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Architectural Review Board Scrutinizes Proposal for Santa Barbara Airport Auto Dealership

An artist rendering shows the proposed design for new auto dealerships on Santa Barbara Airport property. Click to view larger
An artist rendering shows the proposed design for new auto dealerships on Santa Barbara Airport property.  (Courtesy photo)

A new Chrysler and Infiniti dealership and service department proposed for a Santa Barbara Airport property reached a hurdle when the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review told the applicant to attempt a “Santa Barbara” design style.

The ABR on Monday voted 3-1, with vice chair Amy Fitzgerald Tripp dissenting, to not approve the proposal for the first phase of development for the construction of a 6-acre project offering Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat brands at 6210-6290 Hollister Ave. near Goleta.

“The architect is a step down from what we would require in the city of Santa Barbara proper,” said board chair Kirk Gradin, who suggested the architect look at car dealerships on Hitchcock Way in Santa Barbara for design elements. “We are making large allowances for the fact of its location.”

The project was last reviewed by the ABR in 2016.

The applicant, represented by Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting, wants to build a 26-foot-tall, two-story building with showrooms and auto service between La Patera Lane and David Love Place. 

Infiniti’s proposed building will feature a 30-foot-tall, one-story facility.

The showrooms are slated on the south side of the building facing Hollister Avenue, with service components located on the north side.

The first phase of the project includes 95 parking spaces and 32 inventory spaces. The project would rely upon an existing lease of 200 parking spots from the airport at 200 Frederick Lopez Road for off-site storage of inventory, according to a Santa Barbara city staff report.

Robert Plant, project architect from FLEX Design, showed an artist’s rendition of the dealership storefront and the arched window entry design, in addition to the glass panels that allow customers to see inside and the proposed solar energy panels on the roof.

“It’s a pretty simple building — the glass is basically clear,” Plant said. “One unique thing about a Chrysler store is that you have a lot of branding on the store. Unlike a Toyota store where there’s the name.”

During deliberation on Monday, the board headed in the opposite direction of previous comments said nearly two years ago, when the board concluded it wasn’t necessary to use Hispanic-style architecture for the design.

“When I first came through… I tried to make it Santa Barbara looking,” Plant said at the ABR meeting. “You told me to start fresh at the airport. I came back with something new. I was told it’s too new — and go back to the standard look and make it simple. Now, you want me to go another direction.”

After Plant’s remarks on Monday, the majority of board members said they could not support the project.

“The design presented seems generic and doesn’t seem like it fits the place,” board member Kevin Moore said. “We have materials that are bright and shiny — there’s so much glass.”

The city of Santa Barbara owns the land although the property is near Goleta city limits. The project site is a vacant field across Hollister from the airport and near the Goleta Amtrak station.

The proposal is expected to return to the board for review soon.  

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the project in February, despite strong opposition from the city of Goleta.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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