Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso has announced his intentions to submit a new set of plans for “reimagining” Montecito’s long-storied but long-dormant Miramar Hotel, which would make it his third go-around since acquiring the property in 2007. The new plans, which will have to run the gauntlet of Montecito’s design review process, promise “an intimate, smaller design,” reducing the number of rooms from 186 to 170. While Montecitans have been clamoring to have the hotel rebuilt, Caruso has not escaped the curse that seems to have afflicted the property since being shut down 14 years ago. Not only is he now on his third set of plans, but he’s also the third developer to attempt resurrecting what was once the first posh hotel on the coast.
Early on, Caruso unleashed a formidable charm offensive, winning the fickle hearts and minds of Montecitans. But since securing the first county approval in 2008, nothing has been built. Hotel financing was in notably short supply in the wake of the recession. Two years ago, Caruso asked for and got a controversial tax break from the county as an incentive to deliver, but the two sides could not come to terms when it got to the fine print of the deal.
Caruso’s announcement comes at a time when county planners are exploring plans with Caltrans to build a roundabout by San Ysidro and Coast Village roads to help address traffic issues there. Such a roundabout would impinge on a parcel that was to feature a new spa, but the parcel now calls for a parking lot. The new plans are slated to go before the Montecito Board of Architectural Review later this month and after that to the Montecito Planning Commission.