Commission to hear Hotel Del expansion plans
The Daily Transcript | May 27, 2010

A proposal to add 144 hotel condominium units, a conference facility and three subterranean parking structures at the Hotel del Coronado is slated to come before the California Coastal Commission on June 9.

The project, being designed by San Diego-based Delawie Wilkes Rodrigues Barker, is part of a 2005 amendment of earlier master plan for the net addition of 205 condo rooms (after an adjustment for existing guestrooms lost in the expansion).

Seventy-eight of these hotel condominium units known as the Beach Villages were constructed in 2007 and have been sold.

The project will also have a 20,000-square-foot conference center and three subterranean parking structures with about 1,100 spaces.

The plan, which could be developed in about five years, gained the approval of the Coronado Planning Commission in August 2008 and the Coronado City Council in October of that year.

It is just getting on the Coastal Commission docket now.

William Dodds, Hotel del Coronado vice president of development, said unlike the downtown San Diego Convention Center on the bayfront, the hotel's new oceanfront underground parking structures will not require water pumps to keep them dry.

Rather, they will be encased in cement and waterproof liners.

Dodds said the subterranean structures will not only provide badly needed parking, but will enable hotel visitors to see more landscaping rather than a sea of asphalt.

The hotel condominium addition isn't loved by everybody.

A group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Keeping the Hotel del Beautiful has been trying to stop the plan, out of fear the additions obscure and detract from the historic hotel.

Officials from the group couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Dodds countered the buildings are stepped down from three stories to one as they get closer to the water.

The project has earned the endorsement of Save Our Heritage Organization both for its Victorian-style design and the fact the plans saves the Eugene Hoffman-designed laundry building, built around the time of World War I; the Hotel Del's original icehouse, which dates back to 1887; and a power plant building constructed in 1909.

"And the new buildings will be a nice contrast to the (Coronado) Towers," said Bruce Coons, SOHO executive director. The Del's done a really good job on this."

Dodds said while the addition will be Victorian in style, it will no way try and clone the hotel.

Coons said he also likes a proposal to re-open two entrances along the north side of the hotel.

"This allows trucks to go to the other side," he said.

Others are unhappy with the plan.

Coastal Commissioners Patrick Kruer -- who couldn't be reached for comment -- and Sara Wan, of Malibu, were concerned enough to appeal to the Coastal Commission after the plan was approved by the Coronado City Council about 1-1/2 years ago.

Coastal Commission staff has two major beefs and is recommending denial of the project.

Diana Lily, a local coastal planner with the governmental body, claims despite expansion already being redesigned to keep it from being atop an earthquake fault line, it still lies atop the fracture.

"There's 26 feet along the northernmost part of the building we would like to see redesigned," Lily said.

The other issue is one that seems to appear every time the Coastal Commission considers an expensive hotel in the vicinity of the coast -- a provision for low-cost accommodations.

Lily said if the hotel owners -- Strategic Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: BEE), a majority owner, and KSL Resorts are unable to provide low-cost accommodations at or near the Del, they should be required to pay $30,000 for 25 percent of the units for a total of about $1.08 million.

"This isn't unusual," Lilly said. "When Lane Field was approved (in January 2009), the developers agreed to build a hostel downtown."

The Del's owners have listed a host of benefits from the project they claim amount to $20 million. About $4.1 million of this has already been spent for everything from a new entry garden to 2.1 acres of beach dedication and a $1 million cash contribution to the city for infrastructure.