Caruso’s Bait and Switch

Ah, the lovely old Miramar, whose blue roofs once said to Santa Barbara visitors, “Welcome!” Last week’s cover story asked if we locals, collectively, had been “Rick Rolled,” a nice way of asking if that very big-time, very rich L.A. developer Rick Caruso had had his way with us – by being perhaps not quite, well, truthful in his announced plans for the property or sincere in his commitment to implementing those plans.

An insincere developer? Hard to imagine, though a video Caruso had produced at the time of his Miramar purchase (once available on his website,since pulled) was quite illuminating. In it, locals such as Eva Marie Saint gushed on about the enduring charm of the old hotel, each sharing memories of pleasures they experienced there, these accounts interspersed with glimpses of the comfortably funky old bungalows, tennis courts, railcar snack bar – and look there! Jacques, lifeguard for life, who ruled the beachfront for so many years.

Nicely baiting the viewer with what had meant so much to so many for so long ,only at the very end of the video did Caruso switch to what he was actually up to: a quick glimpse of a spewing fountain at the entrance to the very expensive, Palm Springs-austere sort of resort he was “proposing,” which had as much to do with the original as cheese to chalk.

While all the big-deal proposals including Caruso’s were being proposed, the once lovely old Miramar, which could have been offering its charms these last 12 years just as it was, with a little touching up – affordable, great for families – has been left to rot into eyesore decrepitude, its now faded blue roofs exchanging the old “Welcome!” message for, “Okay, we didn’t value what we had and we got snookered. Have we learned from it? Probably not.”

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