Historic State Street hotel listed for $49 million
It started as a “smelly, scary flophouse,” but once Rolland Jacks got ahold of it, it took approximately a year for him to transform it into what residents know today to be the classy, iconic Hotel Santa Barbara.
And now, Mr. Jacks is bidding his historic hotel on the corner of State and Cota goodbye.
The longtime owner put it on the market with the listing price of $49 million.
“Bittersweet would be the way to describe it, and a bit heavy-hearted to be honest,” the owner told the News-Press on Friday. “As of June 1, I will have owned the hotel for 46 years, and it’s been a huge part of my life and our family’s life.”
Mr. Jacks recalled that back in 1975, the year he purchased the property, it was occupied by a residential hotel “and probably the worst that I’d ever seen right there in lower State in Santa Barbara.” He said many residents roaming the downtown streets back then were alcoholics, drug addicts and “anything else you want to name.”
However, instead of seeing a “dirty, smelly and a little bit dangerous” property to avoid, Mr. Jacks saw an opportunity to make it a safe, clean place where people could live comfortably.
“And we did that,” he said. “Do I think I accomplished my vision? Yes. Definitely.”
He called it the Schooner Inn until 1996, and then it became the upscale Hotel Santa Barbara. Now, the 75-room hotel sits on a 25,000-square-foot lot with a lobby, two meeting rooms, a small kitchen used for lobby breakfast service. It has 23 parking spaces and six ground-level retail spaces along State Street, including Starbucks Coffee. The location provides access on foot to Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Harbor, Paseo Nuevo shopping center, wine-tasting rooms and numerous restaurants, art galleries, shops and entertainment venues.
The property has stood as a hotel since the mid-1800s, despite one version being destroyed by the 1925 earthquake. Remodels took place in 1996, 2013 and 2019, but other than that, the hotel has weathered many storms over the decades.
For this reason, Mr. Jacks hopes the next owner keeps it that way.
“I mean, it’s been a hotel on that corner since about 1870, and I think to continue that tradition would be good,” he said. “The building was finished in 1926 after the earthquake, so coming up here in 2026, it’ll be 100 years old — that hotel on the corner of State and Cota.”
Under Mr. Jacks’ ownership, Hotel Santa Barbara was a family affair, with all of his children working in some capacity at the hotel, along with his wife. Over the years, he offered rooms for free to missionaries and pastors who “just needed a break,” and this, along with some of his staff members that have worked at the hotel for decades, are the things he’ll miss the most about owning the Hotel Santa Barbara.
“I have met so many interesting, fascinating people who have been missionaries in different countries all over the world, and they came and met and we talked, so I get this sort of inside report of what’s going on all over the world,” Mr. Jacks said. “I’ll miss that.”
Robin Elander, executive director of Downtown Santa Barbara, said the Hotel Santa Barbara sitting in the heart of downtown “is a great opportunity for an investor who wants to take advantage of a centrally located boutique hotel that is walking distance of restaurants, shops, the beach and the art and culture of downtown Santa Barbara.”
“The pandemic has given businesses and owners an opportunity to move around and explore new opportunities,” she said in a statement. “It also has given local businesses an opportunity to expand their operations or move on to things that they have been wanting to do. We hope a new owner will be an active participant in collectively building the future of our downtown as we undergo the downtown master planning process.”
Considering the city’s push for affordable housing downtown, Ms. Elander offered the following comments, “Regarding the idea of Hotel Santa Barbara being converted to housing, that might be a good alternative if a new owner was interested in exploring that possibility, since housing is an important part of creating a vital downtown and supporting our local workforce.”
Regardless of the hotel’s fate, though, Mr. Jacks said it’s not about the building.
“We have a tremendous staff who’s worked there … Some of our housekeeping staff have been there for 21, 22 years,” he said. “The success of the Hotel Santa Barbara has been because of the employees.
“It’s the end of an era, so there’s a certain sadness associated with that, if you can imagine, but I’m good with the decision and happy with the decision. I prayed a lot about it and believe this is what God wants us to do at this point.”