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El Encanto Hotel Agrees to Parking Management Program to Ease Neighbors’ Concerns

A lack of on-site parking has forced employees to find parking on nearby streets

The El Encanto Hotel doesn’t have enough on-site parking for employees and they’re instead parking in nearby neighborhoods. A new management plan will force the hotel to become more proactive about handling employee parking.
The El Encanto Hotel doesn’t have enough on-site parking for employees and they’re instead parking in nearby neighborhoods. A new management plan will force the hotel to become more proactive about handling employee parking.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk file photo)

After months of drama and discontent, the City of Santa Barbara and the El Encanto Hotel are moving forward together on a parking plan that eases tension in the surrounding neighborhood.

The El Encanto Hotel, built in 1918, has created a parking management plan that will stop employees from parking on streets in the surrounding neighborhood and take swift action against employees who violate the hotel's policy.

"Though this has been a difficult journey, I am hopeful that what comes out of it is sort of a renaissance of a relationship between El Encanto, the neighborhood and the city," planning commissioner Deborah Schwartz said. 

The hotel, at 800 Alvarado Place, is surrounded by million-dollar homes in Santa Barbara's foothills. As the hotel has expanded over the years, so has the number of guests and employees. The hotel's first priority is to allow its customers to park cars on-site, leaving few spaces available for employees. The rest must park at a nearby church lot and ride a shuttle in to work, or find other parking options.

Santa Barbara officials in 2004 approved a master plan for the El Encanto, which was cleared for a total of 97 guest rooms after an extensive renovation. One condition was that employees park on-site but, after the hotel reopened in 2013, the city determined there was not enough parking on the property for the 215 employees. The hotel has 100 parking spaces on-site and another 40 at an off-site lot.

The El Encanto has partnered with First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara at 21 E. Constance Ave. to provide 40 parking spaces for employees.

The hotel has agreed to create an Employee Parking Management Plan and communicate regularly with the city. 

The hotel has agreed to document each employee's typical transportation mode, maintain a database of employee vehicle license plates and types of cars they drive, create a list of employees allowed to park on-site and those who intend to park at the lot, and monitor and take action against the offenders. 

Neighbors have complained about the number of hotel employees parking on their streets since the hotel renovated and reopened in 2013. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk file photo)

"Monitoring and compliance will be so critical for this to be effective," Schwartz said. 

El Encanto employees who drive to work must also display a parking sticker so it is easily recognizable if they are parked on the street.

Essentially, the parking management plan forces El Encanto to take a proactive role in managing their employees parking habits, rather than saying that they didn't know whether employees were parking in the neighborhoods. 

The city had considered financial penalties against the El Encanto, but decided that the complying with a traffic management plan was enough. The city's Planning Commission gave feedback on the plan at a recent meeting and the community development director is expected to approve the hotel's plan. 

Although many of the neighborhood residents complained that the hotel has over-expanded, the city was clear that the hotel has a valuable place in the community.

"This hotel has been part of the neighborhood for close to 100 years," Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent said.

The Planning Commission held a heated meeting last September, but everyone, including the neighbors, agreed that the problem has subsided since then.

"I am very enheartened by where we are today," planning commissioner Michael Jordan said. "I think we have all collectively gotten past the crest of discontent."

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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