“Struggle” was a word that came up often as Goleta’s Design Review Board came to terms with the second round of conceptual designs for a hotel hoping to occupy 5955 Calle Real, the space most recently vacated by Santa Barbara Motorsports and the Good Earth Restaurant before that.
Each boardmember noted that the 148-room, three-story structure would overtop the city’s 35-foot height limit by five feet and agreed with public commenter (and county planning commissioner) Cecilia Brown that story poles would be essential. “Oh, here we go again,” Brown said, arguing that the public will likely complain that the project could “destroy the character” of the admittedly architecturally eclectic area, just as they have for the hotel rising at Storke and Hollister.
Problematic for a majority at the November 29 meeting were the three-story portions of the hotel that face Zodo’s bowling alley and the 101 freeway. Project architect Michael Stanton of San Francisco explained he’d tried to place the taller elements away from Calle Real and toward highway traffic or the blank wall of a bowling alley and its parking lot. Several on the board suggested some of the 148 rooms might have to be eliminated to set back those tall areas further from the property line. Board alternate Dennis Whalen commented that the drawings should show the proximity of the adjacent bowling alley instead of a “lovely grove of trees [going] off into infinity.”
A couple board members echoed criticism from public speaker Dr. Ingeborg Cox, who noted that the renderings showed 45-foot-tall trees in order to obscure the third story, with little likelihood trees of that height would actually be planted. She also listed the four hotels within blocks of the site. Whalen, who is a campus architect at UCSB, agreed that the trees were overscale, telling Stanton that the drawings “are really quite seductive, Michael, and that really makes me question this.” He went on to note that “building on stilts” would look clunkier than depicted and that the overhang would not look as nice as in the rendering: “Probably the biggest sin about this project.”
The issue of an offsite laundry arose, which the applicant’s consultant, David Watson of Watson Planning Consultants in Pismo Beach, explained was being backed up with a small onsite laundry for which they were in talks with Goleta Water District. Boardmembers Bill Shelor and Aaron Swaney noted that the laundry would end up using water somewhere, most likely nearby, and that onsite use as gray water for landscaping was preferable. The reply was that a commercial laundry could recycle or reuse water.
The property has a two-inch water meter dating from 1962 when Bray’s 101 Fairview Restaurant occupied the spot, said Ryan Drake with Goleta Water District in reply to a question from The Santa Barbara Independent. The historical credit carried when the property had an acre of landscaping is 12.2 acre-feet per year, he added, but the maximum amount of water the hotel might get cannot be determined until a full application is submitted, reviewed, and is subject to a final building permit.
The Design Review Board was in agreement with the public speakers that the project was simply too large for the site — and found it was not improved in any significant way from the first iteration except for the parking lot configuration and pool placement. The applicant, a company in South San Francisco called Peninsular Investments (that does not have working telephone connections), has formally submitted the project to the city but will revise the final plans, said consultant Watson. The Design Review Board wanted a third crack at the plans, which architect Stanton said he would be happy to do, but that decision is up to the applicant, said city planner Brian Hiefield.
Jennifer Carman, head of Planning and Environmental Review for Goleta, stated subsequently that the project has yet to go through planning or environmental review. The land use entitlement application has yet to be found complete by her department, she said, and the project is in its earliest stages. It will no doubt go back to Design Review, she said, as much time is likely to pass before the project approaches a “decision point,” such as Planning Commission approval, and a review of the project would be again necessary for architectural elements and items like traffic and water use.
As for the name of the hotel, Watson told The Independent that it’s customary in the industry to develop a property and then market it to franchises or hotel brands. Watson also provided the fifth in a series of phone numbers for Ganendra “Jay” Singh, who runs Peninsular Investments and its hotel management company, Paradigm Hotels Group. That too failed to render a dial tone.
Editor’s Note: The subhead of this story was changed to remove the reference to the Planning Commission as the project’s next stop, and further explanation of the project timeline by Planning was added, as well as an image of the project as seen from Calle Real.