Rodeo Drive storefront windows display the world’s most expensive brands: Gucci bags, Prada pumps, Chanel perfumes.
It appears to be the perfect location for Bernard Arnault’s exclusive Hotel Cheval Blanc. But the majority of Beverly Hills voters disagreed.
They rejected two ballot procedures required for final approval of an ultra-luxury boutique hotel by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, the company founded by Arnault, the second-richest man in the world.
The referendums came after about 80 ballots, or a margin of one percentage point, according to the final tally released on Friday. LVMH said it would abandon the project once voters opposed it. Jessica Miller, a spokeswoman for the company, declined to comment further on Friday.
The vote revealed a deep rift in the 6-square-mile community, pitting residents eager to win more revenue and prestige for the city against those who feared the community would be overrun by development. The results challenge Hollywood’s image of Beverly Hills as a super-rich enclave of lavish mansions and luxury cars.
Darian Bogo, an attorney who headed a group called Residents Against Overdevelopment that opposed the hotel, said Beverly Hills was “misunderstood” and that it actually had a strange village feel.
“We’re not all just a bunch of creepers that are only in diamonds and Gucci bags,” said Pogo, a 38-year-old resident. “Many of us love the quality of life and the beauty of the city. We put that above a brand.”
Manegeh Mesa, manager of Bijan, a men’s-only boutique on Rodeo Drive, expressed shock at the outcome.
“They live in the best place in the world, drive Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, and still say no,” Mesa said.
Guy Luches, a commercial real estate agent who rents and sells shops in the strip, described voters as “bitter and angry” for opposing Cheval Blanc, which has only a few other locations globally, including in Paris where room rates begin. From 2,400 euros ($2,573).
“Other cities would have died to have this,” said Loches. “It’s a bad message to send to people who want to do business in Beverly Hills.”
This isn’t the first time Beverly Hills voters have rejected a hotel. In 2016, they rejected a proposal for a 26-story tower next to the legendary Beverly Hilton Hotel, which has hosted the Golden Globes for half a century.
LVMH is one of the largest investors and promoters of real estate in Beverly Hills, having either leased or owned 15 stores for its portfolio of brands around Rodeo Drive. The proposed hotel would have generated $800 million in revenue for the city over the next 30 years, according to a polling analysis.
More than half of the city’s revenue comes from sales taxes, hotels and businesses, police and fire and landscaping support that contribute to Beverly Hills’ safe, small-town atmosphere. Real estate taxes account for a third of the city’s income, with the median home price being $6.4 million, according to Redfin data.
Arno spent more than $400 million to put together the 1.28-acre (0.52-hectare) property, according to Luchs. He brokered the largest part of the project, LVMH’s $245 million purchase in 2018 of the former Brooks Brothers store at the corner of Rodeo and Santa Monica Boulevard.
The hotel has faced opposition from several groups with a variety of grievances. The Hospitality Workers union filed a petition for signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, after the city council approved the hotel 4-1. Unite Here Local 11 said it wanted affordable housing in the project.
Other critics feared more strangers and tourists, especially with a new subway station opening near Rodeo Drive in 2025. Some were concerned about crime, such as a daytime shooting in 2021 at a restaurant where thieves took a man’s $500,000 watch.
John Mirisch, the only council member to vote no, penned a full-page op-ed for Beverly Hills Weekly that listed 10 reasons to oppose the project, including traffic congestion.
“It is a sign that many in our community have not allowed themselves to be manipulated and have witnessed and rejected the arrogance and self-entitlement that fueled this project,” Mirisch said in an email.
Bogo said its main objection is the proposed hotel’s nine-storey height in a low-rise area. She said that would overshadow Rodeo Drive.
“There were so many reasons to vote no – something for everyone,” she said. “I’m not saying that all people who wear designer clothes are bad.”