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Back in the Black: Montecito Inn Wins Awning Color Battle

Historic Landmarks Commission had chosen green for the awning, but the City Council sided with the hotel

Danny Copus, owner and general manager of the Montecito Inn, addresses the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday during a discussion on awning colors. The hotel prevailed and was allowed to use its desired black awning. Click to view larger
Danny Copus, owner and general manager of the Montecito Inn, addresses the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday during a discussion on awning colors. The hotel prevailed and was allowed to use its desired black awning. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday overturned the Historic Landmarks Commission's decision to block the Montecito Inn from hanging a single black awning above the front door of its new restaurant, Frankland's Crab Shack & Co

The council voted 7-0 to allow the Montecito Inn to install the black awning.

The Landmarks Commission had previously rejected black and ordered the Montecito Inn to put up a green awning. 

This frivolity of it all was not lost on the members of the council.

"We're talking about awnings," said Councilman Eric Friedman, who added that the discussion reminded him of former NBA basketball player Allen Iverson's 2002 interview about practice. "There are larger issues. We're talking about awnings."

The color of the Montecito Inn's awning found its way to City Hall on Tuesday after the Landmarks Commission voted for a dark green awning at an April meeting. 

The hotel — with its white stucco and black trim, and stark black-and-white branding and marketing materials — originally asked for a white awning, but the Historic Landmarks Commission determined that a white awning on a white building didn’t fit the “Santa Barbara Colors: A Guide to Painting Buildings” document.

In a “review after final” hearing, the hotel asked for a black awning as an alternative, but was denied. The commission then chose a dark green awning instead.

Landmarks Commission member Bill Mahan, a former Santa Barbara planning commissioner, said "about 100 years ago" the city's founders "decided Santa Barbara would be a Spanish city."

"Our founding fathers said our city was going to be a white city," referring to the buildings.

Mahan said, however, that changed a bit.

"To have a village or town that is all white is not very exciting," he said.

The Spanish introduced colors to the buildings through accents and trims, but black was never one of those colors. 

Mahan said the Montecito Inn had a variety of colors to choose from in the Santa Barbara Colors Guide. 

Mahan said architectural design must follow rules and guidelines. 

"Arbitrary design review is not a good thing," Mahan said. "We're appointed to protect your historic resources."

But Danny Copus, owner and general manager of the Montecito Inn, said many buildings on Coast Village Road have black awnings.

In fact, according to his count, there is only one green awning and 17 black awnings on the blocks of Coast Village Road closest to the Montecito Inn. On the entire nearly mile-long Coast Village Road, he said, there are 18 black awnings, with only four green ones.

"I can't say enough that this is the most dominant color on Coast Village Road," said Copus, who were black shoes, black pants, black shirt and a black and white tie, at Tuesday's council meeting. 

He said that the Montecito Inn's branding "has always been black and white." Black, he said, goes with everything.

"Neutrality appeals to everyone," he said. "We're trying to appeal to everyone. We're a hotel."

The council praised the Landmarks Commission for doing its best job to protect the historic character of the building, but sided with Copus and the Montecito Inn.

"The black awning was the dominant color along Coast Village Road," Sneddon said. "It seems like the appropriate color on Coast Village Road."

She did scold the hotel owners, however, for painting all of their shutters black without explicit permission from the city.

Copus said a city building official told him to do what he needed to do to re-open the hotel after the disastrous and deadly Jan. 9 debris flows that sent mud raging along Olive Mill Road and to the hotel.

The 60-room boutique hotel at 1295 Coast Village Road, built in 1928 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, was designated a “Structure of Merit” by the Historic Landmarks Commission in 2017.

"I am a big fan of process," Sneddon said. 

Mayor Cathy Murillo said she respects the Landmarks Commission, but the black awning is best.

"It's a matter of supporting this business, which has gone through so much," Murillo said. 

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.

Bill Mahan, a member of the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission, argued that black was not an appropriate color for the Montecito Inn’s awning, but the City Council was not swayed. Click to view larger
Bill Mahan, a member of the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission, argued that black was not an appropriate color for the Montecito Inn’s awning, but the City Council was not swayed. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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