By Janice Hayes Kyser
LOS ANGELES — South L.A. may finally be one step closer to bringing that elusive full-service hotel to its borders.
The council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee granted a developer’s appeal Jan. 31 paving the way for a hotly debated 168-room hotel project in the Vermont Corridor.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents the area, is in favor of the project.
“We are the only district in the city without a union hotel, which means we are locked out of the tourist economy,” Harris-Dawson said, adding that the hotel will provide living wage union jobs to members of the community.
The proposed project, at 3685 S. Vermont Ave., has been the subject of much contention as activists and some residents believe the land, once designated exclusively for public use, should be used to provide affordable housing to address the city’s homeless and housing problems.
The developer, Henry Fan of Bethune Hotel Ventures, proposes to build a seven-story hotel totaling 101,928 square feet including approximately 3,900 square feet of ground floor retail, 1,500 square feet dedicated to community child education services such as work force development, youth sports and a community center and approximately 5,000 square feet of open space on the site which has been vacant for about two decades.
Harris-Dawson acknowledges the city’s need for affordable housing, but says his district has more affordable housing projects in the works than any other area of the city.
What it doesn’t have, he said, is an economic asset that will bolster the area’s tax base and allow the district to benefit from the upcoming 2028 Olympics and World Cup Soccer events.
“It’s time to put an end to the economic apartheid that has plagued our community,” Harris-Dawson said. He added that the development team consists of people of color from the community and that the community would benefit from hospitality jobs, taxes the project would generate and local organizations would have meeting space in the proposed hotel.
Joanne Russell, who has lived in the area for 60 plus years, says the neighborhood shouldn’t be focused on tourists and transient populations such as students at nearby USC, but rather on the people who are being priced out of the area by gentrification.
She says the seven-story Marriott Hotel which would be within 500 feet of a residential zone would be grossly out of character in the neighborhood and the area’s residents don’t need more minimum wage jobs as maids, servers and bus boys.
“This land was originally intended for public use and the best use for the public at this time is affordable housing,” said Russell, a former city employee who serves on the North Area Neighborhood Development Council and was born and raised in the area.
“This hotel is about greed, not need,” she added. “The Olympics are coming, World Cup Soccer, and that is what they want to capitalize on. They are ignoring the needs of the indigenous people.”
Russell says the neighborhood has already turned into a student village with single-family homes being knocked down to provide student housing for USC students who only reside there when school is in session.
“This neighborhood is a ghost town during the summer and when the university isn’t in session,” she said.
Glafira Lopez, a community activist with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, which works with communities to fight change in their neighborhoods through education, advocacy and policy innovation, says public land should be used for public good.
In the midst of a housing crisis, she says a luxury hotel is not in the best interest of the community and would open the flood gates for gentrification.
Further, she says the hotel project does not align with the city’s own priority to build affordable housing on city-owned surplus land to address the city’s dire housing needs.
She says studies show that projects like these destroy communities, attract other businesses and entities that completely change the character, cost and complexion of neighborhoods.
“It’s about protecting and preserving our neighborhoods,” said Lopez, who says her organization and others will continue to fight to protect South L.A. “What this community needs is affordable housing. We are pleading with the city not to continue to sell out South Central L.A. to luxury developers.”
In 2019, the City Council entered into an agreement with a developer to build the Marriott on the site. But the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission last month sided with the city’s zoning administrator in denying a
The City Council voted 12-1 Jan. 17 to override the denial.
Harris-Dawson called the project one of “much controversy” but said his 8th District “needs to be able to participate in the economy of Los Angeles.”
“When the World Cup comes to L.A. [in 2026], were we to go along with the folks opposed to this project, what the district would get out of that economic activity is increased traffic, people parking all through their neighborhoods, trash and everything else — and not get one dollar of benefit from that economic activity,” Harris-Dawson said.
City News Service contributed to this story.