The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave its unanimous blessing to project changes for the Miramar Hotel, which developers hope will more easily attract financing — the last step to turning it into reality.
The Miramar Hotel, slated for South Jameson Lane in Montecito and put forward by developer Rick Caruso, received approval from the Montecito Planning Commission last month. Commissioners took issue with the project’s parking and fire access, and on Tuesday, supervisors signaled that they were satisfied with Caruso’s efforts to deal with those concerns.
The fire issues have been resolved, with the Montecito Fire Protection District signing off on the improvements, and concerns about parking issues came up twice during public comment.
Last month, commissioners said parking was still inadequate and voted to suggest to county supervisors that the number of spaces be increased by at least 30.
Matt Middlebrook, senior vice president of development for Caruso Affiliated, gave the same presentation Tuesday that he had given to the Montecito Planning Commission last month. He stressed that the company had gone before the Montecito Association 14 times, in addition to dozens of community meetings. Concerns were also raised at February’s meeting about noise that might affect neighbors to the project’s restaurant, and Middlebrook said the restaurant and bar have been relocated to address those concerns.
“It reduces any potential impacts,” he said, as well as giving the fire department easy access.
Elimination of the ballroom building and tennis courts on the project’s eastern property are among the changes and were replaced with a heavily landscaped surface parking lot. The move allowed the group to eliminate one of the two levels of underground parking. Caruso’s team said the approach would reduce the visual impacts from Jameson Avenue, and that the lot would have a permeable surface to eliminate stormwater runoff.
Other changes include an increase in open space and significant reductions in square footage, required height variances and number of rooms, which would drop from 192 to 186. A new pool restaurant would serve as a three-meal eatery, and the amount of the project’s retail space would be reduced.
Middlebrook said the project’s gross square footage would be 120,000 square feet less than the original, and there would be a reduced elevation of buildings lining Jameson Avenue.
County Supervisor Joni Gray asked one question that hadn’t come up before: How much bed tax would the county lose by eliminating the six extra rooms?
“I want a project that generates funds for the county,” she told Middlebrook.
In response, Middlebrook said that anything would be better than what’s on the property now. The rooms were smaller that were eliminated, so the amount of tax most likely would be nominal.
“We hope anything’s better than what we have out there now,” he said.
The project is approved for 200 beach club members, but that may increase to 300 if the Montecito Planning Commission revisits the project and says there haven’t been any parking problems in the area.
“It’s impossible to find parking on the street (at the Biltmore),” she said. “This is an issue of 30 spaces.”
In the end, Wolf seemed convinced that the Montecito Planning Commission would deny the request to increase beach club members if parking became a problem.
Supervisor Salud Carbajal said that though he entered the meeting ready to take issue with a few items, he was ready to move forward.
“I have not heard any noise from the First District,” he told Middlebrook. “The community wants it built.”
The mood was celebratory after the meeting among Caruso and his colleagues.
“We are very appreciative of the community’s patience and continued support,” he said. “It’s our goal to reward that support by building a great hotel, one that Montecito will proud to call its own.”