Beverly Hills voters to decide whether richest person in world can build luxury hotel in city

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Beverly Hills voters to decide fate of proposed luxury hotel
Does Beverly Hills need another luxury hotel? Bernard Arnault, the richest person in the world, thinks so. A special election was held to find out if the city's residents agree.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- Does Beverly Hills need another luxury hotel?

Bernard Arnault, the richest person in the world, thinks so. A special election was held Tuesday to find out if the city's residents agree.

"Beverly Hills is a luxury city. People come from all over the world for the luxury that they see on Rodeo Drive," Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold said. "This hotel is the next generation of that luxury."

Gold was talking about high-end hotel chain Cheval Blanc's proposed 114-room hotel, which will include retail, restaurants and a private club. It will be located on the north end of Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive, occupying a block of "Little" Santa Monica Boulevard.

This would be Cheval Blanc's first hotel in North America, with existing locations in St. Tropez, Paris, St. Barths and the Maldives. Arnault's company LVMH, which owns Cheval Blanc, spent roughly $3 million on the special election.

"Cities are businesses. It cost money to run a city. People love our landscape, parks, our beautiful lights and our roadways that are super smooth," Gold said. "Plus, the public safety and the dollars that the city contributes to the schools. The money has got to come from some place."

But over 50% of Beverly Hills residents are renters. The campaign against the project has also been supported by the union Unite Here Local 11. The union has criticized Beverly Hills' emphasis on luxury developments, but not on building affordable housing.

Councilmember John Mirisch was the only no vote.

"You had a group that came in here - they just basically hired everyone in town, a battery of lobbyists, including ex-mayors and commissioners, basically thinking they could buy an entitlement rather than work with the community to do something that makes sense for us," Mirisch said. "It's not a good deal because the city should be getting more for what we're giving."

Mirisch also thinks the proposed hotel is too massive for the city, with nine floors on the Beverly Drive side. The city says the project will generate $725 million over 30 years for public safety and schools, but Mirisch pushed for more funds to go toward building affordable housing.

Beverly Hills resident Rose Kaiserman voted in favor of the project.

"This is a different kind of luxury hotel than the others that we currently have," she said. "It's a different level, low traffic compared to other hotels, and it will bring in the city revenues that we badly need."

LVMH will reimburse the city of Beverly Hills for the cost of the special election, estimated at $870,000.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday morning, it's essentially a 50-50 split right now, with about 60 votes in favor of shooting down the project.