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Hollywood hotel project approved despite opposition

LOS ANGELES — Several dozen opponents of a hotel project approved by the Los Angeles City Council Aug. 9 protested in the City Hall rotunda after the vote, angered by what they said was the developer’s support of an anti-LGBT group and shortcuts taken in getting the project approved.

The City Council approved the 21-story hotel with a 12-0 vote, clearing the way for it to be built near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Ivar Avenue in Hollywood where a Jack in the Box restaurant now sits.

Opponents of the project have been led by Unite Here Local 11, a union representing 23,000 hotel, airport and food service workers.

The developer of the project, RD Olson, and its president, Bill Wilhelm, have been criticized by Unite Here Local 11 due to Wilhelm’s former membership in Legatus, a Catholic business leader networking group.

Legatus is opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion and in favor of “conversion therapy” aimed at “curing” people of homosexual desires.

After Unite Here started protesting the development in the spring with signs that included “No Homophobia … No Support for Anti-LGBTQ Hotels!” Wilhelm released a statement that said he had left the group and that “‘Legatus’ views on same-sex marriage and women’s rights do not represent my own.”

Wilhelm’s move did not satisfy Unite Here or its supporters.

“RD Olson’s president, Bill Wilhelm, has been clearly linked to Legatus, a vehemently anti-gay organization. The company seemed to have no issue with Wilhelm’s ties until we exposed them,” said Cleve Jones, civil rights leader.

Some in the LGBT community have criticized Unite Here and said its efforts are not about LGBT rights but more about a unionization campaign.

Unite Here made several unrelated demands of RD Olson, including “card check neutrality,” which allows workers to anonymously and easily join a union, according to The Pride, an LGBT newspaper, and LA Weekly.

“In my experience, there has been nothing homophobic about RD Olson’s approach to this project,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the Hollywood area, in a written statement to The Pride and LA Weekly.

“My record reflects that I believe in fair wages and good working conditions, but as a gay man, I am extremely disappointed that Unite Here has sought to drive a wedge within my community in this way.”

Unite Here also claimed the city and RD Olson exploited procedural shortcuts to avoid conducting an environmental impact review and that the project may have violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

“When you build a 21-story hotel on top of a Jack in the Box, you must properly analyze the impact of that change. RD Olson has not done nearly enough to mitigate the impacts of this project,” attorney Gideon Kracov said.

A spokesman with RD Olson did not respond to a request to comment.

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