"Home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library" is the tagline of Simi Valley and the city's primary claim to fame, with more than 350,000 visitors flocking to the hilltop museum each year.
To capitalize upon this influx of out-of-towners, the city is considering as part of its General Plan update the possibility of building an upscale boutique hotel on the property near the library to serve as lodging for tourists and VIPs coming through Simi.
"This is a perfect location for a high-end hotel, right up next to the Reagan Library," Mayor Paul Miller said. "There's space up there to do that, and what an enhancement that would be for the city."
The Reagan Library was identified as an area for potential change because city staff believes there is opportunity to provide additional amenities to museum visitors. The site also has good access to the 118 and 23 freeways from Madera Road and there are few residential areas surrounding the library that would be visually impacted by the development, a staff report said
The main hurdle a hotel development in that area would face is the rolling hills.
The Hillside Performance Standards ordinance regulates development and grading on hillsides in the city and bans construction on slopes that are 20 percent or more.
"We'd have to determine exactly what areas are buildable, but the vacant Sheriff's station and the flatter areas adjacent to it are probably big enough to build a small hotel," said Christine Silver, senior planner with the city.
The conceptual plan for the four- or five-star hotel calls for the rest of the area surrounding the library to remain as open space, she said, as part of the Tierra Rejada Greenbelt agreement.
The imagined hotel would sit directly south of the library on land that is generally vacant.
The targeted parcels along Madera Road include the former Sheriff's station property, a lot owned by the Catholic Church, and land donated to the library by the church.
Silver said a hotel near the library would be an economic boon for the city.
"It would provide jobs, No. 1, and it would provide sales tax," Silver said. "It would also provide a place to stay right here in Simi Valley for people who come to visit the library. Often they stay somewhere else and just come to the library for a day."
But while the city sees the opportunity for increased tax dollars and new jobs, some local hotels managers feel the brush off.
"I'm not crazy about the idea," said Pat Finan, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott on Cochran Street. "It isn't as if Simi Valley doesn't have hotels to offer the traveler, we have a wide range of them. Yes, there is no five-star hotel in Simi Valley, but I don't agree that's what Simi Valley needs to really top it off."
The suggestion of building an upscale hotel damages more than the would-be competitions' ego—it's economically unsound, Finan said.
"I'm skeptical about the ability of Simi Valley to support a five-star hotel," she said. "I think that we, at this point, especially in this market, have enough hotel rooms right now. I'm not seeing from my other hotel colleagues that we're sold out every night."
Duke Blackwood, executive director of the Reagan Library, agreed that the economic viability of building a new hotel would have to be determined by the city before going forward with such a project.
But he also said he likes the prospect of a hotel that serves the library's many guests.
"We think it would be beneficial to the community and we like the idea," Blackwood said. "It would help the library when we have guests coming in from all over, whether it's a normal visitor or a VIP."
Blackwood said it would be particularly beneficial for people participating in a program, exhibition or community event at the library because of it would be so close to the museum's grounds.
He added: "Anything that goes down there should be complimentary to what we're doing."
According to a staff report, the General Plan Advisory Committee recommended that the hotel's design be low in profile with a warm, lodgelike atmosphere similar to Cambria Pines Lodge and Westlake Inn.
The GPAC also suggested that the proposed development include a botanical garden, fine arts center, mementos of Ronald Reagan and perhaps even a large meeting space for weddings and proms.
Silver said the city would study the possibility of a convention center, but that the library already has its own conference facilities.
She added that it is too soon to tell exactly how big the hotel would be, what it would look like or what amenities it would include.
"We're just beginning to study the idea," she said. "It's just real vague at this point."