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Rincon Palms Hotel Project Wins Backing of Goleta Council

City officials call it 'just the right project' for the barren property on the corner of Storke and Hollister.

The Goleta City Council on Tuesday evening unanimously approved Rincon Palms, a Streamline Moderne-style hotel planned for the intersection of Storke and Hollister avenues in Goleta.

The project, a 112-room hotel and freestanding restaurant, was praised by the council for being “just the right project” for the barren property on the northeast corner of Storke and Hollister, which is little more than a patch of dirt lined with palm trees and with no sidewalk.

It is also the first major project, according to the city, to “come in clean,” that is, come up with a design that complies with Goleta’s development standards without asking for major concessions to accommodate its height or size. There are architectural elements that extend a little beyond the city’s 35-foot height limits, such as spires and the housing for the hotel elevator machinery, as well as overhangs that encroach slightly onto the restaurant’s setback, but they were allowed by city planners and the council.

The approval was almost dwarfed by a lengthy discussion between the council and Trey Pinner, representing Pacifica Suites and Best Western South Coast Inn, two other hotels in the city. According to Pinner, more hotel rooms would take business away from the other hotels in the area, which are estimated to be at an average of 73 percent occupancy throughout the year, except during big events such as UCSB graduation and Fiesta, which bring more people in from out of town.

“I am concerned about what other pending hotel projects are going to do to the hotel industry in Goleta,” said Pinner, requesting that the council delay its decision until the effects of more hotel rooms in the city could be more thoroughly studied. Goleta has other hotels in its planning pipeline, including an extended-stay project just down the street.

The problem for the council and Pinner was that there was no way to assess the net effects of Rincon Palms on the industry, as there were not enough numbers available from every hotel in the city. In fact, council member Eric Onnen said, both Pacifica Suites and South Coast Inn had shown an increase in transient occupancy tax for fiscal year 2007-08, despite the opening of a Hampton Inn in Old Town Goleta. Without more information, it would be difficult to prove Pinner’s concern, he said.

“That’s difficult,” Onnen said of Pinner’s claim. “We’ve got to find a way to explain that.”

With the expected growth of UCSB, the construction of Cabrillo Business Park, along with other development projects in the city that could bring in more people, Planning Director Steve Chase said the city will need the hotel rooms.

“We believe the demand is there,” he said. “It’s coming, and it’ll be steady.”

If all goes smoothly for local developer Kip Bradley, the hotel should be on the ground in about two years.

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

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