Long faces follow LVMH’s defeat at polls for Beverly Hills hotel

Vote against Cheval Blanc nixed project that could have “raised the bar for the whole city”

Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce's Todd Johnson with rendering of Cheval Blanc
Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce's Todd Johnson with rendering of Cheval Blanc (Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, LVMH, Getty)

The Cheval Blanc hotel project bit the dust at the end of Rodeo Drive because it was too big, had too little parking and offered no affordable housing, according to voters who rejected it.

The Beverly Hills residents last month voted down Paris-based LVMH’s plans for the 109-room luxe hotel at 468 Rodeo Drive because it was too massive and prospects for the property remain unclear, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported.

The final tally was 50.6 percent in favor of rejecting both the agreement and the city’s approval. LVMH, run by billionaire Bernard Arnault, has since scrapped plans for the project.

The May 23 vote is a blow to both the French luxury retailer and the city. The hotel was expected to generate at least $725 million for Beverly Hills over the course of 30 years, according to the agreement. LVMH also agreed to pay at least $28 million in public benefit fees. 

“From a Chamber side, we’re very disappointed because we felt that this project — which was going to be the only Cheval Blanc, a six-star hotel, in North America — would have really earmarked Rodeo Drive,” Todd Johnson, president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper.

“We feel it would have raised the bar for the whole city, not just economically but the nuance of true luxury, because the hotel is that. It’s just unfortunate that it made it through planning and the council and was approved but obviously got taken out with the vote,” he said.

The future of the hotel was left in the hands of voters, after labor union Unite Here Local 11 drew  enough signatures to trigger a citywide ballot, which asked voters whether Beverly Hills’ approval of a development agreement should be overturned.

“I felt it was a bad deal for the city,” John Mirisch, the lone Beverly Hills City councilman to oppose the hotel, told the Business Journal. “I felt it was a great deal for LVMH and a bad deal for us.”

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LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton spent nearly $3 million on the election. Given that LVMH already owns the parcels upon which it would have built the Cheval Blanc, it’s unclear what’ll come next for its strip of retail stores.

Mirisch said he wouldn’t close the possibility of another hotel proposal, though on a smaller scale. 

“The door would be open for me if they were interested in a better project, but if they’re not, so be it,” he said.

Johnson of the chamber said LVMH would either further develop its retail properties, or sell them. In the meantime, the city will likely still grow taller, he said.

“There’s virtually no open space in Beverly Hills, and I do think someday we’ll see growth vertically, probably along Wilshire Boulevard where the train stations are coming,” Johnson said. “I think there’s some opportunity for the southeast corner of our city to be developed.

“We’ll certainly do our part to work with the city to bring as many world-class businesses to our city as we can.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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