Renovations put the ‘rad’ in Radisson

A faux fireplace stands in one of the parlor residential units at the 202-room Radisson Hotel Whittier. The property recently underwent a $6 million renovation.

Radisson Hotel Whittier General Manager James Sarkis stands in one of the 202-room hotel’s parlor residential suites. The hotel has recently undergone more than $6 million in renovations.

Radisson Hotel Whittier General Manager James Sarkis is shown in his office. The property recently underwent more than $6 million in renovations.

By Tim Traeger
WHITTIER – A former musician-turned-hotel general manager is making beautiful music in Whittier.
Under the six-year stewardship of Radisson Hotel Whittier General Manager James Sarkis, the former professional guitarist and native of the Bronx, N.Y. helped persuade Taiwanese owner Terry Lee to invest more than $6 million to improve both the hotel and its sagging reputation.
That money over the last three years has transformed the 202-room, eight-story hotel into the place to stay for people visiting Whittier.
Just a few years ago the hotel just north of Mar Vista Street on Greenleaf Avenue, formerly known as the Hilton, was accommodating a poor reputation. Dirty linens. Filthy glasses. A TV menu that ran from channels 2 through 13.
‘”It was in bad shape,” admitted Sarkis, 46. “Everything is different now – a complete remodel. I started pestering the new owner. We need to make renovations. Renovations. Renovations. Or your business is going to go down the tubes,” he said he told owner Lee.
And the changes are being noticed. Parents of Whittier College students who used to shy away from the Radisson in favor of the Double Tree in Norwalk or the Embassy Suites in Downey are coming back to the Radisson.
“Either he’s going to kill me or he’s going to give us the money. Thank God he gave us the money,” Sarkis said of Lee. “If you don’t give me the horses to run you can bring in a GM from Pluto and he’s not going to be able to help you. If you don’t have the horses, you can’t pull the wagon.”
Now that wagon looks more like a luxury coach. New furniture and linens in every room, a new look to every floor, and an open lobby that’s clean and fresh. The restaurant – Sophia’s California Bistro – has been transformed into a place for locals and visitors alike to gather and have fun while enjoying professional sports and live entertainment.
The investment has also paid off in a fresh reputation with the city itself, which gleans about $750,000 a year from the room taxes the hotel collects, according to Sarkis. That’s a welcome addition considering over the last seven years Whittier has lost all but two of its automobile dealerships along Whittier Boulevard.
“We were missing the opportunity so we decided to get these people back. Just being the only full-service hotel in Whittier, that means a lot. Everyone in the community loves our hotel. Any family event. Any life event. They want to have it here first,” Sarkis said.
“We’ve done everything from our meeting space, totally new, to the rooms. Everything is new. We had intense training with our employees to be up to standards,” said Frank Macias, director of sales and marketing.
He said the hotel is now running at occupancy rates of 150 to 170 rooms rented out of the 202 total.
“That’s not bad, compared to last year where we were averaging less than 100,” Macias said.
“The future looks bright. Already since the renovations there’s a 100-percent difference. We’re bringing back clients that decided to leave us through no fault of their own. They’re coming back, they’re happy and they’re recommending us to other people. It’s growing.”
Sarkis was stark in his assessment of the Radisson’s past performance, and its previously tarnished reputation.
“I’m not going to lie. At one point, we were in bad shape with the city. With the council. With the Police Department. With the Fire Department. As I told Mr. Lee, it’s going to take more than renovations to change the hotel. The hotel had a bad reputation. We had a lot of bad elements around the hotel. So we basically had to clean house from inside out. Meaning, bad-apple employees.”
Mayor Bob Henderson has noticed the difference.
“The Radisson … they certainly have done lot in cleaning up the lobby and the restaurant. They worked to improve the bathrooms and the public facilities,” Henderson said. “What I’ve seen of the rooms is they are more modern. What they provide is the transient occupancy tax and some amount of sales taxes. They seem to be trying hard to bring the standards up. That’s good for the community and good for the hotel. They’re an asset to Whittier.”
“The Radisson hadn’t been renovated in 14 years,” said sales manager Angela Reyes. “We’ve invested more than $6 million, easily over, to repair things that were busted. There were plumbing issues. Now we have brand new linen. The furniture is modern, plush in urban décor. We’ve gotten great feedback. The people definitely love it. We have Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. We have a new sound and entertainment system in the ultra-lounge. We’re bringing back live music on the weekends. Our lounge is taking on a sports-bar direction. Mondays and Thursdays are really fun around here.”
“More corporate clients are traveling from Italy, Greece, China and Japan,” Reyes said. “Everywhere you can think of and they’re staying here and loving it.”
Sibling properties include the Carlson Rezidor, Country Inn Suites, Park Plaza, the Radisson Blue and the Park Inns.
Reyes said the remodel began in 2011 with the renovation of guest rooms completed in 2013.
Depending on demand, room prices range from $109 to $189 a night.
Macias said the metamorphosis is constant and continuous.
“We’re never going to be done with it. It’s an ongoing process,” Macias said. “As we grow, guest comments are our No. 1 thing. Why would our guests and clients go anywhere else? The future looks bright. Already since the renovations there’s a 100-percent difference. We’re bringing back clients that decided to leave us through no fault of their own. They’re coming back, they’re happy and they’re recommending us to other people.”
Sarkis gave his staff any credit due.
“It’s been a team effort. From the general manager down to the hourly employees – we have employees who have been here 30 years, from when it was the Hilton,” Sarkis said. “Now we have something that we’re proud of. We take pride in it. We can actually invite someone to the hotel and not be embarrassed. It’s definitely good for the city.”
Certainly beautiful music for Whittier.
Tim Traeger is editor of Reach him at 626-646-7352 or e-mail him at

Subs commander to speak to Sunrise Rotary

Cmdr. Michael S. Mattis will address the Whittier Sunrise Rotary Club at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 15 at Friendly Hills Country Club, 8500 Villaverde Dr. (lower level). The topic will be “Capabilities of our USN Submarine Fleet.”

A native of Fullerton, Mattis graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy in 1994. He received Naval Nuclear Power and Submarine training before reporting to the fleet in February 1998 and qualifying in subs in January 1999.

He was selected as Commander, Submarine Squadron Seventeen (CSS-17) “Warfighter of the Year” for 2000. Reporting to the Naval Satellite Operations Center (NAVSOC) in December 2000 as the Satellite Operations Department Head, Mattis was responsible for a Satellite Operations Center (SOC) and 24/7 Telemetry, Tracking, and Commanding (TT&C) operations of 23 on-orbit Navy Satellites/payloads. In January 2002, he became the Operations Director, leading 136 personnel operating 2 SOCs and 3 TT&C Remote Ground Facilities.

Guests are welcome to attend. Social time and breakfast begins at 7:15 a.m. with the talk to follow at 8 a.m. There will be a charge for breakfast, but no charge for the program only.

For more information call 562-696-4886 or 562-943-7860.


Vote on April 8

To the editor:

Sharing ideas helps us make better decisions. Let’s try a new experience. Let’s grow and develop.
Avoid trying to convince anyone that you are right. People will believe what they prefer to believe.
Once we realize that something no longer works for us, we should get rid of it … such as our current electoral system. Today’s cleaning is tomorrow’s triumph.
Share your vision with others. Don’t sell yourselves short. Be proud of all you have accomplished and experienced. It’s fine to follow your dreams, but be honest about your intentions. Don’t make any false promises if you want to continue to get the necessary help to reach your goals. Focus on collaborating with people. God always gives us the time to do the things that really matter. Have you ever noticed that when you don’t have enough to do that time stretches out in front of you?
Don’t judge people by their age but by what they do, which will be surprisingly different from what you’d think they would be able to do based on their age. After his seventh straight term one would think Bob (Henderson) would seriously consider retirement in his golden years. For a job that doesn’t pay much it’s sure funny how people keep wanting to get re-elected.
Fernando (Dutra) is a different story. He was never elected. He was appointed. The past two years he has shown us he is capable of serving us as a duly elected member of our City Council.
God bless America, pray for our troops and our veterans, and don’t forget to vote on April 8.
Arthur Rock

This week’s homily

By Thomas M.Boles PhD., DMin., D.D.

Stephen is described in the Book of Acts in simple but profound terms:

“Full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He boldly

proclaimed the Gospel to all who would listen.

Skeptics came to argue against him, but none could defeat him.

Finally, in boiling anger the Jews dragged him before the Sanhedrin,

the religious court of the Jewish people.

Throughout the accusations brought against him, Stephen

remained calm, his face shining like that of an angel.

Stephen answered all their charges and confidently showed

how the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, pointed to

Jesus and declared Him to be the Messiah. It was

more than the religious Jews could stand.

They covered their ears, screamed at him, and eventually stoned him to death.

Stephen was only following the example of his master.

Shortly after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two men traveling on the road to Emmaus. When they expressed confusion about what had happened to Jesus on the cross, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

The Lord never expects you to follow Him blindly.

He gives you the light of His Word as evidence for faith.

Faith doesn’t make anything happen, faith rests on something that has happened!

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

Psalm 62:1

Electoral change could be a good thing

Dear sirs:
When we listen to the thoughts of others we have the opportunity to reduce our mistakes. Our differences lead to growth. Everyone likes the idea of progress, but few people like the idea of change.
As a city, we should cherish and honor the chance – the opportunity – to head in a new direction. There are changes facing Whittier and some of us might not have as much control over these changes as they would like. We only have control over ourselves.
Never expect everyone to agree 100 percent with you. I don’t. Other people have ideas and thoughts just as valid as yours.
To recognize this makes one a mature, civilized member of society and elevates the level of our civilization and our society.
Some people are worried about the change to our electoral system here in Whittier. Does not change reinvigorate us as a city? The issue is not about voting rights … the issue is what is fair and equitable for Whittier as a whole.
We must not place limits on ourselves and what is possible. We must break up some of our restricted thinking. Let’s choose the direction we want to go as a city and turn our dreams, hopes, ideas and thoughts into possibilities. Don’t let changes made by others disturb you.
A new electoral system could bring Whittier back to life. It could make us vibrant once again. But changing our electoral system is a public endeavor. People have to get involved.
When I see our car dealerships, our markets such as Albertson’s, and other businesses that have given up on Whittier reduce our local sales tax revenue it is only logical to believe that to remain financially strong and to sustain our fiscal growth we need to make a change.
We need to make that choice – that decision – in our June 2014 special election that fits our needs.
God bless America, pray for and thank our active troops and our veterans, and think positive about the future of Whittier.

Arthur Rock

This week’s homily

By the Rev. Thomas M. Boles PhD., DMin., D.D.

A man once went with a friend for a ride out in the country.

They drove off the main road and through a grove of orange

trees to a mostly uninhabited piece of land. A few horses

grazed there amidst a couple of old shacks. Walter stopped

the car and began to describe vividly the things he was

going to build on the land.

He wanted his friend Arthur to buy some of the acreage surrounding his project. Walter explained to his friend, “I can handle the main project myself. It will take all my money, but, I want to you have the first chance at this surrounding acreage, because in the next five years it will increase in value several hundred times.”

Arthur thought to himself, “Who in the world is going to drive

25 miles for this crazy project? His dream had taken

the best of his common sense. He mumbled something about

a tight-money situation and promised to look into the deal


“Later on will be too late,” Walter cautioned.

“You’d better move on it right now.”

Arthur failed, however, to act.

And so it was that Art Linkletter turned down the

opportunity to buy the land that surrounded what

became Disneyland, the land his friend Walt Disney had

tried to talk him into.

Most opportunities take a step

of faith whether for financial or relationship investments.

The doors of opportunity are marked “Push and “Pull.”

The soul of the sluggard desireth,

and hath nothing; but the soul

of the diligent shall be made fat.

Proverbs 13:4

Keeping the Faith

Reflections stirred on the loss of Mandela

By Pastor Dwight Sullivan

In early December, 2013 the world lost a noble presence. Nelson Mandela died at age 95. An AP article described him as “South Africa’s first black president, who spent nearly 30 years in prison, and was a global symbol of generosity and sacrifice.”

His death was mourned by not only many in Africa, but by people all over the world. Many see in him a man of remarkable forgiveness, integrity, sacrifice and graciousness

The worldwide honor and praises given him bring to me fresh spiritual reflection and insights.

The Praise Due To Jesus

Nelson Mandela was born and grew up in the nation of South Africa, a country dominated by the practice of apartheid. This is a policy of strict separation of races, black and white. The result was that much power, and privileges went to the ruling white minority. It was an oppressive practice which distorted life for both blacks and whites. Growing up, Mandela got some schooling from Christian missionaries.

As a young man, Mandela joined those protesting the unjust practice of apartheid. When he became disenchanted with peaceful rallies and songs, he thought more forceful practices had to be used. He was arrested and convicted of attempted sabotage against the government and ended up spending 27 years in prison.

So why all the tribute? Mr. Mandela had become an articulate symbol for the struggle for dignity, human rights and freedom for people in South Africa. When world pressure to end apartheid mounted over many years, Mandela was released from prison. Then in the first election that included voters of all races, he was elected President in 1994 by a landslide.

Here is a man who rose from 27 years in a prison to become not only president, but the leader who helped uproot apartheid to plant a fresh democracy in a troubled nation.

Following Mandela’s death, our president spoke these words, “And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.”

One thing that made Mr. Mandela great was that he insisted that his country had to be black and white, with equal opportunity for all, based not on the color of one’s skin but the content of one’s character.

In the movie “Invictus,” this attitude is illustrated by what Mandela does when he assumes power as the first black president of South Africa. The movie depicts him seeing all the white office workers in their offices packing their bags. The staff assumes they will be sacked. In the film Mandela gathers them and says, “I could not help but notice the boxes and the packing. If you don’t want to stay, then that is your right. And if you cannot work, it is better if you do leave. But I want you to know that if you fear that your language, skin color or previous employer will cost you your job, do not fear. The past is the past.

“We need your help. If you would like to stay, you would do your country a service. All I ask is that you work to the best of your ability and with all your heart. I will do the same.”
In December I found myself stirred by the outpouring of fondness, love and adulation for this man. I experienced a deeper sense of the praise due to Jesus who is the Greatest of Greats. Look at Jesus. He is beyond fame and is proclaimed the Son of God, the Son of Man. How amazing to hear that God sent His only Son, to our mixed up, muddled, murky world! The purpose was for Jesus to bring reconciliation for our whole world. 17 … if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself … 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them… (2 Cor. 5).

Christ acted to give life, not just to one country but to the whole world. And to each individual! In him our promise is that anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus can be saved and can be made right before the eyes of God.

Jesus was not only profoundly good, He was utterly righteous. He was filled with the presence of God. When the apostle Peter told the centurion Cornelius about Jesus, he shared how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him…. (Acts 10)

Jesus brought more than political liberation and freedom from earthly tyrannical oppression. He brought freedom to all who will trust in Him. He said, “Truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house forever; the son continues forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8)

With a fresh appreciation, I see that although there are great men, here is the One that deserves all our praise. This is the one who came to be with us to show us God and to change our world by bringing to you and me freedom, dignity and eternal life — Jesus Christ.

- Dwight Sullivan is pastor of Whittier Evangelical UMC, 10262 Colima Road, Whittier, CA 90603

This week’s homily

By The Rev. Thomas M. Boles PhD., DMin. D.D.

Sadhu Sundar Singh was born into an Indian family of high caste. When he became a Christian and told his parents of his decision to follow Christ, they said, “You have broken caste. You cannot live here any longer.”

They immediately banished him from their home.

It was the wet season and the rain was coming down hard as he left his home, clad in only his insubstantial Indian robes. He sat under a nearby tree all night, soaked to the skin.

He said that he felt so radiantly happy, however, that he forgot any physical discomfort. He had the freedom to travel throughout the region telling the Gospel story.

He became known as the apostle of India. Once, he went into Tibet, where he was arrested, put into a pit, and branded with irons.

He bore those scars the rest of his life. While speaking in England he said, “I am going back to do what I have done. I am quite aware of the cost.”

Some time after his return, he disappeared and appears to have suffered a martyr’s death.

Singh moved from “high caste” in India into a “servant’s caste” for the gospel. His position in Christ was not only marked by the privilege of eternal life, but by the responsibility to serve others and share Christ’s love.

Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.

“For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much required; and of him to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more.”

Luke 12:48

Another look at things in Sacramento

By Debra Bowen

Secretary of State:

A Sacramento judge has rebuked Secretary of State Debra Bowen for seeking to prevent thousands of signatures from being counted in a referendum drive against the highly controversial Co-ed Bathroom Bill.

Judge Allen Sumner of the Sacramento County Superior Court issued a tentative ruling granting the writ petition of referendum supporters to have thousands of signatures counted that were delivered to the Tulare County clerk’s office before the deadline but were not accepted until after the deadline. Although tentative rulings are not official, they offer a preview of the court’s reasoning and are nearly always adopted as the official ruling of the court.

The Secretary of State’s Office has not yet indicated whether they will ask for oral argument to be held, or whether they will appeal the court’s ruling.

The Pacific Justice Institute is co-counsel in this case representing the referendum proponents. The president of PJI, Brad Dacus, commented, “Every Californian regardless of ideology should be encouraged by this ruling that strongly supports the fundamental right to have referendum signatures counted when they are delivered to county clerks ahead of the referendum deadline. These rights are too important for the Secretary of State, or a county clerk, to play politics when they don’t like a particular referendum.”

PJI also expressed concern about misinformation that is being spread by the Secretary of State’s office and some media outlets as to the current status of AB 1266.

“Quite simply, the law has not gone into effect because proponents have delivered more than enough signatures to place it on hold,” noted PJI attorney Kevin Snider. “It is mere wishful thinking on the part of politicians and activists to declare that the law is in effect. The California Constitution says otherwise, and even the Secretary of State has agreed with our position for other referenda that she deems less controversial.”

The law that has been placed on hold, AB 1266, would require all public schools in California to allow self-identified transgender students to choose the bathrooms and locker-rooms they want to use, as well as the sports teams they want to join, regardless of their anatomy or the objections of other students

Polling has shown the law to be unpopular among Californians. The Privacy for All Students coalition delivered abut 619,000 signatures to county clerks throughout the state in November. When about 505,000 of those signatures are validated, the issue will be placed on the ballot statewide in November, 2014.

Brad Dicus is president of the Pacific Justice Institute.


This week’s homily

By the Rev. Thomas M. Boles PhD., DMin, D.D.

Edmond once vowed that he  and his family would never be homeless. But, a short time later, he lost his job, and then fire destroyed their home. Suddenly, they were homeless. Their only option was a shelter.

At the end of the first day there, Edmond’s prayer was, “Lord, get me out of here.” His attitude was extremely negative. In his opinion, the shelter’s rules were humiliating. Residents had to be escorted across the street to the mission hall for their meals.

They had to attend a church thathelped support the shelter. When residents found work, they were expected to put 70 percent of their paycheck in a savings fund toward the day when they could move out of the shelter.

After pouring out all his complaints to the shelter’s director, Edmond had a restless night. He realized that he had been focusing all his attention on getting out, rather than on what he might do to make things easier for his family. That night, he changed his attitude. He started by

taking a glass of water to a coughing man in the next. room.

Nine months later, Edmond and his family had a home again. But

he didn’t forget what he had learned. He still visits the shelter, saying,

“Wherever you are, God is there too.” Attitude, not circumstances, made

the real difference to his life.”

The right train of thought can take

you to a better station in life.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is

Proverbs 23.7