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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 11:40 pm | Fair 43º

 
 
 
 
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Buzz Building Over Outer State Hotel Plan

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Four-story proposal drawing ire of neighborhood activists as county Planning Commission begins project review.

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The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Wednesday will review a controversial proposal to replace the low-slung Hope Ranch Inn with a four-story hotel on Outer State Street.

(Click here for follow-up story.)

The architects of Bay Area-based developer Jay Singh have been working with the county Board of Architectural Review for the better part of a year, but it wasn’t until about a month ago that the project just outside Santa Barbara city limits near the entrance of Highway 154 caught the attention of a group of vigilant slow-growth advocates, who refer to it as a “monster.”

“What’s there now is a one-story hotel with maybe 10 rooms,” said Gil Barry, a member of the Allied Neighborhoods Association, who admitted the general area in its current form is unsightly. “They want to put in a 110-unit monster. It’s 10 times as big.”

County staff members point out that the developer — who purchased the property about a year ago — is still scoping out the situation, and has yet to even submit a permit application for the property at 4111 State St.

“They’re fact-finding right now,” said Anne Almy, the supervising planner.

Several members of the Board of Architectural Review were reticent to talk to a reporter, saying either that they did not have current information about the project or felt wary about speaking for the board as a whole.

But member Will Rivera said the project, if approved, would set an important precedent for redeveloping the area.

“We’re looking at this carefully,” he said. “(The developer) has definitely been very responsive to us.”

Rivera said he doesn’t mind a four-story project on the site, but would prefer that the front of the building consist of just two stories, and the middle consist of three, “so you have this stepping-back process.”

According to minutes of earlier meetings, the architectural board’s reception of the proposal has changed over time. Back in March 2007, the board had “no issues with the size of the development” and felt that it would “help revitalize the area,” although it advised working with neighbors along State Street “on the overall design of the area if possible.”

But at the last meeting, in November, the board felt that the “elevation needs to be calmed.”

“The front (north) elevation is critical to the success of the project. Currently it is overly massive and is working against the project.”

The head architect, Ralph Le Roux of Santa Cruz-based mADi Group, said he is willing to work with the board, county staff and nieghborhood residents for as long as it takes to ensure all codes are met.

“We still have a long road ahead of us,” he said. “I wouldn’t be comfortable in building that building as it is now.”

The Planning Commission meeting, in the county Engineering Building, 123 E. Anapamu St., begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Click here for the agenda.

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