The wind might start blowing sooner rather than later through the Rincon Palms, the hotel that’s been proposed for the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue in Goleta. Although the Goleta City Council approved a 112-room, three-story, nearly 60,000-square-foot hotel and restaurant project in October 2008, the economy soon took a free fall, requiring the hotel developers, known as Cortona Opportunities LLC, to retool their design. After their second idea for a slightly bigger hotel with fewer rooms died on the drawing board, the developers returned to Goleta City Hall on Tuesday night for their third vision: a much bigger (about 105,000 square feet) and taller (four stories) hotel featuring 166 rooms and a conference center, with the request that City Hall fast-track the development and give the project $2 million in breaks.
The developer, Kip Bradley, also held out two tasty carrots: one, in this down economy, they actually had the money ready to break ground on this long-awaited project and, two, that their proposal meets all of the conference center needs recently outlined in a recent city-ordered report. Calling his new proposal a “crown jewel of a development,” Bradley promised, “I’ve got what we need to get this project going.”
That was enough for at least three of the councilmembers (Roger Aceves, Michael Bennett, and Ed Easton) to support the creation of a proposed development agreement with Bradley, although both Margaret Connell (who was concerned that the possible fast-tracking and deal-cutting would set a bad precedent) and Paula Perotte (who seemed mostly okay with the project until decision time) voted against letting staff work further on the new project.
Though he too was concerned that the fast-tracking would not be fair for existing projects (indeed, every councilmember expressed this fear and so they directed staff to ensure it would not), Councilmember Bennett was enthused about the plans, especially the rooftop meeting area, explaining, “I’d hate to pass up this opportunity for what I consider to be an awesome project.”