After tumultuous battle, hotel and condominium project on Long Beach shoreline moves forward

After a tumultuous four-year battle between property owners, hotel union leaders, the California Coastal Commission and residents near Bixby park, the long-awaited hotel and condominium project dubbed Silversands is set to break ground next year, as first reported Long Beach Business Journal.

Sitting at the southern-most end of Cherry Avenue at Ocean Boulevard, the proposal includes 40 hotel rooms, 56 condominiums, and 168 parking stalls across a building that will be four stories facing north of Ocean and seven stories facing the beachfront, given its development on the bluff. The former Beach Plaza, where the film Blow was shot, was demolished in 2014 and the lot has been sitting empty since.

“This is one of the last few beachfront hotel and condominium projects that could be built in Southern California where the tenants and guests could actually walk right out onto the sand and enjoy Long Beach,” Lau told the Business Journal. “The property itself, in the sense of location, provides something very unique to the whole Los Angeles area.”

This design is the originally entitled proposal—a rarity in the world of California beachside development, given the tough but needed restrictions used to keep the coastline from becoming overdeveloped—but it could have been better had it not become a petty battle between property owners and a hotel union, backed by angry HOAs.

A rendering of the Silversands project at Ocean and Cherry Avenue in Alamitos Beach. Courtesy of Studio One Eleven.

A rendering of the Silversands project at Ocean and Cherry Avenue in Alamitos Beach. Courtesy of Studio One Eleven.

That better project—one shot down by the California Coast Commission; reasoning down below—would have increased public access.

The opposition to the updated project was led by hotel labor union Unite Here and the Palacio Del Mar and Park Regency HOAs.

The HOAs were worried about increased traffic—oh, those pesky tourists who give us money!—and, of course, a loss of parking (because, after all, it should be the city’s top priority to provide people public space to store their private property for free in urban areas, right?).

Unite Here had an argument that the Coastal Commission wouldn’t fight against: The project is blatantly in violation of the Local Coastal Program, which protects the three low-cost motels along the bluff in order to provide low-income families and individuals with access to the beaches of Long Beach.

The commission was quite clear that it wasn’t going to set a precedent of going against the LCP—hence its unanimous vote. But the interesting thing is not why it voted so; that is quite clear. The question is: Wasn’t the precedent already set?

Silversand Properties, the owner of Beach Plaza, already had a Commission-approved, entitled project. That’s right: Silversand demolished Beach Plaza—and thereby demolished so-called access to the beach for lower-income families—and will now begin its project approved all the way back in 2007. This was going to happen despite the commission’s vote, making its vote nothing more than a pat on the back toward Unite Here.

“The benefits of the modified project included greater onsite coastal views and amenities,” said Michael Bohn, a principal at Studio One Eleven. “Views could have included Catalina Island and the Newport Coast, whereas the entitled design only has the Newport Coast view. Added amenities included a beach level cafe and bike rental facility to serve folks along the bike path. In addition, we added a restaurant with outdoor dining that included coastline views. Adding another 32 rooms would have also increased public access to the site.”

But that project was shot down, leaving Silversands to finally move forward with the entitled project instead.

In an email sent to Mike Murchison—a consultant who represented the Silversands in 2014—from Union Here Research Analyst Rachel Torres, Torres offered Murchison an agreement which states that should Beach Plaza’s new development go union with Unite Here, “the Union will immediately withdraw appeal. The Union will support the project and encourage other appellants to support the project.”

For the full account of this transaction, I did a two-part series back in 2014: Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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