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Since it was first announced in 2018, residents and activists have opposed the proposed Bulgari Hotel in Benedict Canyon, claiming it would threaten the area’s ecology, endanger residents by cutting off access to emergency vehicles and favor moneyed interests over Los Angeles residents. Bulgari is a subsidiary of luxury goods giant LVMH, which has proposed a luxury mixed-use development in Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle that has caused controversy and triggered a referendum.
On March 13, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, 5th District, continued efforts to block the project. Yaroslavsky introduced a motion to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee to oppose an amendment that would re-zone the land and allow for the hotel’s development.
But the amendment has yet to be voted on by City Council, and state-mandated environmental reviews are ongoing. Supporters of the development, including developer Gary Safady and union representatives, said derailing the project at such an early stage would violate city procedures.
After more than an hour of heated public comment during a March 21 PLUM committee meeting, Yaroslavksy’s motion failed to win a majority of votes. The amendment to rezone the land will now go for a vote before the full City Council.
“The Bulgari Hotel project is an obscene and environmentally devastating proposal, which builds a luxury playground for the ultra-wealthy, high up in an environmentally sensitive, residential hillside community,” Yaroslavsky said. “The project could result in bulldozers removing tons of soil, threatening the habitat, razing native plants and hundreds of protected trees [and] destroying the very beauty that this hotel is marketing to its future clientele.”
According to a 2021 Bulgari press release, the resort would include 58 rooms and suites, eight private estates, a restaurant, a 10,000 square foot spa and a state of the art gym. Representatives for Bulgari did not respond to requests for comment.
Amanda Begly, project manager at nonprofit organization TreePeople, said the project would “set a devastating precedent” for protected land in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“The [Santa Monica Mountains] … have been protected since Los Angeles was founded. We are counting on the PLUM Committee members to continue this tradition. Please don’t sacrifice valuable open space for some luxury brand’s profits.”
Safady said that stopping the project before a vote by City Council would set another kind of dangerous precedent. Environmental reviews mandated under the California Environmental Quality Act are ongoing, and thousands of hours of work are required before the city can make a decision, he said.
“Stopping the project in the middle of the process … signals to businesses and investors in Los Angeles that city procedures and the guarantees of due process will not be fairly applied,” Safady said.
Another public commenter, who did not state his name but said he worked at the law firm representing Safady, claimed that Yaroslavksy’s motion “would violate state law, the city charter and municipal code rules.”
Residents and activists began organizing against the project almost immediately after it was announced in 2018. In September, the PLUM Committee tabled a vote on an earlier motion to oppose the rezoning amendment, which was introduced by Yaroslavksy’s predecessor, former Councilman Paul Koretz.
The City Council has not yet scheduled a vote on the amendment, but spokesperson Leo Daube said Yaroslavsky is hopeful the council members will vote against it. If the City Council approves the amendment, it will then be up to Los Angeles City Planning to determine next steps, Daube added.
During the PLUM Committee meeting, committee members Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, 8th District, and Yaroslavsky voted yes on the motion, while Councilman John S. Lee, 12th District, and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, 7th District, voted no. Councilwoman Heather Hutt, 10th District, was absent.
“We put forward this motion hoping to get the full support [of the committee],” Daube said. “We are very grateful [to] advance to the full City Council for consideration.” and Land Use Management Committee to oppose an amendment that would re-zone the land and allow for the hotel’s development.
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