Having been shelved for nearly a month, the matter of Bacara Resort and Spa’s expansion phase was back before the Goleta Design and Review Board (DRB) on Tuesday evening, with an updated design that addressed many of the concerns raised by the board during their last review of the project. The board again voted to continue the project-which consists of timeshare condominiums proposed as an addition to the existing suite-style hotel. Although many improvements were made over the original design, there were still many questions posed by board members about some of its details.
Still following a very modern motif, architects working on the project managed to lower building heights, expand public access, and cast the development in muted earth tones – all of these being offered as significant improvements over the design submitted for review last month. Reduced from 56 to 55 units on 12 acres spread across the Tecolote Creek area, many green cues are included in the design as well, including vegetated swales and bioretention basins integral to landscaping, potential seeded rooftops on some of the buildings, and possible use of solar energy. As it stands today, the property includes an open space with a beach access trail running though it and connecting a public area and tennis courts with a bath house and outdoor showers. Construction of the condominiums would move the parking lot and access trails to the eastern edge of the property, with the tennis courts being moved closer to Hollister Avenue.
Despite efforts by Bacara’s architectural team to present a “we’ve thought of everything” green project, most of the members of the public who offered comment at the hearing appeared to be “not in my backyard” regulars who took issue with more than just the details of the project’s design. “This project comes to us boldly with no apprehension about policy inconsistencies, and it is inappropriate,” said Mike Lundsford, Naples Coalition president, citing what he said were failures by the project to meet Goleta’s General Plan and zoning requirements. “I suggest that you don’t tinker with the design of a policy-wise fatally flawed project,” he said to the board. Among a handful of others, the ubiquitous Barbara Massey offered her two cents as well, opining that the modern – and, as some said, international – style of the proposed development is inconsistent with other buildings on the site and in Goleta as a whole.
One major issue confronting potential development projects on the South Coast has often been impacts upon archeological resources. Close to the former sites of Chumash villages, Bacara is certainly no exception, and Native American advocates who showed up at the meeting offered praise for the resort’s compliance with their requests to protect sites where artifacts may be located. “I want people to understand that archaeology-wise, you can’t get anything better than this,” said John Ruiz, a Chumash representative.
During the board comment period, location and construction of the public parking lot and beach access were concerns raised often by DRB members. Divided by a bioswale running down from the new parking lot between one trial intended for pedestrians and another for motorized carts, the map of the project left board members confused about how the trails would be configured. Most expressed appreciation for the architectural team’s efforts on the focused revision of their plans for the project and their detailed presentation of the changes to such aspects as colors and building height. “The changes you made from that version to this are immense,” said Boardmember Scott Branch.
However, some of the comments voiced during the hearing – both by board members and the public – were addressed by Goleta Planning and Environmental Services Director Steve Chase, who said that the DRB should not exceed the scope of its role in the planning and review process. “I’m required to encourage you to stay within the box of design review and allow this sub-process to play out,” he said. “This project has to stand on its own two feet. It doesn’t reopen the existing permit, and it doesn’t reopen the existing resort.”
Boardmember Bob Wignot expressed perhaps the most concern next to the members of the public in opposition to the project, urging another look be taken at the applicant’s efforts to make numerous amendments to the General Plan. “We’re here arguing about a few trees, but there’s a big picture forest scenario that needs to be addressed by the policy makers,” he said.