In a region notorious for a rigorous planning process, it’s rare for a developer to scrap an approved project and start all over. But that’s exactly what Bob Comstock is doing with The Village at Los Carneros, which he purchased last September from a partnership between the Bermant Development Company and Rockwood Capital. That team, known collectively as Rockber, had managed to get 279 units approved by the Goleta City Council in February 2008 and were working to add — and likely to get approved — anywhere from 279 to 369 more units on the 43-acre site, which is sandwiched between Highway 101 and the city’s industrial parks, just to the west of Los Carneros Road.
“We’ve gone back and changed everything,” admitted Comstock proudly this past Thursday. “The product didn’t fit today’s market.”
Instead of Rockber’s approved three-story structures, Comstock — a Manhattan Beach-based developer who’s remembered rather fondly in Goleta for working a deal to both preserve most of the Ellwood Bluffs and develop a high-end project out there called The Bluffs — prefers a predominantly two-story development, save for two three-story apartment complexes. Specifically, Comstock is proposing 428 total units: 56 single family homes (ranging from 2,000 to 2,300 square feet); 228 condos arranged in triplexes and townhomes (1,300 to 1,700 square feet); 74 market-rate apartments; and, in a partnership with People’s Self-Help Housing, 70 residences for people from the very low to low income bracket. The development — which also must comply with plans for a five-acre neighborhood park on the northwestern corner — will be accessed via a new road at the Calle Koral intersection as well as another road between Cremona Drive and Tecolotito Creek and, probably, a bridge over the creek at the end of Cortona Drive.
If Comstock’s idea works out like Rockber’s did, it’s very likely he’ll be able to get the entire project approved. The previous proposal never “really got any negative input during any of the hearings,” explained Alan Hanson, a senior planner for the City of Goleta, on Friday. “That project had what I would say was widespread support from the community. I really don’t anticipate that will change with this proposal.”
Hanson did point out, however, that there are some significant environmental resources on the site, mainly due to Tecolotito Creek and its riparian corridor, which he called a “very significant biological resource.” The partially approved Rockber project was located in the middle of the property, but Comstock’s fully fleshed out project comes much closer to the creek. “Now we have a project that’s moving closer to that corridor, so that’s going to become a bigger issue,” said Hanson. “There is more development in much closer vicinity than what was previously approved.”
Though admitting that it’s uncommon for already approved projects to be resubmitted, Hanson did not seem overly surprised that Comstock had done so with The Village at Los Carneros. “Given these economic times, I think anything is possible,” said Hanson, who explained that the first public hearing on this project will be before the Design Review Board and should occur within the next few months.
Comstock is very optimistic, and proud to hopefully one day be offering brand new homes in the hard-to-find $450,000 to $600,000 range. “We’re really excited about this product,” said Comstock. “We think we’re going to fill a niche that’s not out there today.”