Demolition work began in earnest last Thursday on the Californian Hotel, located on lower State Street two blocks from the beach, the site of the slowest moving construction project in city history. By the middle of August, only the front of the hotel should still be standing plus a couple of wing walls to help prop it up. By the end of the month, all the rubble and debris should have been hauled off and cleaned up.
The building’s innards were gutted earlier this year as part of a “soft demolition” process that took months. Removed were truckloads of asbestos material and rotted lumber. Reports that the building was rat-infested prompted City Hall inspectors to order a pre-emptive strike to ensure that adjoining property owners were not deluged by fleeing vermin. Such concerns, however, proved to be unwarranted; only a few rats were found.
The demolition constitutes necessary foreplay for construction of the project formerly known as “Entrada de Santa Barbara,” which had been touted as the largest private re-development project within city limits. Los Angeles developer Michael Rosenfeld bought the long festering Enrtrada project last year and has until next November to obtain the first of three building permits needed to construct 114 hotel rooms, nine time-share condos, 22,000 square feet of new commercial space, and a new parking garage on three separate parcels of land.
Plans for the Entrada were initially approved in 2001 — though the project dates much further back than that — but developer Bill Levy, beset by legal conflicts and financial troubles, was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2007. His lenders rejected offers to buy the project for $35 million, but after the economy tanked, were forced to sell to Rosenfeld for $8 million. The Californian was condemned by City Hall in 1990s because it had not been seismically retrofitted and was deemed unsafe for habitation. Seismic work will not start until construction on the new hotel begins.