Mayor Randy Rowse at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the Drift Hotel | Credit: Jackson Friedman

Last week, Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse and enough members of the City Council to constitute a Brown Act violation assembled on the 500 block of State Street to celebrate the grand opening of a new boutique hotel — the Drift — located in the hollowed-out and rebuilt remnants of what for nearly 40 years was Santa Barbara’s Scientology headquarters. 

Credit: Jackson Friedman

Because Scientology is legally a religion, the headquarters enjoyed all the property tax exemptions allowed to any religious organization, which probably explained the enthusiasm shown by the emissaries of City Hall. 

The new Drift, which offers rooms for $325 a night at the off-season rate, will be generating both property taxes and bed taxes. Eons before, the newly reincarnated building was home to the Barbara Worth hotel where guests shared a down-the-hall bathroom. City staff, developer Jason Jaeger said, were a big help in getting the hotel through the design review process. He declined to divulge how much he and his investors paid, but acknowledged they spent far more on the remodel. 

The Drift — keyless, of course — exudes a quasi-hipster edge befitting its location in the city’s loud and raucous party zone. Downstairs on State Street, it sports a coffee shop named Dawn and a bar named Dusk. Other hotels have managed to coexist happily in the neighborhood, Jaeger noted; with the proper soundproofing, guests are assured of getting a good night’s sleep. 

From start to finish, Jaeger said, it took three years to launch the new project. The Drift is the first of many boutique and artisanal hotels to hit downtown. 

Jaeger said he looked into building housing but it didn’t pencil out. 

Credit: Jackson Friedman


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