Site clearing for the new Fess Parker hotel began in 2007.
Sue De Lapa

Coming Back to Life: The Fess Parker family has come to the city to propose a high-end Cabrillo Boulevard hotel, scaled down to about 50 rooms instead of the 150-room project approved years ago, officials say.

Ground was broken at Cabrillo Street and Calle César Chávez in late 2007 with much fanfare, but the site remains boarded up, reportedly due to financing problems. The original $90-million hotel, near his existing Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, was scheduled to open in 2009, and Parker saw it as a five-star hotel, though some felt that the 150-room project was out of scale with the beach area.

Barney Brantingham

Parker, who died in 2010, struggled to win approval of the 3.4-acre hotel, donating five acres along Cabrillo that is now part of Chase Palm Park and contributing more than $62,000 a year for park maintenance, a figure due to increase when the hotel is built. Parker was also required to build a 100-room hostel, which was built but has not yet opened.

But now the Parker family is very much engaged in bringing the hotel project back to life and, in a quest for a quality operator, is said to be talking to the highly respected Passport Resorts group, operator of the prestigious Post Ranch Inn, on the cliffs of Big Sur, according to Paul Casey, community development director for the City of Santa Barbara.

No formal application has been submitted yet by the family, but the city is very much in favor of working with the family on the project, which would have to be submitted to the Planning Commission and City Council, Casey said.

The rebuilt El Encanto Hotel on the Riviera opened last week to rave reviews, but, a dozen years after approval, La Entrada resort at the foot of State Street has yet to be built, and the long-razed Miramar, on the beach in Montecito, still hasn’t gotten off the ground. But optimists see Santa Barbara becoming a major international resort area after all the projects are open and coupled with the existing Bacara resort west of town, which now has new owners.

Good Idea? Some Santa Barbara controversies flare up overnight. Others take a dozen years to spring to life and hit the City Council. Although narrowing of lower State Street at the beach was approved in 2000, two councilmembers want it brought back for a full probing.

Randy Rowse and Dale Francisco say the long-dormant, yet-to-be-built La Entrada project, between the railroad tracks and Cabrillo Boulevard “has changed enormously.” Narrowing State from four lanes to two “may result in gridlock,” they say in a request to place the issue on the council agenda.

What was once a fractional ownership project is now proposed by developer Michael Rosenfeld as a 123-room luxury hotel. And the Funk Zone east of lower State Street, long a low-intensity conglomeration of craft shops, beach-use businesses, and wineries, is “in the midst of a commercial and retail explosion with no end in sight,” the councilmembers said.

With all this development, unforeseen a dozen years ago when Bill Levy’s project was approved by an earlier council, Rowse and Francisco warn that there’s community concern about a serious bottleneck at a key city intersection. Levy is out of the picture.

They also point out that the wide lower State Street at present “creates an open vista that allows for pedestrian, motorist, and cyclist views of the mountain skyline,” while the new multi-story buildings to be built, combined with narrowing the street, will likely result in a “canyon” effect.

The La Entrada project now includes widening of the sidewalks, and that’s underway. Since no major work has been done so far to narrow the street, perhaps that should be delayed to see if narrowing is necessary as the La Entrada project progresses, Rowse told The Santa Barbara Independent.

No date has been announced for the hearing. Rowse and Francisco said “all interested parties” should be on hand “to discuss whether this idea still makes sense and, if not, what are the possible alternatives.”

Jerry’s Out: It came like an Easter miracle: Word that Jerry Roberts, former executive editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press and San Francisco Chronicle and columnist for The Santa Barbara Independent, has emerged from a hospital in San Francisco after six months of treatment for lymphoma. There’ll be a party up there Sunday and one here later. Now I can uncross my fingers.

Missing Jimmy: Sometimes, crossed fingers don’t work. There’s great sadness at Vices & Spices coffee shop. Jimmy McLeod, a gentleman, fine judge of wine and Scotch whisky, computer whiz, reader of four newspapers a day, good friend to all, disliked by none, soccer enthusiast, man of warm humor and learning, and loving husband of Elinor, died peacefully in his sleep on Good Friday. As John Zant put it, “If heaven exists, Jimmy is charging through the gates.” A celebration of his life will be announced later.


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