Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission impressed with developer’s plans for the 700 block
The Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission was wowed Wednesday by conceptual plans to build a four-story hotel on lower State Street, especially because it would be located in an outdoor paseo setting similar to other downtown paseos.
Commission members also appreciated that there would be a 20-foot setback from the street, its height at most would be no greater than a few nearby buildings, and its sections would look like separate but similar-looking buildings combined together.
The hotel is being planned for the 700 block of State Street, on the side closest to Anacapa Street. The impacted area would be from 710 State St. to 720 State St. The project consists of a proposal to construct a 32,799-square-foot, four-story, 66-room hotel including a restaurant/bar and conference rooms on six lots totaling 30,004 square feet. The project also includes 16 parking spaces on the ground floor.
The project would include demolition of structures such as the 14,455-square-foot building at 710 State St. The remaining 6,071 square feet of existing nonresidential development would remain (714-720 State Street).
“I like this project,” Commissionmember Cass Ensberg said. “I think it’s really interesting. It’s kind of quirky. I like that. The paseo part of it is appropriate. I think it works.”
Added Commission Chair Anthony Grumbine, “The elevation is extremely charming.”
Commission members voted unanimously to send the proposal on to the Planning Commission for review, with the caveat that it be returned to them “eventually” to see how their concerns and recommendations to developers 710 State St. Partners (James P. Knell/general partner) and architect Kevin Moore are incorporated into their plans.
Mr. Moore noted the project had come before the commission before but was envisioned for housing. Developers withdrew their plans and reworked them, reducing the overall size by 3,500 square feet, making slight changes to move the hotel away from the street and the public.
There would be a variety of rooms on the ground floor, a second-floor restaurant/bar, a third-level smaller outdoor area and a fourth floor with a smaller bar and restaurant food and outdoor seating.
“The biggest change is the volume close to State Street,” Mr. Moore said. “We’ve reduced it pretty dramatically. Most of the mass has been pushed into the back corner.”
Most of the hotel would be two stories high, and its fourth floor would make it “roughly the same height” as another building nearby and the News-Press building parapet, he said.
“We broke the mass of the building up so it appears as if it’s different structures built at different times,” he said.
Commission members called the design “beautiful” and “handsome” with “an attractive facade.”
Nevertheless, they voiced concerns about how and where guests would check into the hotel, reducing the transparency of balconies and railings to protect guests’ privacy, and reducing the size of the rooftop pergola/trellis structure to make it less visible from State Street.
They also wanted to ensure that at some point, the paseo would be securely closed to the general public — perhaps by a timed gate — so only guests and hotel employees would have access to the hotel.
In addition, the commission members want a third arch added that people would walk beneath directly into the hotel paseo to “make it special and a way to be celebrated,” Chair Grumbine said, adding that the commission wants to see artist renderings of people walking through the paseo “to see how the whole thing feels.”
Commission members also wanted to ensure people know the hotel is there.
“I know it will be really great,” Commissionmember Ensberg said. “It shouldn’t hide itself when it should be proud that it’s a hotel. It should stand out as unique, something playful, so people pay attention to it and say ‘there’s that hotel.’”
Chair Crumbine stressed the importance of signage and branding for the hotel’s clear identity.
Combining the buildings to work together was a good idea, he said, because it reduces the hotel’s bulk size yet makes it “feel more like a cohesive whole. It’s like having your cake and eating it, too.”
Adding the paseo “solves a lot of spacial issues,” he said.
Before hearing from Mr. Moore, the commission heard a Phase 1 archeological resources report prepared by consultant David Stone, who said no historically significant findings have been determined for the hotel site itself. But he added there is the potential for some findings to be discovered beneath the paved lots to be included in the project. In that event, construction would be temporarily redirected so additional excavations can take place, he said.
The commission voted unanimously to accept his report.
At this point, Chair Grumbine said, the entire commission finds the hotel project “acceptable,” and that Mr. Moore and the developers are definitely “going in the right direction.”