The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday delayed a decision on an appeal of a Planning Commission rejection of a 32-room hotel project, asking the developer of a three-story hotel on Montecito Street to return next month with a revised project.
The 4-3 decision came after hours of deliberation, presentations from the Planning Commission and the developer, and after 24 residents presented their cases.
The majority of speakers favored the project, although one of the seven in opposition brought along a petition against the project with 500 signatures.
The project at 302 and 308 W. Montecito St. includes the demolition of an existing four-unit apartment building with 517.5 square feet of commercial space; merger of two lots for a combined area of 18,927 square feet; and construction of a new three-story, 30,830-square-foot building with 11 surface parking spaces and a mechanical lift parking system to accommodate 33 additional spots.
The first level of the building would include the hotel lobby and office, coffee shop with outdoor patio, and parking garage. The second level would include 15 hotel rooms and a 720-square-foot lounge. The third level would include 17 hotel rooms and a partially covered patio lounge. A 1,966-square-foot roof deck would also be provided, according to the staff report.
On Aug. 15, the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to deny the project, saying that not all the findings for the development plan and the developmental plan for the transfer of existing development rights could be made.
In its denial, the Planning Commission found that demolition without replacement of four existing housing units is contrary to the city’s goals to promote affordable housing. In addition, the officials said the project would have “a significant adverse impact on the community’s aesthetics and character because the proposed modern-style architecture of the building is not appropriate or compatible with the neighborhood, which generally features Spanish-style architecture or wooden bungalows,” according to the staff report.
The developer, Ed St. George, appealed to the City Council, asserting the project is compatible.
“Furthermore, the appellant claims that the decision represents an attempt to amend City policy as it relates to the local housing shortage without the benefit of public input or oversight by the City Council,” the staff report reads.
Council members Kristen Sneddon, Eric Friedman, Oscar Gutierrez and Meagan Harmon were initially prepared to reject the appeal, largely on the grounds that the project would take up space for potential affordable housing.
The delay came at the suggestion of Councilman Jason Dominguez, who along with Councilman Randy Rowse expressed concern at the frequency of appeals and the lack of a clearly defined development process.
“I think we need to come up with a plan real soon so we don’t scare off other businesses,” Mr. Dominguez said. “We need revenue to pay our bills, to have the amenities and services that we have, to serve our waterfronts, our parks, our streets and other infrastructure. So, I hope we come forth with a plan in terms of how we deal with this crisis.”
Mr. St. George’s representatives will return with an updated plan on Dec. 17, after getting approval from the Architectural Board of Review and the Planning Commission. The revised plan will resolve issues with the size, bulk and scale of the building, modify the architecture, and offset the loss of housing with proposals for four units somewhere else in the city of similar configuration to the ones lost.