New Hotels During Drought?

Plans are underway to convert an existing office building to a 30-unit, unmanaged, self-check-in hotel at 812 Garden Street. It seems to me like it’s a scheme by a very savvy Bay Area developer to skirt the city’s Airbnb restrictions. Plus the property is adjacent to Laguna Cottages for Seniors, a quiet, 55-unit property, which has evolved from housing originally provided to returning WWll vets. The residents at Laguna Cottages are understandably upset about this proposed hotel.

But my overarching concern is this: Why aren’t we putting a moratorium on building more and more and hotels, when we are experiencing what is perhaps the worst drought in California history?

This city’s leaders have asked us to restrict our water use, and most of us have complied — taking short showers, tearing out our lawns, forgoing car washes, fountains, etc. We are also being asked to restrict our use of electricity during peak hours, and again, I believe most Santa Barbara residents try very hard to do that. Yet the city seems to welcome and encourage more and more building for tourists, who do not likely share our concerns for the scarce, precious resources we are trying so hard to conserve.

Yes, I get that tourism brings in dollars, and certainly hotels and some restaurants are thriving (especially the newer chains near the waterfront). But all this tourism has done nothing for our poor, decimated downtown, the heart and soul of Santa Barbara. And that can’t just be blamed on COVID. We all know that the alarming loss of downtown businesses was happening well before COVID began.

It seems to me we have to draw a line to stop this craziness with all the hotels and focus on the needs of the citizens of Santa Barbara who care deeply about what happens to this town and our precious resources.

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