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Local News

La Entrada Gets Go-Ahead from City Administrator

In granting approval, Armstrong says new plans conform to previous approvals — but he sets a time line and conditions the developer must follow

After five months of official silence from the city of Santa Barbara, La Entrada on Lower State Street is finally moving forward.

City Manager Jim Armstrong has issued a decision on the project, which would sit on three parcels along State and Mason streets, saying it substantially conforms to previous plans set forth by developer Bill Levy. 

Armstrong was in charge of deciding whether the new plan conforms to the approvals that were granted before Levy’s project went bankrupt in 2006.

The original project approved by the city in 2001 was for 62 timeshare condominiums, but Mountain Funding Santa Barbara LLC’s revised project is a 123-key hotel, and nine of the units have the option of becoming timeshares.

In addition, the plans include about 19,300 square feet of commercial store space and 243 parking spaces, including a 120-space underground public parking garage.

In a letter dated about a month ago to Mountain Funding, Armstrong outlined the reasons for his approval.

Because the developer wanted to significantly change the exterior and make other design revisions, a substantial conformance determination was needed. But Armstrong confirmed that even with the changes, the project would still meet the criteria.

“The proposed changes would maintain the same basic land-use parameters and city development approvals for that part of the previously approved Entrada project,” the letter stated.

Armstrong’s letter is followed by a handful of pages outlining the conditions Mountain Funding must follow to keep the SCD approval.

The terms are “in response to concerns expressed by city staff and the Planning Commission” after they reviewed Mountain Funding’s revised proposal.

The conditions of approval outline a very specific completion schedule that Mountain Funding must meet to keep moving forward on the project.

By Sept. 30, for instance, Mountain Funding must get its preliminary designs for all three areas of the project approved by the Historic Landmarks Commission. That date could be extended 90 days if the city administrator deems Mountain Funding has been working in good faith.

Gaining the permits and breaking ground on the project’s foundation and underground parking are to begin eight months after the Historic Landmarks Commission — or the City Council — issues approval.

A building permit for area C must be obtained by Nov. 30, 2011, and permits for the other two parcels must be obtained by Nov. 30, 2012. Construction on those projects should begin by Dec. 30, 2012.

Also included in the approval are some improvements to State Street sidewalks and right of ways.

If Mountain Funding fails to get the landmarks commission’s approval in time, it must “restore and relandscape” the lot at 118 State St., currently surrounded by high green fence, within 60 days of notification.

To guarantee that the company restores that area and seismically secures the California Hotel, the city is asking Mountain Funding to provide $500,000 in cash as a deposit. If Mountain Funding somehow defaults on its obligation to either area, the city would use the money to clean up the parcel and either retrofit or demolish the abandoned hotel.

A judgment issued in 1998 between the former owners of the California Hotel and the city deemed that it be “made seismically safe or it will be demolished within a certain timeframe relative to the city’s approval or disapproval of the Entrada project.”

The city served Mountain Funding an order several months ago to clean up the California Hotel, which officials maintain had become a fire hazard.

Last October, the Planning Commission expressed concern that the project wouldn’t get built, even if it was approved, for lack of financing.

City Attorney Steve Wiley told the commission that the city can’t force a start to construction, but that it could set strict conditions on when the project should start and end.

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

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