Monday, March 12, 2012

Hard to Keep the Hotel Secret from the Regents When It's on the Front Page

The business plan for the hotel/conference center is still being withheld.  And it is not yet on the Regents website for the upcoming March meeting.  But with the story on the front page, surely the Regents now know that something is coming.  Excerpts from story are below:

Westwood Innkeepers See No Room for UCLA Hotel

By Jacquelyn Ryan, 3-12-12, LA Business Journal (excerpts)
A proposed UCLA hotel and conference center – newly scaled down and moved to satisfy upset faculty and neighbors – is finally heading to the UC Regents this month for review.  But even if the $152 million complex receives the blessing of the university’s governing body, it will face challenges from another group.  Local hoteliers are stepping up their own opposition. They argue the hotel will unfairly draw away visitors because of its lower room rates and the fact that the center will be publicly owned, which means customers will not have to pay occupancy taxes. “The association is not saying that we are against any hotel development. We are saying if anything, it should be on a fair-competition, equal-playing field,” said Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which is mulling legal challenges.

…The school, which will operate the hotel, is scheduled to release a business plan for the 255,000-square-foot, seven-story facility shortly before the Regents meeting set for March 27.  However, university officials have already acknowledged the hotel will have room rates substantially lower than nearby Westwood lodgings. They have pledged to restrict customers to UCLA visitors. In fact, university officials say the center would attract more visitors for the hotels because the school would be able to host additional conferences, though officials were unable to provide a figure for how many conferences the school currently hosts. “We aren’t competing for tourists or business travelers,” said Vice Chancellor Steve Olsen, who is overseeing the development…
…He added that the hotel rooms are projected to be priced at $185 a night. That’s about $35 less than the average rate of $219 in the larger Westside-Santa Monica region, according to hotel consultancy and research company Atlas Hospitality Group of Irvine. Also, the $10 million endowment from the Luskins will subsidize some students and visitors who stay at the hotel. On top of that, visitors will not have to pay the 14 percent occupancy taxes that Westwood hotel customers pay, nor will they have to pay the county’s 8.25 percent sales tax for food and other purchases.  Hotel owners said the price advantage would lure away UCLA visitors, who make up about 40 percent of customers for some nearby inns.
“That would be a significant hit not just to us but all the hotels,” said Reginald Archambault, general manager of the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, a 161-room hotel in Westwood that typically charges in the low $200 range per night and generally is about 70 percent occupied. What’s more, hoteliers say the university is defining “university visitors” broadly. It would include not only those attending conferences, but, for example, families of high school students who are considering attending the university…
The secret is no secret anymore (so the business plan needs to be released).  It either makes sense or it doesn't.  The costs can be covered at $185 a night with whatever occupancy rate is assumed or they can't.  The occupancy rate is realistic or it isn't. Families of high school students will be allowed (and will meet the tax code's definition of non-commercial) or they won't. So let's see:

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