Ty Warner Selling The Miramar

Ty Warner, concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get a fair shake when the Montecito Association considers his plans to rebuild the Miramar Hotel, says he’s selling the seaside resort property.

Warner, stung by renewed criticism from the key advisory body, will be immediately contacting suitors who in recent months have expressed interest in buying the Miramar, for which he paid $43 million several years ago, according to Greg Rice, Warner’s executive vice president.

Ironically, Warner had already prepared plans for a “family-oriented” hotel as opposed to the five-star “edgy” resort proposed a few years ago by hotelier Ian Schrager, Rice said.

“We went through a lot of effort, working out plans and were ready to file” for permits, Rice said. Warner personally went through plans for every room, the spa, restaurant, beach bar, landscaping, pool and other facilities, Rice said. He has even created model rooms.

“It was a painful decision for Ty,” Rice said, “but I don’t see how we could possibly get a fair shake” from the Montecito Association, based on its renewed attack, a four-page letter sent widely to Montecito residents. It is “alarming” when a body that will consider your project “attacks you,” Rice said.

Rice told of Warner’s decision in a mailer to many residents, dated Nov. 22 and received Friday in which he challenged many statements in the nonprofit association’s letter. “This letter is to thank you and the Montecito community for the outpouring of support we have received in our ongoing struggle to stop the abuse of power by a handful of local decision makers … “ Rice wrote.

No price tag has been set for the Miramar, Rice said, but he expects that a sales price will far exceed the $43 million paid by Warner, when he was widely hailed by the community for “saving” the property. It became, and remains, an eyesore after Schrager razed part of the property, then left it in that condition for lack of construction funds.

When I queried Rice recently about rumors that the Miramar was for sale, he replied that several entities had inquired but that Warner had no plans to sell. But now, Rice said, he will be contacting about seven or eight who had inquired to determine their interest. They were mostly “hotel types” or condo-hotel enterprises, some local, others national, he said. No doubt this week’s announcement will draw other possible buyers.

Any buyer would presumably be transferred the existing legal entitlement for a 213-room hotel, but would then have to present plans to the county to obtain a building permit.

The Miramar, its blue roofs familiar to generations of visitors, enjoys easy access from the freeway and one of the best beaches on the South Coast, but like the Warner-owned Four Seasons Biltmore and Fess Parker’s Doubletree, has to cope with noise from the adjacent railroad.

Although some may urge Warner to reconsider his decision to sell, Rice said he was “not likely” to change his mind.

Meanwhile, Warner has just visited two sites on Mexico’s west coast seeking out what Rice called “replacement” properties now that he is selling the Miramar. Rice declined to say where the properties were, other than to say one was an existing hotel or resort and the other undeveloped land.

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