As Santa Monicans fight to preserve the character of their neighborhoods—with a potentially sympathetic ear on City Council—UNITE HERE Local 11 is fighting to upset the character of one of their city’s most treasured historic districts.
The union has its eyes set on a new prize: The Bergamot Station Arts Center. Local 11 is currently lobbying the Santa Monica City Council to approve a redevelopment plan for the five-acre Bergamot which includes a controversial seven-story hotel.
While many local residents are speaking out against the hotel construction project, Local 11 is fighting for its approval. Why? Because the hotel developer signed a labor peace agreement with the union, meaning a new hotel would be an easy mark. In Local 11’s eyes, the new hotel would bring with it dozens of monthly dues-payers and more money in the union’s pockets.
But Santa Monicans are not amused. A review of public records from a Council hearing on the subject tells the tale: Local residents have sent numerous passionate emails to the City Council, stating their firm opposition to the Bergamot hotel development—and their preference for an alternative plan put forth by some of the gallery owners.
- One resident writes: “Bergamot is one of the jewels in Santa Monica’s cultural landscape, and needs to be protected, not over-exploited. Please do not go ahead with the [hotel] development plans.”
- Another called the proposed hotel “out of character with the area,” noting its similarity to another seven-story project that voters previously rejected. Yet another writer specifically urged Councilmembers to “consider the voices of the residents of Santa Monica” who are “opposed to a deal with the [hotel developer].”
- The Council’s motivation in pursuing a hotel was also questioned: “There is a concern among many residents that the city needs to build hotels to help pay for city employee pensions.”
Read the dozens of comments yourself here. If the community consensus wasn’t clear enough, one prominent neighborhood association in Santa Monica summed it up: “Community members do not want a hotel at Bergamot. Our members attended the original community meetings held to discuss the Bergamot Area Plan at which the hotel concept was strongly and repeatedly rejected.”
That the city doesn’t want another hotel doesn’t seem to matter to Local 11. One writer asked if the Council, in considering this project, desired to serve “the people or big business?” He should also ask about Big Labor.