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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:33 pm | Fair 62º


Chumash Group Settles with Goleta, Developer Over Marriott Hotel Slated for Tribal Site

The agreement means building permits can proceed for the Marriott Residence Inn project planned for Hollister Avenue

An artist’s rendering depicts the 118-room Marriott Residence Inn slated for the 6300 block of Hollister Avenue in Goleta.
An artist’s rendering depicts the 118-room Marriott Residence Inn slated for the 6300 block of Hollister Avenue in Goleta. (Contribute photo)

A tribal group that sued a developer and the City of Goleta over a hotel slated to sit on top of a Chumash tribal archaeological site has settled a lawsuit, allowing the project to move forward.

The talks between the groups also bring to light the possibility that a Chumash cultural heritage site could be set up at Lake Los Carneros Park.

The settlement stems from the Marriott Residence Inn, which was approved by Goleta's City Council last September. The 118-room hotel is slated for the 6300 block of Hollister Avenue, across the street from the Santa Barbara Airport.

The developer of the project is Bob Olson, who also completed the Courtyard Marriott hotel on Storke Road in Goleta.  

Chumash advocates have said the site contains human remains and possibly a tribal cemetery, and the group Friends of Saspili sued Olson on grounds that the project's environmental documents were incomplete.

This project was originally a 140-room hotel but was pared down because the site is home to the Chumash archaeological site.  

Meetings with the Chumash have been ongoing since 2008, and the development is slated to have an educational display and garden. All earthwork on the project must also be done with an on-site archaeologist and Chumash representative present. 

The request for dismissal of the lawsuit was filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on July 1. The developer did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorney Marc Chytilo, who represented the Friends of Saspili, told Noozhawk on Wednesday night that it's been an "eight-year battle" for more protections to the site.

Saspili was the name of the large set of Chumash Villages located in the area and on the site, predating the Goleta Slough by centuries when the area was actually a harbor.

The Friends of Saspili website states that between 1929 and 1959, over a dozen burials were located on the site and none has been removed.  

Chytilo said the initial hotel proposal in 2008 had been "very careless" and stated there would be no impacts to the site as a result of the development, and the group sued for the developer to conduct an environmental review.

The settlement allows the development company to move forward with its building permits.

"The developer agreed to implement a more aggressive set of cultural resource protection measures," Chytilo said.

Other terms were agreed to, such as additional training of the monitors who have oversight during the construction process.

A monetary settlement was also part of the agreement between the tribal group and the developer, but terms of the settlement were kept confidential.

Talks are also under way for a possible cultural site at the city's Los Carneros Park.  

Chytilo said the city made a preliminary agreement and "the City Council signaled their support for using a portion of Los Carneros Park as a Chumash cultural site."

There's an effort to place the site on a piece of the park land, "kind of like the Stow House, but focused on Chumash History," he said.

Details are still in the works as the group is reaching out to ancestors of the original Saspili Village residents to hear what they'd like to see at the site, Chytilo said.

"The City Council recognizes that this is the right thing to do on behalf of the Chumash people," he said. 

Goleta City Attorney Tim Giles said the council had not obligated itself to the cultural site project.

"Council, acting on discussions that predate the lawsuit, has directed staff to explore options for possibly locating a Chumash cultural heritage site at City owned Lake Los Carneros," he told Noozhawk. "The council has taken no action obligating itself to such a project, just to the investigation of the possibility."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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