Los Angeles city officials on Wednesday halted a developer’s efforts to build a luxury resort on a Benedict Canyon mountainside.
City Planning Director Vincent Bertoni notified developer Gary Safady that the city was revoking its approval for Safady to pursue a 58-room hotel.
The decision marks a dramatic end to Safady’s quest to build Bulgari Resort Los Angeles, a project that divided residents in Benedict Canyon but had strong support from business and labor groups.
Safady’s attorney, Mike Gatto, said his client has put millions of dollars into the proposed hotel, which has been in the works for six years. The decision to halt the project “sends a message to all looking to invest in Los Angeles that the city can’t be trusted to follow its own rules,” Gatto said.
Safady’s hotel was in the environmental review process after clearing an initial city planning hurdle several years ago. The developer envisioned dozens of bungalows, a sushi restaurant, spa and screening room for hotel guests. He also wanted to put eight homes on the property ranging from 12,000 to 48,000 square feet each.
The 50 to 70 employees who would work at the hotel would be ferried up the canyon road through a carpool program for employees, Safady said.
City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, whose district includes Benedict Canyon, argued that a hotel is inappropriate for the sensitive Santa Monica Mountains area, particularly amid the growing threat of hillside fires. During her campaign for City Council last year, she spoke out about the development.
After initially failing to persuade her colleagues to try to stop the hotel earlier this year, Yaroslavsky secured enough votes last month. The council voted 8 to 6 to ask the city’s planning director to intervene.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Safady, Bertoni wrote that a hillside hotel “would be inappropriate” for the project site, which has “sensitive habitat areas and areas that may be home to protected or endangered species.”
“While the Department of City Planning anticipated some impacts to the area, the extent of the impacts disclosed by the initial study and further identified through technical reports and in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, are far greater than initially anticipated,” Bertoni wrote, adding that the hotel would also conflict with other city planning goals.
Yaroslavsky, in a statement, thanked Bertoni for his action.
“This is a monumental win for our mountains, and sends a clear message that our hillsides are worth defending,” Yaroslavsky said.
The proposed luxury hotel had foes and fans, including Save Our Canyons, which opposed the project, and Enhance Our Canyon, which advocated for it.
“This is great news,” Mark Levin, a Benedict Canyon resident and a founder of Save Our Canyons, said Wednesday. “This restores all of our collective faith in local government.”
City Hall’s move to halt a development while it is still in the review phase is uncommon but not unprecedented. In 2016, the city stopped a developer from pursing a plan to put hundreds of apartments along Cahuenga Pass.
Yaraoslavsky has said that she expects Safady to bring litigation.
The leader of a group representing construction workers criticized the city’s decision in a statement.
“This action is a job killer. Plain and simple,” Ernesto Medrano, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, said in a statement.
Gatto, the former state assemblyman who represents Safady, said Wednesday that “the planning director’s decision is a direct response to a politician’s campaign promise. It’s legally unprecedented.”