Proposed Beverly Hills condo tower has started an all-out developer war

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The battle over a controversial Beverly Hills ballot measure is getting seriously out of hand as a pair of well-heeled developers square off over the future of two hotels planned right across the street from one another.

The Hollywood Reporter offers a fairly thorough breakdown of the issue, which stems from the proposed consolidation of two already approved mid-rise condo buildings into one 26-story building next to the Beverly Hills Hilton.

The owner of the Hilton, Beny Alagem, is also in the process of building a controversial new Waldorf-Astoria next to the historic hotel. The condo towers were approved as part of that project, and later escaped a 2008 ballot initiative that would have blocked the development.

Now, Alagem is evidently hoping that voters who signed off on the project by not voting against it eight years ago will be willing to accept a slight change of plans and a much taller tower. He’s put an item—now known as Measure HH—on the ballot that seeks approval for the high-rise, promising the addition of a 1.7-acre public park to the project site in return.

Well, turns out not everyone’s thrilled with that plan. A fierce opposition to Measure HH has emerged, warning potential voters that the project could create parking problems and even commissioning a rendering of the tower that accentuates its well-above average height.

One of the most influential forces fighting the initiative is Wanda Group, the Chinese firm owned by billionaire Wang Jianlin. Wanda has plans for a hotel/condo project called One Beverly Hills directly across the street at the former site of the May Company department store.

Apparently not wanting to be overshadowed by Alagem’s tower, Wanda has fought hard against Measure HH, even funding a lawsuit challenging the ballot language, according to The Real Deal.

Now, it seems that Alagem and his supporters are striking back. As the Reporter details, Wanda has recently been hit with allegations that they are illegally funding opposition to the measure with foreign money. At the same time, the developer is dealing with threats of legal action to block the One Beverly Hills project because former Beverly Hills mayor Barry Brucker lobbied for its approval.

Both of these legal challenges are being mounted by Sacramento attorney Gary Winuk, and Wanda deputy general manager Rohan a’Beckett tells the Reporter he has a pretty good idea who’s put him up to the task. “There is only one entity that benefits from Mr. Winuk’s attempts to derail the One Beverly Hills project and bully opponents of Measure HH,” he says. We get the feeling he’s referring to the developer across the street.

With the election still over a month away, this petty rich people soap opera is probably just getting started. We’ll see how it all shakes out come November.

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