First Look at Bacara Condos

Residents, Planners Fret over Architecture, Beach Access

MONDO MODERN: Digital mockups of Bacara condos proposed for construction near Haskell's Beach drew some skepticism from members of Goleta's Design Review Board. They and some attendees of a January 27 meeting feared the minimalist, modern design clashed with Bacara's otherwise Spanish Mission-influenced aesthetic.

The appearance of Goleta’s popular Haskell’s Beach has changed in recent years, and if higher-ups at Bacara Resort have their way, it will change yet even more.

The public got its first glimpse at renderings of 56 condo hotels being proposed by the resort at the project’s first conceptual review in Goleta City Hall chambers Tuesday night. Architect John Pawson, of the London-based firm BB UK Studio, Ltd., presented a minimalist design with strong horizontal elements to the board and the public, but was met with an unsure response.

“This is kind of an international style, and I’m not sure this is the right place for that,” said Design Review Boardmember Carl Schneider. Several members of the public pointed out that the architecture of the condos was incongruous with Bacara’s existing resort, which is similar to the Spanish Colonial architecture found throughout Santa Barbara.

Access to Haskell's Beach near the Bacara.
Margaret Connell

In addition to concerns about architecture, many members of the public expressed concern about being pushed farther away from the resort. Public beach access has long been a source of contention between the resort and residents who frequent the Goleta beach. The design footprint shown Tuesday night showed the public access path relocated to the eastern edge of the parcel-away from the resort and closer to the Venoco oil and gas processing facility that sits adjacent to the condos. Blueprints show the condos would be located just south of the existing public parking lot. Public parking would also be relocated to the eastern edge of the property but would be increased from the current 50 spaces to 61. Echoing public sentiments, Boardmember Thomas Smith said he was also concerned about Bacara’s lack of sensitivity to the public’s right to access the beach. “There’s this attitude from Bacara that ‘We can’t let the peasants be seen.’ And that grates on a lot of people and that grates against me,” he said.

The trail leading down to the beach near Bacara. The focus of many county coastal access debates, this beach's availability to the public is being negotiated by the resort and the Coastal Commission.
Paul Wellman

The project has long been in the works, ever since Bacara’s preliminary development plan was approved in 1985, which allowed for 500 hotel rooms and 24 villas. The initial phase entailed the building of Bacara’s 400-room resort and spa located to the west of the 13-acre lot where the condos will be located. The “completion phase” of the project will establish 16 buildings, housing the condo hotels. Each unit would have an owner who would be able to stay in the unit no more than 90 days per year. Bacara would then open up the unit for the remainder of the year to be rented by the general public, explained Mary Reichel, an agent for Bacara. Management and maintenance would be the responsibility of the resort.

Because the area is archaeologically sensitive -excavations from the 1920s in nearby areas revealed Chumash cemeteries-the site would be layered with fill soil before the grading process begins. Reichel assured the board that none of the buildings would be placed on top of archaeological resources.

Several members of the public expressed concern that the condos might exceed the city’s maximum height limit of 35 feet. “We have limits for a reason,” said resident Gary Vandeman. Others took issue with the size of the units themselves. The larger units are nearly 3,000 square feet, but none are bigger than three bedrooms.

“The voting public will not take very kindly to this,” Goleta resident Karin Kuyper warned, pointing out that Goleta’s new City Council will have to weigh in on whatever plans the Design Review Board and Planning Commission send forward.

“I agree that Haskell’s is a beautiful place,” said Deane Plaister of Surfrider. “You should’ve seen it before they built Bacara.”

The board offered feedback to Bacara’s team, who will return on February 24 with revisions.

“I feel like this building needs more playfulness. It’s too rigid,” said Boardmember Cecilia Brown. She also reminded Bacara staff that Santa Barbara County has no buildings along its coastline of this height.


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