Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 3:53 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Marriott Plan Gets Favorable Review from Design Board

While the door remains open for the Hollister Avenue hotel project, it still must undergo further scrutiny and visual simulations

The Marriott Residence Inn project that has long been making its way through Goleta’s planning process received favorable reviews Tuesday from the city’s Design Review Board.

The proposed extended-stay hotel for 6300 Hollister Ave. still will have to undergo visual simulations, but on Tuesday afternoon, it appeared to have jumped the size, bulk and scale hurdles that had been holding it back.

“I feel like it was baby steps to get there, but we eventually did,” board member Scott Hererra said.

The project had been sent back to the drawing board several times before the Orange County-based applicant, R.D. Olson Construction, came back with a significant smaller project, reducing a hotel that had hovered at 133 extended-stay suites to 118.

The revision knocked several rooms off the hotel’s third floor, potentially opening up the views of the mountains north from Hollister Avenue that the Design Review Board had been adamant about preserving. It also put the square footage of the hotel under the 50 percent footprint cap that’s part of the city’s development regulations, erasing the need for findings of good cause for the previous development plan that had exceeded that standard.

“It would have been tough to make a good cause finding that they should make a bigger project simply for economic reasons,” board member Bob Wignot said.

Other changes were made to the reciprocal parking agreement that was to be reached with businesses on the east side of the parcel. Now, parking would be contained on-site.

Getting to this point was no small feat for the city — or the applicants. The last iteration of the project called for a suite count of about 133 rooms, something the applicant said was necessary to just break even financially on the project. Land costs, according to the development team, coupled with the additional archaeological treatments necessary to preserve Chumash artifacts on the site made the project relatively more expensive to develop.

But a new deal was struck between R.D. Olson and landowner Sares-Regis Group that made it possible for the project to move forward, albeit a smaller version.

“We have since reconvened with our landowners and they chipped in to make it work financially,” Robert Olson told the board.

If all goes smoothly for the project, Marriott will move in as the hotel’s operator, something Olson sees as a plus, pointing out that it was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

While the project has cleared a significant hurdle, it’s still a ways off from hitting the ground. Previous iterations, going back several years, have prompted an outcry from other local hotel operators, who say the competition may hurt their bottom lines, though Olson — and the city — have insisted that an extended-stay project would meet a different market demand.

The last project that made it through the city’s planning process, a 140-suite hotel, was withdrawn because of a lawsuit filed by preservationist group Friends of Saspili, named for the Chumash Village that once existed in Goleta, in the area of the proposed hotel. As a result of the lawsuit, which claimed the environmental documentation was inadequate, the project disappeared.

“I don’t expect them to go away,” Olson told Noozhawk.

Indeed, Anna Citron, from the law office of Marc Chytilo, the land use attorney representing Friends of Saspili, spoke up at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We do appreciate that the applicant has made some changes ... but we continue to feel even this latest iteration does not address (our concerns),” she said, urging the board not to give the project the green light until the public has had the opportunity to view the visual simulation, which has yet to be prepared. The environmental impact report has yet to be written for the project, and it is anticipated that visual impacts and effects to archaeological resources will continue to be issues.

The board continued the review for another few weeks, to give the city’s 3D visualization consultant time to prepare a simulation of the project for the board and the public to view.

“I’m optimistic that the simulation will show that the visual impact on mountain views is considerably less,” Wignot said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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