A Marriott-brand AC Hotel was approved for downtown San Diego on Wednesday, following a fight over the 147-room hotel including no parking in the parking-scarce Gaslamp Quarter.
- This is the first entry of European-style AC Hotels to San Diego.
- The “upscale urban” brand targets millennial customers.
- The seven-story project will reuse a historic facade on Sixth Avenue between F and G streets.
- A plan to use a “car elevator” to allow 44 spaces of underground valet parking was deemed unrealistic for the small, odd-shaped lot in the middle of the block.
AC Hotels: Full story follows
San Diego will get its first AC Hotel, a brand targeting millennial travelers with a sleek, modern aesthetic — and, in this case, no parking.
The Marriott brand will go up in a mid-block space in the heart of the downtown Gaslamp Quarter — where architects will preserve the historic, but now worse-for-wear, Gaslamp Galleria Building facade on Sixth Avenue.
The 147-room project hit resistance over its total lack of parking.
An initial plan to construct 44 underground spaces for valet parking crumbled after architect Tucker Sadler found that using a car elevator — not the first to be utilized for a downtown hotel, including by Marriott — was unrealistic in the small, odd-shaped lot.
So AC Hotel will offer valet parking using off-site lots.
That created another problem: In 2010, an ordinance in the Gaslamp Quarter was amended to require on-site parking for hotels over 25 rooms. The rules call for one parking space for every three rooms.
But Civic San Diego sided unanimously with the developer — over an appeal by business analyst Rick Bates, who represents the hotel union Unite Here. Bates argued that the developer was trying to save money by deleting the parking, and also that the seven-story building would overwhelm the historic block.
“Downtown San Diego is an urban place, and we are charged with helping it become more urbanized,” said Theodore Shaw, a Civic San Diego board member, on Wednesday at a public hearing on the project.
Shaw also pointed to the city’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half.
A handful of other people also opposed the project along the way, citing high parking demand in the Gaslamp.
However, others said the block could use a sprucing up.
One neighbor said the now-empty storefront along Sixth has become a magnet for the homeless. Next door is the now-defunct Reading Cinemas Gaslamp. On the Fifth Avenue side, the site is currently home to a TGI Friday’s restaurant.
New Jersey-based Briad Development is the proponent, with a plan to operate under the AC Hotel flag.
Marriott International started its joint venture with AC Hotels of Europe in 2011, and the line is now on a major North American growth spurt.
Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan is the driving force behind the AC look, which has been described as “upscale urban” — competing with brands Hotel Indigo, Kimpton and independent boutique properties.
AC Hotels currently has 19 locations in the United States and Canada with another 69 in the pipeline.