The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission gave mixed reviews to the architect and owner of a proposed four-story hotel at 4111 State Street, with commissioners agreeing the project as proposed was too big for the lot size and that the traffic impacts on the area need to be addressed.
The four-story hotel would be approximately 62,019 square feet with 106 rooms, along with a partially subterranean, 42,803 square foot, two-story garage with 118 parking spaces. It would replace the 16-room Hope Ranch Inn, formerly known as the Hope Ranch Motel.
Site owners State Street Hospitality have only filed a pre-application for the project, and the ball is in their court to make any changes to their proposal that might appease the county planning staff, the board of supervisors and, in general, the community. As it stands now, the concept is perhaps a bit too large for peoples’ liking. The applicants heard a lot of anti-development public comment Wednesday, with most speakers commenting on the bulk and scale of the project. “The density is just tremendous,” said hearing attendee Janette Webber. Fourth District Commissioner Joe Valencia told the applicants they should consider downsizing the project to make it fit better with the area, an idea they were not opposed to. “It seems like you could do without a floor,” Valencia said. “It’s a little packed.”
Not everyone was opposed to the project concept, including the real estate broker who sold the property to the applicant, James Celmayster of Pacific Commercial Realty. “I feel the hotel is appropriate to the location and zoning,” he said. “The applicant is following the current zoning laws to get a permit.”
Because the project location is not far beyond the scope of the city of Santa Barbara, the county will be working closely with city staff to make sure the hotel, which they anticipate to be a three to three-and-a-half star-rated hotel, would fit in well. This is an interesting time for the county to be considering the development of a new hotel, because it has a great need to generate revenue, some of which comes through a hotel bed tax. “We’re talking about a hotel in different economic times that will generate revenue,” Celmayster said. But some pointed out that perhaps dealing with the area’s 72 percent hotel occupancy rate at the hotels current standing is more important than adding another hotel to the mix.
And then there were those who just weren’t sure about the project, certainly an appropriate feeling considering the early stages of the project. “I don’t know if I favor this hotel,” Second District Commissioner Cecilia Brown said. “I don’t disfavor it, but I don’t know.”