UCLA’s controversial plan to build a hotel and conference center on its Westwood campus has sustained another setback.
The University of California Board of Regents postponed a decision on the $162 million project at its March 28 meeting after citing concerns about the project’s viability.
The board questioned whether the area would support a new hotel and suggested that the university consider acquiring and repositioning an existing nearby hotel. Specifically, it sought more details about projections that the facility will be 70 percent occupied and become self-sustaining within three years.
UCLA officials said they stand behind the proposal and plan to resubmit the proposal at the board’s May 15-17 meeting.
“A lot of questions were asked during last week’s meeting, and now our administration is working with the regents to clarify what information they need,” said UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea.
The proposed seven-story project, which would be built on the site of a parking garage at Westwood Plaza and Strathmore Drive, would include 250 rooms and a 255,000-square-foot conference center to be used by the university to host academic conferences and events.
UCLA contends that it has a shortage of on-campus hotel rooms and inadequate meeting facilities. Currently, UCLA has about 6,000 square feet of contiguous conference space and 161 rooms between two on-campus hotels.
The facility would only be open to members of the UCLA community, or those visiting the campus, but local hoteliers strongly oppose the hotel. They contend projected room rates of $185 would undercut local hotels that also serve UCLA guests. Hotel guests also will not have to pay sales and occupancy taxes since the facility would be publicly owned.
The project, planned for the center of the campus, has been controversial since its inception. It was first going to be built on the site of the university’s aging faculty club on Hilgard Avenue. But residents feared a location so close to Westwood Village would cause congestion and some faculty members were opposed to the club’s demolition. In response, the university changed the location and the hotel was downsized from its original 282 rooms, but hoteliers are still not happy.
Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, said he was unable to attend the meeting but understands from association members who did that some regents had concerns similar to his group.
“I think the regents finally read into what (UCLA was) presenting to them and said, ‘Look, this is incomplete and needs a little more due diligence, because the numbers aren’t coming out,’’’ Amano said. “That’s what we were saying: We don’t feel those numbers are accurate.”
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