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DIS-LODGED: La Jolla Travelodge becoming boutique hotel

The La Jolla Beach Travelodge is hitting the road. The good news is that the motel — operating since 1958 at 6750 La Jolla Blvd. — won’t be replaced by another McMansion. It will be upgraded to a luxury boutique hotel, called The Shoal, with no major exterior modifications. (The Travelodge was last renovated in 2000.)

Last year, Travelodge owner the Smith Family Trust sold the hotel to Kamla, a small chain of 15 California hotels headquartered in Cerritos. (Kamla’s other San Diego properties include the Pacific View Inn and La Quinta Sea World.)

The iconic La Jolla Travelodge sign enjoys its last days.
The iconic La Jolla Travelodge sign enjoys its last days. COREY LEVITAN

Terms of the sale were not disclosed by either party. But Kamla, which took over in April, says the conversion to The Shoal will be complete by this fall. (All Kamla boutique hotels are individually named, and a shoal is a school of fish swimming together.)

“When we saw the hotel, we immediately had a vision for what it could be, and we knew we had to make it something great,” Kamla chairman/CEO Dev Patel wrote in an email to the Light.

Patel said he and his team “spent considerable time diving into the La Jolla area” and lucked into finding “this amazing location with a wonderful team of La Jolla locals.” (A Kamla rep indicated that all motel staff would be retained by The Shoal.)

Workers install new plumbing into the stripped-bare walls of Room 203 in what will soon be The Shoal.
Workers install new plumbing into the stripped-bare walls of Room 203 in what will soon be The Shoal. COREY LEVITAN

Although many of its 44 rooms are now being gutted to their bones — as the Light witnessed on a recent tour — the transitioning property remains open, renting out a mix of new and old rooms. (The new rooms all have super-high-end fixtures and amenities.) The exterior will receive only a facelift, including new wood and paint.

“We are so thrilled to watch the hotel transform into a modern, eco-friendly, boutique destination,” Patel wrote. “The Shoal was a passion project for our whole team.”

This rendering of how the hotel's renovated rooms will look was provided by The Shoal.
This rendering of how the hotel's renovated rooms will look was provided by The Shoal. COURTESY

Travelodge began as a budget motel chain (originally spelled TraveLodge) in San Diego in 1940. It was acquired in 1996 by a company (HFS) that later merged into another company (Cendant) and spun off the brand as part of Wyndham Worldwide in 2006.

The Shoal conversion is viewed as a big positive for La Jolla by resident and activist Mike Costello.

“It’s actually a nice thing to see,” Costello said, “taking an existing building and modernizing and making it a nicer visiting experience. And it’s nice that they’re not tearing the whole thing down and putting the community through the ordeal of a demolition.”

Of course, you can’t please everyone. The Travelodge averaged about $200 a weekend night, while The Shoal’s website (www.theshoallajolla.com) is currently charging $289 (with a discount of $20 for Wyndham rewards members).

“It hurts my heart to realize we probably won’t get to go there again because we won’t be able to afford it,” said Mike Hawes, a retired facilities manager from Tucson who has stayed at the La Jolla Beach Travelodge with his wife, Sharon, twice a year since they got married in 1980.

“We’ve always stayed at the Travelodge because it’s always been such a good deal and it’s only a block from the ocean.”

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