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Local News

Goleta Planners Put Out Welcome Mat for Camino Real Hotel

After deliberating issues ranging from architecture to stormwater runoff, the commission approves the plan.

The Goleta Planning Commission — minus Chairman Ken Knight, who resigned last week because of his own concerns over conflicts of interest, and Councilman-elect Ed Easton, who recused himself — voted 3-0 on Monday to approve the Camino Real Hotel.

The proposed hotel, 401 Storke Road in Goleta, will be a 99-room boutique hotel on a 3-acre piece of land at the northwest corner of the Storke and Phelps Road intersections. It is another in a variety of hotels that are coming down the development pipeline in Goleta.

The hotel is also the last piece of development planned for in the Camino Real Specific Plan, the development plan that covers the Camino Real Marketplace, Girsh Park and, at one point, more than 200 housing units that were eventually scrapped when Girsh Park decided to double its size. The Camino Real Specific Plan was approved in 1997 by Santa Barbara County, five years before Goleta cityhood.

While the Mediterranean-style architecture and LEED-certification goals of the proposed hotel were commended by some, others were still skeptical of issues such as size and height and stormwater runoff, especially in light of events like the upcoming winter storm season and the predicted flooding from the erosion of the burned hillsides north of the Goleta Valley.

Mark Linehan, developer of the Camino Real Marketplace and president of Wynmark Co., responded by pointing out that the Camino Real Specific Plan was drawn up to include the effects of more than 200 housing units planned for the site where Girsh Park now stands.

“We can hold a 100-year flood in our detention basins,” he said.

Approval of the hotel came despite continuing concerns over the real demand for more hotel rooms in the city. Trey Pinner, representing Pacifica Suites, commented that the demand for hotel rooms would not keep up with the supply expected to hit the ground in the city within the next three years.

Commissioner Julie Kessler Solomon echoed his concerns, noting that a city-sponsored study on the economic forces surrounding Goleta’s hotel industry has not yet been completed. The study would address the types of rooms needed in the city, how Goleta’s piece of the hospitality pie fits in with the rest of the South Coast, and the need for conference space for meetings and conventions held by the different industries that do business in Goleta.

“The sooner that study comes out,” the better, she said.

The Camino Real Hotel will be making its way to the Goleta City Council in the near future for another level of review. By the time it gets there, it most likely will face a new majority that could be tighter on this development than the current City Council.

“I don’t oppose this project,” Councilwoman-elect Margaret Connell said during public comment. “But the economic study should be done first.”

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