Sheila Lodge, city planning commissioner and former Santa Barbara mayor, lowered the boom on landlord/developer Ed St. George’s plans to convert an old parking lot and four units of rental housing on the 300 block of West Montecito Street into a new three-story, 32-unit hotel. The city desperately needed housing, Lodge argued at the August 15 hearing, and had an overabundance of hotel rooms. After nearly five hours of testimony, Lodge urged her fellow commissioners to reject the proposal on the basis “of sound community planning,” and by a 5-1 vote, they agreed with her.
St. George had reason to be surprised by the outcome; city planning staff had recommended approval of the project, and existing zoning allows him to develop hotels or housing on the site. Lodge pointed out that 500 bedrooms’ worth of new hotels are now wending their way through the city’s design review process and 150 are under construction. Hotel occupancy rates, she stated, were going down, not up, arguing that new hotels are not what the city needs. Commissioner Addison Thompson cast the sole dissenting vote but said nothing from the dais to explain his thinking.