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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 8:17 am | Fair 44º

 
 
 
 

Goleta Design Review Board Pans Bacara Condo Plans

The panel balks at how the proposed building style relates to the area and asks the architect to try again.

Haskell's Beach regular Cary Penniman takes notes during Bacara Resort & Spa architect John Pawson's presentation to the Goleta Design Review Board.
Haskell’s Beach regular Cary Penniman takes notes during Bacara Resort & Spa architect John Pawson’s presentation to the Goleta Design Review Board. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

Dissatisfied with the designs presented by Bacara Resort & Spa for its proposed hotel condominiums, the Goleta Design Review Board sent the architect back to the drawing board.

“With all due respect I really don’t think this style fits this site,” board vice chairman Thomas Smith told John Pawson, the project’s London-based architect.

Tuesday afternoon’s lengthy conceptual review was the first in what looks to be a series of conferences between the city and project proponents on the physical attributes of Bacara’s Completion Phase Project, the final portion of the hotel’s development.

Concurrent with this effort are amendments to Goleta’s General Plan that would allow for the hotel condominiums in the city. Condo owners would occupy their units for a certain amount of time and for the remainder of the year the units would function as regular hotel rooms.

Pawson presented a style of architecture different from the Mediterranean villas that characterize the luxury hotel. Taking his cues from the sheer bluff faces that distinguish the coastline in far western Goleta, his proposal incorporated strong horizontal lines into 10 two- and three-story buildings arranged in a crescent shape on the property that currently hosts the public parking lot, tennis courts and path to Haskell’s Beach east of the hotel, 8301 Hollister Ave.

“I asked myself, ‘What could you put on the site that would make it discreet?’” said Pawson.

The buildings, he said, would reflect the surrounding color palette with vegetation meant to screen the seaward side of the hotel condos, as well as green roofs planted with native grass or lined with photovoltaics. The 56 suites would be something in the neighborhood of 2,300 square feet each.

Meanwhile, the public parking lot, beach access and emergency lane would be relocated closer to the Venoco Ellwood Onshore Facility side of the property. The entire project would rest on fill varying from four to 16 feet above its original grade.

Two modifications were required by Bacara for this particular project to go through as is: a reduction in the setback requirements to allow for the project footprint and a modification in height limits.

Even at this early stage, the public was on hand to comment. Many expressed the longstanding concern that access to Goleta’s only public beach would be diminished by the construction.

“I’m very disappointed with the idea of losing Goleta’s only beach,” said Vic Cox.

The Goleta City Council has consistently opposed losing 24/7 public access to Haskell’s Beach, which has often been a major sticking point between the hotel and the city.

Others in the room worried about public safety: accidental hydrogen sulfide emissions from the Venoco facility, fire access for the buildings.

And, according to Chumash representative Sam Cohen, the tribe has not yet taken an official position on the project, but there are certainly cultural resources in the area.

For the Design Review Board, however, the main issue was what it felt was a building design that was out of context for the area.

“This would be a first in buildings of this height on the Gaviota coast,” said board member Cecilia Brown. “It’s as though the buildings belong somewhere else, not in Goleta.”

“It doesn’t meet the challenge you’ve laid out for yourselves,” said chairman Robert Wignot, commenting that the strong horizontal aspect of the design did not complement the landscape. Other members agreed.

The panel did, however, complement the architect’s decision to place the buildings in a flowing crescent shape as opposed to a straight line against the coast. The green roofs were not such a great idea, said a couple of members, because of the maintenance required.

Wignot and Smith also took the opportunity to comment on concerns that the resort is somewhat less than accommodating to locals. Wignot pointed out that Bacara bills itself as a Santa Barbara destination “with no mention that they’re in the city of Goleta,” while Smith observed that the new layout shunts the public’s access off to the side.

“It’s like you can’t let the peasants be seen,” he said. “It grates against a lot of people. It grates against me.”

The Design Review Board will take up the subject again Feb. 24.

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