The palm trees are still standing solo on the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue after the Goleta City Council on Tuesday night voted 4-1 to continue its discussion on the proposed Rincon Palms Hotel. Councilmembers, concerned citizens, and developers all had varying opinions on the amenities, design, and impact on mountain views and traffic of the proposed hotel, which is currently in its second iteration and — after Tuesday’s meeting — now looks headed for a third.
The original proposal, approved in 2008, called for 112 rooms and a 6,000-square-foot free-standing restaurant but was later revised to its current design of 149 rooms and a 5,400-square-foot conference center instead of a restaurant. It is slated to have a total of 180 parking spots, 11 of which are designated for valet parking. Replacing the restaurant with a conference center would create less traffic and pollution, city staff and the developers said, acknowledging that the mountains will be less visible under the new plan.
Although the revised plan has been given the stamp of approval by the city’s Design Review Board and Planning Commission and the city’s General Plan has slated the site for a hotel, the council wasn’t satisfied enough to give the revised plan the go-ahead.
“There is going to be a hotel here,” said Mayor Roger Aceves. “As currently planned, it’s not going to work, so we need to rethink it.” Councilmember Ed Easton agreed, saying, “A creative approach to this can result in a hotel that Goleta wants, that the owners want. We can get a win-win out of this if we can just sit down and work out how to do it.”
Councilmember Jim Farr said that, although he liked the prospect of extra revenue — about $750,000 in bed tax, plus property tax — he felt concerned about the loss of views. Councilmember Paula Perotte, the lone dissenting vote, took issue with the number of parking spaces, saying it would be inadequate in the event of a fully booked hotel coinciding with a conference, banquet, or wedding. And Mayor Pro Tempore Michael Bennett said the conference center wasn’t large enough.
El Encanto Heights resident Shelley Nakano is not a fan of the proposed hotel. “This kind of project is beautiful, it’s slick, but I don’t think it really reflects the character of our city,” she said. Many business owners, though, said that the hotel would offer Goleta something they say is sorely lacking: meeting space. “Our business travelers are heading outside of our community to do their business,” said Kristen Miller, the CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce. “The increased visitor activity has a multiplier effect on other businesses in town.”
Developer Kip Bradley seemed frustrated by the notion of a Round Three for the project, and he said he wanted more guidance to make the third iteration appealing to all. The developers will meet with the Economic Development Committee to discuss possible changes and will talk further with the council on October 1.