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Goleta Planners Embrace Rincon Palms

Planning commission gives unanimous support to hotel and restaurant at the city's busiest intersection.

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The 112-room Rincon Palms hotel and restaurant will be located at the corner of Hollister Avenue and Storke Road. (Lenvik & Minor Architects rendering)

In a unanimous vote, the Goleta Planning Commission on Monday night embraced plans for a hotel and restaurant on one of Goleta’s main intersections.

“It’ll make that corner in a way that corner needs to be made,” Commissioner Ed Easton said of the proposed Rincon Palms hotel and restaurant on Storke Road and Hollister Avenue.

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In approving the project, the commissioners voted to amend a city zoning ordinance, rezone the 3.05 acre parcel’s industrial research park designation to allow for a hotel and restaurant, and recommend the project to the City Council for approval.

According to both the city and the developers, the proposed 112-room hotel and 6,000-square-foot upscale restaurant was “a good fit” for the location because of the city’s assessed need for hotel space and because it would cause relatively less peak-hour traffic to the already crowded intersection than a retail space or office building.

“Initially, we thought retail was the way to go,” said developer Kip Bradley of Cortona Opportunities LLP, which also owns the parcel to the immediate north of the project site. “But then we thought, ‘that’s too much traffic.’”

An office building was “too boring,” he said, and the intersection was too busy for residential units. Parking would be available on the grounds, under the hotel and shared on the property to the north.

Nevertheless, traffic was on the minds of the planning commissioners as they hashed the details of the mitigations and improvements the project is expected to bring with it to the city’s busiest intersection. While peak-hour flows may not be a problem, the cumulative increase in traffic caused by the project, added to the already-complicated segment of Hollister Avenue — where people turn left and right into and out of the strip mall on the southeastern corner of Storke and Hollister — was an issue that had some in the room concerned.

“A better traffic study would have pointed out the problems with left turns across Hollister at Kmart and the hotel,” said resident Barbara Massey.

Plans for the project include an entrance to the complex from Cortona Drive, which runs along the eastern side of the property, not Hollister Avenue. The developer is expected to pay for or contribute to the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Coromar Drive and Hollister to the east to ease the flow of traffic on Hollister, as well as for the widening of Storke north of Hollister to add another lane.

The city may in the future replace the center turn lane between the shopping center and the proposed hotel and restaurant with a raised median to help regulate turns in that area.

The developers asked for — and received — a couple of concessions from the planning commission, which approved their request to allow for eaves that hang about two feet past the front setback, in exchange for an improved bus stop, as well as a bike path and a sidewalk along the project’s frontage, where none exist now. Spires will extend past the city’s 35-foot height limit, a nod to the project’s Streamline Moderne architecture and containers for the hotel’s elevator machinery.

The hotel is projected to bring in about $500,000 to Goleta in transient occupancy tax in its first year and roughly $1 million per year thereafter.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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