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Santa Barbara Councilmen Call for Public Hearing on Narrowing of State Street

Randy Rowse and Dale Francisco say they don't want to delay the La Entrada hotel project, but to give residents a say about the related traffic changes

Two members of the Santa Barbara City Council with concerns about narrowing Lower State Street to two lanes have asked for a public hearing on the issue.

State Street would be narrowed from four lanes to two for sidewalk improvements surrounding the La Entrada hotel project planned around the intersection of State and Mason streets.

Councilmen Randy Rowse and Dale Francisco have asked for a public hearing not on the hotel project, but on the changes to the roadway.

Rowse said they don’t want to delay the project, or be “obstructionist,” but they want to give people a chance to speak publicly about the traffic changes.

“A lot of people are pretty upset,” he told Noozhawk on Friday.

The original La Entrada project was approved in 2001 under the helm of developer Bill Levy, who eventually filed for bankruptcy and walked away from the project. Since then, the project has changed hands to multiple owners, and now Los Angeles developer Michael Rosenfeld is moving forward. City officials must sign off on whether Rosenfeld’s new plans “substantially conform” with Levy’s originally permitted project.

Some of the biggest changes have come from removing the nine timeshare units planned for the project, and increasing the number of rooms to 123 from 114. There also has been an increase in the amount of commercial space included in the project, among other changes.

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission agreed Thursday that the plans substantially conformed to the original project, but La Entrada must go back to the Historic Landmarks Commission and City Administrator Jim Armstrong, who will ultimately decide whether the project substantially conforms.

Although the narrowing of State Street for sidewalk improvements was part of the original plan, Rowse said he wanted to have a hearing so people could speak about the changes.

North of Highway 101, he said, Chapala and Santa Barbara streets help ease State Street’s traffic volume. But south of the freeway, “it’s going to be really hard to get off of Cabrillo onto State Street,” Rowse said.

It’s not only the project that’s changed, he said, but the area around the site.

“All of that Funk Zone activity wasn’t there,” he said. “You would never design it from scratch today knowing what you know.”

Rowse said he would like to see Rosenfeld begin building the hotel, but do street improvements last.

“Maybe people don’t want it to be four lanes, but that’s what we’ll find out,” Rowse said. “I am worried about waking up and saying, ‘I sure wish we hadn’t approved that.’”

Rowse and Francisco have asked Armstrong for a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 6 p.m. April 16 in the council chambers at City Hall.

“We don’t have a plan,” Rowse said, “We just want to have a hearing.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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