building proposed for the site will cast unwanted shadows on neighboring buildings and that there may be dangerous emissions from trucks removing dirt from the site during construction. Those assertions are challenged by the city’s Community Development Department, which notes that an outside consultant was hired to evaluate the possible impact on the environment of the project.
In its petition to overturn the Planning Commission decision, Neighborhood Planning Support says it represents local residents but does not identify them. In community meetings and hearings before the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission the project has garnered overwhelming support from its neighbors. At the Historic Planning Commission meeting in October about 40 local residents turned out to praise the proposed redevelopment. At that meeting, Lt. Dave Smith of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station noted that Klein’s ownership of the San Vicente Inn already has resulted in a 75 percent drop in calls to the Sheriff’s Station about illegal activities there. Jen Dunbar of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, which keeps an eye on proposed renovations to historic buildings such as those of the San Vicente Inn, also spoke in favor of the project.
Carson has been involved in similar and unsuccessful challenges to developments in Southern California. Working through a company called Good Local Planning Inc. Carson sued the city of Rolling Hills Estates in 2011 to overturn its approval of a plan to convert the Chandler Ranch rock quarry into a golf course and 114 luxury homes. His attorney in that matter declined to name the residents that Carson alleged were opposed to the project. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013.
In an interview in 2011 with the Daily Breeze newspaper, Carson said Good Local Planning tracks development projects in Southern California. “We are an organization that likes to make sure developers don’t run wild,” he said Carson.
Last October the South Valley Area Planning Commission denied Neighborhood Planning Support’s petition to deny a developer permission to build an apartment building and eventually an office building on a occupied by a vacant 124,000-square-foot office building that the Daily News sold to Hearst Communications in 2007.
In its petition to the West Hollywood City Council, Neighborhood Planning Support gives as Carson’s phone number a phone number that is that of Ed McCabe, who has been involved with Good Local Planning Inc. McCabe has not responded to calls from WEHOville about the project.
The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.