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LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Hotel faces opposition in Beverly Hills

I am sure that most people aren’t going to feel bad for LVMH, but it is facing some opposition in trying to bring the first Cheval Blanc Hotel to North America. Last year, Beverly Hills City Council approved the hotel development on Rodeo Drive, but since then, enough signatures were collected that a special election is going to be held later this month for the ~22,000 residents who are registered to vote in Beverly Hills. And from the sounds of it, the results will decide the fate of the project.

As I understand it, there are two mains groups that are upset:

  1. A union representing hotel workers
  2. Local area residents

The official message from group #1 is that they want affordable housing. But there is speculation that they just want the hotel to be unionized. I don’t don’t, so let’s move on to group #2. Why would residents be opposed to this project?

One way to think about this is that LVMH is trying to build a fancy new $2,000 per night hotel in one of the richest cities in the US, on one of its most luxurious streets. So, you would think that there would be a fit and that more than a few rich people would be excited about such a development. I guess this is true — and Council did vote in favor last year — but clearly there are other concerns:

…some people were unhappy a 109-room hotel, framed by Rodeo Drive, Little Santa Monica Boulevard and Beverly Drive, would rise nine stories on one side and tower over surrounding retail and commercial spaces sitting at three and four stories high. Four buildings would have to be razed, and the idea of more traffic coming to the area was unsettling.

It seems to be about scale:

…Cheval Blanc opponents want to keep that small town vibe. “The area is charming and beautiful right now, and, if and when they are able to put that project out there, it will not be. It is very nice to be around low-rise buildings. You can sit at a sidewalk café in Beverly Hills and look across the street and see the hills. It is a very good feeling,” said Darian Bojeaux, an attorney who has lived in the city for 35 years and signed the petitions launching a special election. “Let them build a code-compliant hotel that is three stories high. Let them build something nice that doesn’t ruin the city.”

Here’s an aerial of said small town vibe for context (I’ve marked the number of proposed storeys):

What’s interesting about this situation is that it seems to isolate the concerns. Because what is being proposed here is an obviously compatible use. It is a rich thing in an area for rich people. Residents don’t seem to be saying that this is a problem. Instead, it is height that could potentially “ruin the city.” (Ignore for a second that there’s already an office building of similar height across the street.)

What this tells me is that if you’re thinking about proposing nine storeys of Ferragamo and Balenciaga, that’s probably not small town enough. Saint Laurent needs to be no more than three.

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