Voters in Beverly Hills soundly rejected a ballot initiative yesterday that would have allowed the Beverly Hilton to build a 37-story condo-tower next to the hotel. Measure HH was defeated by nearly 56% of those casting ballots — 5,510 to 4,373 — although some absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted.
The project was opposed by the Wanda Group, the Chinese multinational conglomerate that among its vast holdings counts AMC Entertainment and Legendary Pictures and most recently acquired Dick Clark Productions for $1 billion. It wants wants to build a boutique 134-room hotel on the site.
Had it been approved, the measure would have allowed Hilton to build the tower without having to go through the usual approval process — including public hearings by the city’s planning commission and city council.
“It shows that the people of Beverly Hills believe in the process,” said Adam Englander, a spokesman for the No on Measure HH campaign. “They said that all development projects should go through the same process — filing environmental impact reports and holding public hearings. That didn’t happen for HH. They went straight to initiative.”
During the long and bitter campaign, the union representing workers at the hotel filed a complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission accusing Wanda of using foreign money to influence the vote. The FPCC, however, found no evidence of such influence and rejected the complaint.
The fight to develop the property is not over, though. Hilton says it now plans to build two towers there — an 18-story tower and an eight-story one — which were narrowly approved in a 2008 referendum, while Wanda hopes to convince the city to allow it to build a much smaller hotel there instead.