Santa Barbara Community Development Chief Paul Casey has recused himself from further deliberation on proposed changes to the La Entrada development-slated for the lower two blocks of State Street-because his brother-in-law works for Design Arc, the architectural firm drafting the new designs. Instead, the decision on whether the new plans “substantially conform” to plans approved by the City Council 10 years ago will be given to City Administrator Jim Armstrong. The issue will be heard by the Planning Commission on Thursday, October 8, but that body’s authority is strictly advisory.
The original plans, submitted by developer Bill Levy, called for 112 time-share bedrooms. Levy has since gone bankrupt and his chief lender, Mountain Funding, is now seeking approval to build 114 hotel rooms and nine time-share condos instead. If Mountain Funding can’t persuade Armstrong that the new plans conform to the ones already approved, Mountain Funding would have to submit brand new plans for a brand new project and go all the way through the approval process again.
Mountain Funding has come under attack for leaving that portion of State Street a festering hole in the ground; some have called on City Hall to pull the company’s permit unless construction begins in earnest. In its new plans, Mountain Funding is proposing to substantially expand the public courtyards included in the project and to reduce the buildings’ height. In addition, Mountain Funding is pledging to build a new public parking garage before constructing any of the hotel structures.