Locals petition against high-rise plans

BEVERLY HILLS Opponents kicked off a petition drive on Saturday to put the issue on the November ballot.

The Beverly Hill City Council is expected to give final approval of the project on Monday, but even then, it won't be a done deal.

Residents and opponents of the project still plan to collect about 20,000 signatures to force a referendum and put it on the November ballot so that voters can decide if the Beverly Hilton stays as is or if it undergoes a major facelift.

"It's all about money, I suppose. I think that they see tax revenues as the only thing that matters in our community, and that's the farthest thing from the truth," said local resident Andrea Grossman.

Owners of the 15-year-old four-star Beverly Hilton want to tear down 217 old rooms to make room for 170 five-star Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and also build two luxury condo towers.

The Beverly Hills North Neighborhood Association argues the project is too big for the nine acres of real estate wedged in between Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards. They're concerned about traffic and parking.

The Hilton said an underground parking garage would be built with 1,100 parking spaces and a plan to ease traffic congestion in the area has been developed.

"We're pulling everything back, adding a new lane on Wilshire, and also adding a new lane on Santa Monica Boulevard along our site, and so we will actually improve some of the congestion there at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica," said Beverly Hills spokeswoman Corinne Verdery.

The Beverly Hilton estimates that the city would gain about $750 million in revenue over the next 30 years if the project is approved.

Opponents will have 30 days to collect enough signatures to put it on the November ballot.


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