By Monica Sanchez
On the corner of Huntington Drive rests the future site of a Marriott Hotel. The development is set to start demolition in a few weeks, and developers intend to remove existing trees and landscaping currently on the property. Some of the trees on this site are 50 year old healthy sequoia trees with a variety of other trees that are equally as old.
But this isn’t anything new. Developers cut down trees all the time to make room for new businesses. However, the Sierra Club, an environmental group, thinks “minimal or non-existent consideration for the ecology and/or preservation of the environment” was given when approving this project.
T.A. Martin, member of the Sierra Club, said “If you can just drive by the site and see how wonderful and plush the present trees are and how they fit into the environment of the area and entrance to the Santa Anita Race Track across the street, I think you will share my dismay and alarm.”
The beauty and ecological history of the sequoias on the property is undeniable, but standard procedure was followed by the City of Arcadia before this project for the Marriott Hotel was approved back in 2014.
Jason Kruckeberg, Assistant City Manager of Arcadia, addressed the environmental concern, stating that the city followed a “compliance process [in 2014] with the California Environmental Quality Act,” also known as CEQA. Kruckeberg said that the “city must comply with [CEQA] for any project.” After the city finished the compliance process to test how environmental factors would be affected, the conclusion was a “Mitigated Negative Declaration,” meaning that the city was cleared environmentally for the Marriott development project.
Even though the city was cleared to move forward with the project, there were conditions put on the approval of the project, and the conditions addressed residential concerns such as construction noise, dust control, and traffic.
Once construction begins, the Marriot development project will take at least 18 months or potentially longer to complete, and the Marriott Hotel may be ready to open for business in two years. Previously, the project was planned to develop two hotels on Huntington Drive where the Santa Anita Inn lies dormant and was later changed to just the Marriott, which makes it possible for the preservation of some sequoias on the property but not all of them.
There has always been a hotel at this location. A hotel has stood on the site since the 1950’s and the Santa Anita Inn, which is currently closed, has been there since 1988. In fact, the hotel had been planned for replacement by the owner.
The Marriott will bring a change in the type of hotel it offers to the City of Arcadia. The development that was approved is referred to as a delta hotel, a high-end full service hotel, which Kruckeberg said is a “better option for the site and for the city.”
Sequoias are being cut down on the site to make room for the 220 rooms planned for the Marriott Hotel. Because of the proposed number of rooms, the city will benefit from a transient occupancy tax, which will result in revenue that accrues to the city.
While there are a number of mature and beautiful trees on the site, Kruckeberg explained that “at the time [of the project’s approval], there was not a tree protection ordinance in place for them.”
The sequoias are coming down, but a full landscape plan with many new trees around the Marriott Hotel will take their place when construction is complete.