While demolition of the Miramar Hotel began two weeks ago, negotiations between owner Rick Caruso and county officials have also picked up as the two sides try to reach an agreement under the county’s Hotel Incentive Program, designed to push collected bed taxes back to luxury-hotel developers so they’ll build in Santa Barbara.
Though many have long clamored for the demolition — which removes an eyesore that has sat vacant for more than a decade — it is more than just a goodwill move from Caruso. The action makes his property entitlements permanent. The work, which is costing Caruso more than $1 million, is expected to be done by mid to late January.
Meanwhile, Caruso and the county are trying to figure out how to structure a deal under the Hotel Incentive Program that gives Caruso the assurance it will remain in place for the agreed-upon 15 years while keeping the county on comfortable legal ground. County attorneys recently cited state law that says the Board of Supervisors can’t guarantee the money that Caruso would recoup through the program in one big chunk, but that the board will have to approve the appropriation on an annual basis, an opinion that caught Caruso’s team off guard when they first heard it.
County CEO Chandra Wallar wrote a letter to Caruso last week, taking a firm line on where the county stands and telling Caruso the county has “provided you with a path to an agreement.” Despite the roadblocks, Caruso’s team says they are working with the county to try to move forward.