UCLA’s proposed hotel and conference center.

UCLA’s proposed hotel and conference center.

A proposed UCLA hotel and conference center – newly scaled down and moved to satisfy upset faculty and neighbors – is finally heading to the UC Regents this month for review.

But even if the $152 million complex receives the blessing of the university’s governing body, it will face challenges from another group.

Local hoteliers are stepping up their own opposition. They argue the hotel will unfairly draw away visitors because of its lower room rates and the fact that the center will be publicly owned, which means customers will not have to pay occupancy taxes.

“The association is not saying that we are against any hotel development. We are saying if anything, it should be on a fair-competition, equal-playing field,” said Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which is mulling legal challenges.

The opposition from the hotel association is the latest stumbling block for the facility, which UCLA officials first proposed in detail last year, saying the school needs a larger conference center for academic events and more rooms to accommodate guests.

It was originally proposed to have 282 rooms and replace the faculty center at the edge of campus near Hilgard Avenue, but residents feared congestion and the faculty was against losing the 53-year-old center.

The proposal was withdrawn in April and the university in November released its current proposal, which calls for a 250-room hotel and conference center that would be built more in the center of the campus, on what is now a parking structure at Westwood Plaza and Strathmore Drive near Pauley Pavilion.

The school, which will operate the hotel, is scheduled to release a business plan for the 255,000-square-foot, seven-story facility shortly before the Regents meeting set for March 27.

However, university officials have already acknowledged the hotel will have room rates substantially lower than nearby Westwood lodgings. They have pledged to restrict customers to UCLA visitors.

In fact, university officials say the center would attract more visitors for the hotels because the school would be able to host additional conferences, though officials were unable to provide a figure for how many conferences the school currently hosts.

“We aren’t competing for tourists or business travelers,” said Vice Chancellor Steve Olsen, who is overseeing the development.

He said the facility will generate a sufficient amount of new visitors to UCLA that will benefit the local business community.

Unfair advantage

However, local hoteliers maintain that the university is taking advantage of its financial wherewithal and public status to unfairly compete.

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