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3-Story Hotel Project Proposed in Santa Barbara’s West Beach Neighborhood

Architectural Board of Review asks for revisions with less of a mass as neighborhood activists express concerns over West Montecito Street compatibility

A project that includes a hotel, commercial space, public art gallery and subterranean parking garage has been proposed for the northwest corner of the intersection of West Montecito and Bath streets in Santa Barbara’s West Beach neighborhood. Click to view larger
A project that includes a hotel, commercial space, public art gallery and subterranean parking garage has been proposed for the northwest corner of the intersection of West Montecito and Bath streets in Santa Barbara’s West Beach neighborhood. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara developer Ed St. George wants to build a three-story structure to house a hotel, commercial space and a public art gallery in the north end of the West Beach neighborhood.

The project is proposed for two lots at 302 and 308 W. Montecito St., on the northwest corner of the Bath Street intersection across from a carwash and The Neighborhood Bar & Grill.

The parcels, just south of the Union Pacific railroad tracks, currently contain four apartments and 517 square feet of office space, which would be demolished to make way for the project.

The proposal calls for a hotel with 32 rooms, an 847-square-foot public art space and a 24,266-square-foot subterranean parking garage with 52 parking spaces. The creation of the garage will require about 7,900 cubic yards of grading excavation.

The project also would have 18 covered bicycle parking spaces.

At a July 31 meeting, members of the Architectural Board of Review said the project is headed in the right direction. But they also said the project’s mass was too big and they urged the architect, Tim Gorter, to continue working on the design.

“We really believe that what we have ... today is compatible with the neighborhood,” Gorter said.

Some community members disagreed.

“I worry about the subtle creep of mildly inappropriate buildings into established neighborhoods,” said Rick Closson, a retiree. “Each one pushing the envelope further from the last until it becomes the original buildings that seem out of character for the neighborhood and in need of redevelopment.”

Activist Heather Bryden said the project doesn’t belong.

“We have a problem with location here,” she said. “It should probably be in Los Angeles instead of Santa Barbara. This is not in any way a Santa Barbara building.”

Project neighbor Bonnie Donovan was more blunt:

“It’s too big for our neighborhood,” she said. “Too massive. We’re taking housing away from Santa Barbara and now we’re going to make a hotel, which I believe is going to be turning into a dorm later on down the road.”

The proposal comes at a time when city officials are trying hard to expand housing options through an Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program that has become increasingly controversial.

In 2015, St. George had proposed a dorm-style project near Santa Barbara City College that would have housed as many as 1,500 students. He pulled the proposal after encountering intense neighborhood opposition.

ABR member David Watkins said he was unable to support the West Montecito Street project as currently designed because it has “not been integrated into a cohesive design.”

“The massing is a lot,” he said. “I can’t support the design as it is. The massing compatibility is just not there for me.”

The ABR will revisit the project at its Aug. 28 meeting.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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