Representatives of the Allegria Hotel appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Jan. 25 in the hope of adding rooms in order to make the hotel more financially viable, despite concerns expressed by at least two nearby residents about parking and quality-of-life issues.
SFIV LBH LLC, the owner of the posh 143-room, 124,000-square-foot oceanfront hotel, at 80 W. Broadway, which opened in 2009, is seeking an off-street parking variance to convert a third-floor meeting room and an eighth-floor office and fitness room into 13 additional rooms. The board is expected to issue a ruling next month.
In 2016, the hotel was sold at a bankruptcy auction for $27.4 million, after years of financial setbacks and two Chapter 11 filings. The winning bid was submitted by the hotel’s mortgage lender, Stabilis Capital Management LP, a Manhattan investment firm.
A spokesman for Stabilis told the Herald that the firm planned “to invest a lot of time and money to make it a truly five-star destination, including updating the café and ballroom, adding rooms, a new fitness center and other substantial upgrades.”
Highgate Management, the company brought in to manage the hotel, took steps to correct mistakes made under the previous owner, Alrose King David LLC, said Peter Rubin, an attorney representing SFIV.
“When [Highgate] took over, there were 35 outstanding health code violations, not to mention numerous complaints by the residents living near the hotel,” said Rubin, adding that Highgate’s general manager, Charles Oddone, worked to make the business a good neighbor. “All of the complaints were addressed and all of the health code violations were withdrawn.”
Prior to last week’s meeting, the city’s Building Department denied the hotel’s request to make renovations because it did not have sufficient parking, Rubin told the board. The hotel, which offers valet parking, has 80 parking spaces in its garage, but city code requires it to have a total of 105 off-street parking spots.
Rubin said that the additions are necessary to accommodate year-round business with airline customers and staff, explaining that the hotel needs to utilize 60 percent of its rooms to fulfill long-term contracts with four international airlines, part of a new, long-term business model to make the hotel profitable year-round. A traffic expert told the board that the additions would have little impact on parking in the area.
“These are mainly Eastern European and Eastern Asian airlines,” Rubin said. “Our proposal is to add 13 additional rooms to bring it up to 156 rooms. Thus, 78 rooms will not need parking, by virtue of the fact that they are allocated and dedicated to the airline crews — the crews are shuttled back and forth from [Kennedy Airport].”
Residents for and against proposal
Long Beach resident Richard Boodman said he supported the application because he wanted the hotel to flourish and did not want to see the city go back to the days of the 1960s and ’70s, when the city’s rundown hotels were used by the state as shelters.
“These people have done their due diligence — they’ve done everything to be a good neighbor,” Boodman said. “The issue of parking is an issue that everyone in Long Beach has to deal with.”
Former City Councilwoman Mona Goodman and former zoning board Trustee Tracey Eichler, who both live near the hotel, said that parking and quality-of-life issues such as traffic, idling vehicles and noise persist. “While I had high hopes for the hotel back then, over the years they have proven to be horrible neighbors,” said Eichler, who was a trustee when the board approved the hotel’s original variance. “The cars are parked in public spaces, which is against the law. Just walk down the median and see the valet tickets.”
Eichler said that the hotel’s catering to the airlines was making the parking situation worse, and that its garage was being used for storage. “How many spots is this hotel providing right now? My guess is zero,” she said. “The employees — they park in front of my house, their radios are blasting and they’re smoking pot.”
Eichler and Goodman argued that the hotel was given only a temporary certificate of occupancy when it first received zoning board approval because it failed to meet all of the city’s off-street parking requirements, and they urged the board not to grant a variance for additional parking until the original requirements were met.
“I want the hotel to succeed, but the issues on West Broadway are beyond impossible,” Goodman said.
When the hotel received its original variance, it included an off-site parking condition, and the hotel intended to lease a vacant, adjacent lot to fulfill its parking requirements. That property, however, was later earmarked for development and became unavailable for parking, officials said.
They also said that the hotel is currently operating under a full certificate of occupancy, after the zoning board waived the condition for off-site parking in 2013 but again required the hotel to provide valet parking.
Rubin said that the hotel is temporarily using the garage to store debris from the renovations, but emphasized that that is being done during the off-season. He added that hotel employees have passed routine drug tests and that most use public transportation.
He and Oddone said that the new management has taken steps to address parking issues, and regularly works with the Long Beach Police Department to identify areas where vehicles can be parked, including the Superblock, the Long Island Rail Road station and other areas, especially during summer weekends and big events. During last year’s Pride on the Beach event, Oddone said, the hotel rented a parking lot in Atlantic Beach.
Eichler and Goodman insisted that parking and other issues have not been addressed. “Shame on all of you for … not going to the property and checking it out,” Eichler told the board.
But zoning board Chairman Rocco Morelli shot back that some of those issues are for the police and hotel to address. “We know how fast, given the history of Long Beach … hotels that are well-intentioned and are not run well become facilities that might be less than desirable with people on the streets, causing more havoc,” he said. “We all have to work in some sort of partnership here … to see them succeed, but at the same time we want to address … the problems that you’re bringing forward. These are legit problems that we need to have addressed, certainly by the operators and owners of [the hotel].”