One of the largest-scale projects in Carpinteria — the Surfliner Inn, a restaurant/hotel proposed for development on a 30,000-square-foot piece of land in the downtown area — has reached the next step to becoming reality despite polarized opinions from the community and leaders.
After a special meeting with the hotel as its sole agenda item, and which saw more than 25 community members speak up both for and against the project, the Carpinteria City Council approved the leasing agreement between the city and developers of the property at 499 Linden Avenue in a 4-1 vote.
“If we do move forward, we have to scrutinize this project,” said Mayor Wade Nomura.
More than half of the meeting was filled with public comments, with the majority of the community members who spoke criticizing the project for a number of reasons, ranging from noise and parking to a lack of cooperation between city leaders and local residents. The councilmembers acknowledged the comments and even encouraged the community to continue to voice their concerns, but they approved the leasing agreement to allow for future discussion and changes in the development plans.
“The only way I see this moving forward is if we go ahead and put the leasing agreement in order,” Nomura said.
The land, which sits on the corner of Linden Avenue and Fifth Street and includes a public parking lot, has been the proposed site for the Surfliner Inn since 2015. Nomura said that as the project continues to come across the council, he will be looking at the proposal “with the opinion that it is too large right now.”
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Vice Mayor Al Clark was the lone councilmember to vote against the project, expressing concerns that the development was “privatization of public goods” for financial gain. The hotel, he said, would cost the city public space, views, and its small-town identity. “Money can’t buy our small town back,” he said.
Councilmember Gregg Carty encouraged those opposed to the hotel to take a step back, after he said some posts on social media called for the recall of city leaders over the issue. “I don’t appreciate that. I urge everybody to be respectful and take it from there,” Carty said.
He said the Surfliner could help the local business prosper and bring more than just money to the city. “I see this as a future landmark for Carpinteria. A place that we’ll be proud of,” he said.
Monday night’s vote — while suggestive of the strong support within City Hall for the project — is hardly the end of the line for developer Jack Theimer and his proposed two-story, 40-room hotel. The plans still must be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board and approved by the Planning Commission; the City Council would decide, if an appeal were brought against the project.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the proposed hotel is three stories, not two.