The Fugliest Motel in Los Angeles? Best Western Royal Palace, 2528 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.
Road-weary tourists and business travelers know it's hard to find an affordable place to get some shut-eye in this town, which is why visitors to the Best Western Plus "Royal Palace" Inn & Suites are fair to judge the rooms here as they are: fine, quiet enough and clean enough, for the low price tag in this high-rent zip code of West Los Angeles. Apparently, the free continental breakfast is not too bad either. But take a step out on to the street and it's a different story.
Sure, most people just drive past this snooze-fest unaware, but if you live in the neighborhood across the street or are lodging here on vacation, you're sure to notice all the little things that make this Best Western blah. The deeply inset, aqua-tinted front windows help the rooms avoid the worst of the glaring, southwest afternoon sun, but that good intention leaves the remaining expanse of the front facade flat and spare, cloaking this Royal Palace in over 5,000 square feet of pimply stucco in just two neutral shades of tan and sand. Maybe the skinny triangular peaks and roof rotunda were added up top to distract the eye from the bare nakedness down below. Nothing except for the mauve-colored railing at the fire exit stair seems to detract from beige block that meets travelers from across the country and the globe.
Understandably, we working-class types settle for eyesores with affordable rooms. But what some folks don't settle quietly for, however, are the Royal Palace's underground parking ceiling and terrifyingly steep parking structure ramp, which have been noted on multiple Yelp.com reviews by livid visitors who had to return their rented cars with scraped rooftops.
Mockery aside, the best thing this Best Western has to offer is its location. The future stone's-throw adjacency to the new Expo Line light rail extension and station at Sepulveda and the old Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line right-of-way (just a touch east of the 405 freeway, where crews are currently working round the clock, much to the ire of hotel patrons, probably), will find this hotel situated on a transit-based gold mine. In the hands of the right owners, developers and creative designers, the Royal Palace's close relationship to the light rail could possibly even coerce this ugly old box with its pointy fin "gables" and cupola garnish to evolve in style too.
Back in the '50s and '60s, motor hotels (quickly shortened to"motels") developed simultaneously alongside the national highway system, growing up as outposts in a future-forward, cross-continental system of streamlined infrastructure. Motels embodied the culture of the time outwardly (we call it kitsch these days) because they had to stand out to sleepy drivers. The highway hotel, unlike the traditional hotel, had to become a giant branding symbol for those patrons barreling down the road late at night who might otherwise miss the place completely without its gleaming neon, buckets of teal paint and gimmicks. A very few fine examples of these include the Wigwam Motel in Arizona, the Tropics Motel in Blythe, and the the jaw-droppingly ornate acid-trip ride of the Cosmic Age Motel in Anaheim.
The Cosmic Age was coincidentally designed by the president of Best Western motels at the time, Al Stovall. Stovall's bread and butter business was in copper mining and plastics. As such, he had an affinity for new material technologies (and for the fledgling space program) and implemented a mish-mash of imaginative decor -- including a poolside geodesic dome, "the moon house" -- into his side-project motels.
Now scroll back up. Could the Royal Palace look any more boring?
Just as mid-century highway motels re-created themselves by offering updated amenities to a new kind of cross-country traveler, this Royal Palace (and others like it) could evolve as a new type of urban, transit-hub hotel. A little bit of brain-storming and foward-thinking could reveal new amenities for a light-rail riding tourist and hotel visitor. Or the building might offer something that outwardly serves the folks waiting at the Expo/Sepulveda stop. The giant, flat nothingness of this Best Western's front facade is the ideal place to project movies, videos or graphics for anyone whizzing by on their way to downtown or waiting on the nearby light rail platform to go west towards the beach.
It's just one idea. It can't get any worse than the useless beige bore that's sitting there now.
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