EDITOR'S NOTE: The University of California Board of Regents on Sept. 13 approved the project's final design plans and a final environmental impact report.
UCLA’s controversial plan to build a 250-room hotel and conference center on campus was approved Thursday by the University of California Board of Regents following an endorsement earlier this week by a key committee.
The regents, meeting in San Francisco, are scheduled to vote in an afternoon session on the Luskin Conference and Guest Center. Opponents of the plan, which include a coalition of neighborhood groups and Westwood-area hotels, have threatened litigation to block the project of more than $162 million. The complex was endorsed Tuesday by the regent’s Committee on Grounds and Buildings.
The Luskin center is named after alumni Meyer and Renee Luskin, who contributed $50 million toward the facility, which is scheduled to begin construction next September and be completed by June 2016. Revenue from room rentals and dining are supposed to support payments of $112 million in bond financing.
Save Westwood Village, the coalition of neighborhood groups and businesses, has argued that environmental studies inadequately addressed the project’s potential impact on traffic, local hotels and retail businesses, among other issues.
Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, said that he could not comment on the potential litigation. However, he did say that the hotel would have an “extreme unfair competitive” advantage over competing off-campus hotels, because it is expected to be exempt from certain hotel, local tourism and parking taxes. In addition, the facility’s location in the middle of the campus would make it less likely that visitors would patronize Westwood restaurants and shops.
"While we are not against new development, the Westwood region currently has sizeable (room) inventory,” Amano said Wednesday. “Especially in these dismal economic times, when both city and state fiscal challenges are critical issues, a public institution as prominent as UCLA should be demonstrating their responsibilities as a concerned community and business partner."