The County Housing Authority once again has its eye on the 65-room Super 8 at Hollister and Fairview after a deal to acquire the motel 18 months ago fell through. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (File)

When Super 8 opened its doors back in 1974, it charged $8.88 a night for a room. The pricing was part of an aggressive marketing campaign — however gimmicky — to take on Motel 6, which was founded in Santa Barbara, for the title of the most affordable roadside accommodations in the nation. When Motel 6 opened for business in 1962, it charged $6 per night. Today, the County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority is engaged in efforts to acquire one of each of these iconic chains in hopes of transforming both into permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. 

The Super 8 deal — for a 65-room motel at Hollister and Fairview just spitting distance from the airport in in Goleta — appears on the precipice of success, thanks to $16.5 million in state funding for such purposes. The Goleta City Council — sometimes lampooned as the political fulcrum for NIMBY sentiment — held a special council meeting not just to endorse the proposal but to contribute $600,000 to the funding effort. The county supervisors were good for another $3 million to help ensure that residents received “wrap-around” services to help them with whatever their struggles are from day one. 

A similar effort to acquire an 80-room Motel 6 in Santa Maria, however, is experiencing significant resistance from the Santa Maria mayor and City Council, and it remains to be seen if that deal ever comes to fruition. 

John Polansky with the Housing Authority stressed that both projects involve the development of permanent housing. “These are not going to be homeless shelters,” he stated. “They’re not going to be homeless centers. It’s going to permanent housing where people have year leases.”

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Polansky said he intends to begin waging a neighborhood outreach offensive — via Zoom — later this month or early in February. In so doing, he will be re-plowing fields he worked 18 months ago when the Housing Authority first appeared poised to acquire Goleta’s Super 8, an architectural testament to the 1960s low-cost optimistic modernism, complete with a phalanx of towering palm trees serving as scenic sentinels. 

That deal fell through when a New Jersey motel franchiser, Wyndham Vacation Resorts — representing 20 brands and 9,280 locations — swooped in and promised to keep the “Super 8 flag” flying. 

“We didn’t lose it because of the price,” Polansky stated. “It was the flag, the big Super 8 sign.”

Wyndham brochures describe the motel’s location as being “where value meets convenience.” But with COVID raging, it’s doubtful the chain got as many business travelers as they’d been banking on and got too many people experiencing homelessness instead. Polansky said the owners had told him that it was not uncommon for people getting their checks at the beginning of each month to splurge for a few days’ respite at the Super 8 before going back out on the street. 

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