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Demolition Of the Clarion Hotel at San Francisco Airport Postponed;
Developers Had Earmarked the Site for 3 Starwood Branded Hotels

By Christine Morente, San Mateo County Times, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 19, 2008 - MILLBRAE -- The hotel that made a little-known cameo in the cult film classic "Bullitt" with Steve McQueen will not be razed this month.

Initially, the Clarion Hotel at 401 E. Millbrae Ave. was approved for demolition to make room for three hotels, but now that project may not happen at all.

City officials are waiting to meet with Starwood Hotels on Wednesday night during a Planning Commission meeting. Starwood is the property owner that had the three-hotel project approved by city officials last year.

The project is dead, according to Tim Lusher, general manager for the Clarion and Westin hotels in Millbrae. Instead, Lusher said Friday that he extended a franchise agreement with Choice Hotels, which maintains the Clarion brand.

On Wednesday, John Sanger of Sanger & Olson is expected to request a one-year extension of the project on behalf of Starwood.

Millbrae City Planner David Petrovichsaid reasons for the extension are construction costs and the fact that the local hotel market hasn't recovered enough for the company to feel confident about building high-end hotels.

"I don't know what the possibilities are," Petrovich said. "The Clarion doesn't have the amenities that keep it competitive the way the industry has evolved."

Currently, the 6-story Clarion has 251 rooms. About two years ago, cabanas that held about 200 rooms were demolished, said City Manager Ralph Jaeck.

The first hotel that would be built is the Aloft -- described as cosmopolitan and fashionable. The second is Element, an extended-stay hotel that would provide a Zen-like atmosphere. And the third is the Four Points, a budget hotel.

Meanwhile, in phone conversations with Scott Thrun of Starwood, Jaeck said the company now wants to ditch the two hotels and just make Aloft bigger and provide office and retail space. Thrun could not be reached Friday.

Jaeck stressed he wants three hotels because the city anticipates an annual $300,000 from the current project. To date, the Clarion nets the city $200,000, he added.

"It would be disappointing to us if they didn't go through with at least the same number of rooms planned for three new hotels," Jaeck said. "It's a key site in Millbrae and has such high economic value."

Staff writer Christine Morente covers faith, families and North County. She can be reached at 650-348-4333 or at


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