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Plan for UCLA campus hotel/conference center approved; draws support, flak

July 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
University regents approved UCLA's controversial plan to build a hotel and conference center in the middle of the campus. The 250-room hotel would be built just south of the UCLA Bruin statue. Some students and local businesses aren't happy about it.

The University of California Board of Regents made it official Wednesday: UCLA will soon be in the hospitality industry. The university is set to build its own hotel and conference center on the Westwood campus called the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center.

"This is a residential conference center where participants in a conference can actually stay at the center, as well as for meetings as well as sleeping, gives an opportunity for people to interact continuously the entire day," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

The hotel and conference center has a price tag of $162 million. A nice boost for the local economy, you may think, but not everyone is happy with the project.

The Hotel Association of Los Angeles is dead-set against a UCLA hotel, saying it will be exempt from the transit occupancy tax and tourism marketing assessments, giving it an unfair advantage.

"Further of concern is the extreme loss of tax revenues to the City of Los Angeles, estimated upwards of $1.2M annually, loss of revenue opportunities for the Westwood Village merchants, restaurants and retail ... not to mention potential job losses in the region," said Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles.

On campus reaction to the hotel and conference center is mixed. Some point to the added convenience it will provide. But students worry building the hotel may take much needed dollars away from the school's educational mission.

UCLA officials say construction of the new hotel will be funded entirely by private donations, that no taxpayer or tuition funds will be used. But critics say if the hotel doesn't turn a profit, the university will have to make up the difference.

Construction is slated to begin next summer, with the doors expected to open in 2016.