Monday, November 30 , 2015, 2:24 am | Fair 44º

Goleta Planning Commission Supports Marriott Hotel Project

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk News Editor | @magnoli |

The Marriott Residence Inn hotel development plan was supported by the Goleta Planning Commission in a 3-2 decision Monday night, which pushes the project to the City Council for final approval.

The 118-room hotel would be located in the 6300 block of Hollister Avenue, across the street from the Santa Barbara Airport.

There is high demand for an extended-stay hotel where travelers stay an average of five to 11 nights, according to developer Bob Olson of R.D. Olson Development.

Olson’s company has pursued a hotel at this location for many years and also owns the Courtyard by Marriott hotel at 401 Storke Road, which opened in 2012.

The current project is smaller, with fewer rooms, than the original proposal. In addition to the brand-new hotel, the plans include landscaping and vehicle circulation improvements to the existing Hollister Center on the same parcel.

While representatives from the business community and UC Santa Barbara support the project and want more hotel rooms in the Goleta Valley, opponents object to the site itself, which has archaeological significance to local Native American tribes.

The proposed Marriott project was withdrawn several years ago after the preservationist group Friends of Saspili sued over the Chumash site, and the concerns haven’t gone away.

The project was revised and now includes plans for a sanctuary garden on the property — a place for visitors to learn about the history of Chumash in the Goleta Slough area and for tribe members to meet and reflect, Olson said.

David Stone, an archaeologist working for Olson, said early excavations of the property in the 1920s found — and destroyed — numerous burials in the area but maps indicate any cemeteries are outside the proposed hotel property.

According to the environmental impact report, about 17 percent of the original archaeological site remains today, and the project overlaps with a portion of it.

Under the proposed project, the 10.7-acre parcel would be split, with the hotel built on the undeveloped side.

Land use attorney Marc Chytilo is representing the Friends of Saspili for the second time regarding the Marriott project.

At Monday’s hearing, he called the hotel project “a house of cards that is built upon a lot split.”

The office building is nonconforming with the city’s General Plan and, if demolished, would make room for the proposed hotel, Chytilo suggested.

“We request that (the Planning Commission) deny the lot split and direct the applicant to pursue the hotel project on the entirety of the parcel," he said, "and continue to respect the sensitive archeological resources and spiritual significance of the western portion of this parcel.”

The environmental impact report concluded that the mitigation measures would reduce any impacts to less-than-significant levels, but local Chumash are concerned about the potential loss of cultural resources.

The Planning Commission members voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the revised final environmental impact report and development plan for the Marriott project. The recommendation will go to the City Council, which is the final decision-maker for the project.

The Marriott is one of two new hotels planned for the city, with the 138-room Rincon Palms Hilton Garden Inn going in at the intersection of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue.

With the ongoing drought, concerns have been raised about adding new water service connections, but the Goleta Water District has given its preliminary support for the project since it looks at water use over the long term, according to city staff.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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