L.A.'s Westside Hotels Filling With Woolsey Fire Evacuees

Malibu Evacuation-Highway-Getty-H 2018
David McNew/Getty Images

Traffic heads south on Pacific Coast Highway as Malibu is evacuated on November 9, 2018.

The temporary demand due to the 70,000-acre fire is so great that it has pushed customers to LAX hotels and beyond.

Hotels across the Westside — from the Huntley in Santa Monica and the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills to the new No. 850 in West Hollywood — tell The Hollywood Reporter that the Woolsey Fire diaspora are filling them to capacity. A quarter of a million people were under evacuation orders on Friday, including the entire city of Malibu as well as parts of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura, Thousand Oaks and Topanga Canyon.

While many industry refugees have sheltered in community centers (or even, in the case of Martin Sheen, on Zuma Beach), and others are finding sanctuary with family members and friends, countless of those displaced by the wildfire are opting for lodging accommodations. Melissa Etheridge noted on Twitter that she’d spent Thursday night at a Santa Monica hotel “where we will stay until we can return.”

The Garland, a retro-style boutique offering near the Universal lot, confronted striking demand for rooms and is now full for the weekend. General manager Scott Mills compares the immediate need to the December 2017 blaze that prompted evacuations in Bel-Air.

Management at Robert De Niro’s Nobu Ryokan, the minimalist 16-room Japanese-style hotel along Carbon Beach, rebooked guests into the similarly plush Beverly Hills Hotel. No damage has been done to the property, according to its publicist, Kim Kessler.

The effect around the hospitality properties has been noticeable as well. “We are seeing even more activity in our lobby and dining areas than usual,” observes Rebecca Huetter, director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica.

On Saturday, Malibu issued an emergency alert noting that eight hotels in Santa Monica — including Cal Mar, Days Inn, Georgian Hotel, Hotel Carmel, JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot, Loews, Santa Monica Motel and Le Meridian — had made rooms available for evacuees.

The temporary demand is so great that it has pushed customers to LAX hotels and beyond. Matt Shaffer, a talent agent at Innovative Artists who received an alert for a mandatory evacuation at his Agoura home at 2 a.m. on Friday, is now staying at a hotel 55 miles away in Long Beach, along with his wife, three sons and two dogs.

“We got on the 101 and could see the orange glow of the fire coming towards us just before it jumped the freeway,” he says. “We were on Yelp, going down the list, calling maybe 40 places. We couldn’t find one that would take our 60-pound Golden Retriever. That’s how we ended up here.”

Meanwhile, AKA, a luxury extended-stay lodging in Beverly Hills that has been fielding a number of Woolsey-prompted inquiries, is preparing for the longer haul. "Back in 2015, following the immediate devastation of the Porter Ranch gas leak, people thought they would only need accommodations for a week," observes AKA president Larry Korman. "But this turned into months of housing needed."