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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:24 pm | Fair 63º


Goleta Council Approves Development of Marriott Hotel on Hollister Avenue

The 118-room project receives the go-ahead despite concerns about water usage and preserving Chumash burials

Despite concerns of using too much water during drought — and upending a tribal archaeological site — the Goleta City Council on Tuesday night approved the development of a Marriott Residence Inn.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the 118-room hotel to be built in the 6300 block of Hollister Avenue, across the street from the Santa Barbara Airport, and an accompanying revised environmental impact review. Mayor Pro Tem Paula Perotte cast the lone dissenting vote.

The hotel was years in the making for developer Bob Olson, who also owns and constructed the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Storke Road in 2012. D. Olson Development has pursued the project since 2007, when a 140-room hotel was proposed but batted back because the site was part of a larger Chumash archeological site.

After the project was revised to include a sanctuary garden/educational component, the Goleta Planning Commission in late July voted 3-2 to recommend that the City Council also push it forward.

The Marriott hotel was approved on the same night as a drought update from the Goleta Water District, which this month placed a temporary moratorium to deny new water applications effective Oct. 1.

Because the developer already obtained a service letter from the water district in July — based on historic water use at the site and adjacent Hollister Center — the project just has to pay the new water supply charge before Oct. 1 to guarantee service.

Goleta staff gave a brief presentation, showing visual simulations and mitigated impacts on mountain views along with project alternatives, which included a flipped building design. Staff said all earthwork would be done with an on-site archeologist and Chumash representative.

Before 30 public speakers took the podium, developer representative Peter Brown said the council should approve the project, which went through two EIRs, 10 meetings with the Chumash since 2008 and archaeological find mitigations.

“This project has had extremely thorough review,” Brown said, noting that no project alternatives were feasible.

All but eight speakers were in favor of the project, including local businesses, UC Santa Barbara and nine Marriott employees who spoke of rising through the ranks into management positions.

Geofrey Wyatt, president of Goleta’s Wyatt Technology, said his business could use the hotel to house dozens of visitors each month.

“There aren’t places to stay,” he said. “How many years must we wait before this project is approved and built?”

Frank Arredondo, a Chumash MLD (Most Likely Descendent), said human remains would be found on the parcel that might contain a tribal cemetery. As an MLD, Arredondo said he helps recommend where unearthed ancestors should be reburied, something he said happened with Westar and Willow Springs projects. 

“This development will disturb those burials,” he said, adding that most want ancestors to remain on the same site they’re found.

Attorneys for Friends of Saspili, which previously sued the developer on behalf of the Chumash, said the EIR was incomplete, recommending the project be tabled for further discussion.

Another Chumash descendent said she was “pissed off” and especially worried about water, threatening to learn a “no-rain dance” if the project moved forward.

All attendees earlier heard from the Goleta Water District, which reported a 10 percent reduction in water usage since the council declared a Stage One drought in March. Despite efforts, the area could see a Stage Three declaration by May 2015 — or a completely empty Lake Cachuma in 11 months if rain doesn’t fall this winter.

Besides withholding new water applications, the district outlined mandatory water restrictions related to landscaping, conservative incentive programs and a public outreach campaign. Sprinkler watering will be prohibited between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., along with being restricted to two hours per week.

Councilman Tony Vallejo kicked off deliberations, declaring the Chumash an important part of local history but noting the land was already disturbed with nearby development.

Need for another hotel and the projected annual city revenue of $1 million in transient occupancy taxes also swayed him.

“The revenue to the city will be important,” Vallejo said.

He and Perotte agreed they must rely on the water district to determine the availability of the resource for the project, but Perotte said the city should not continue to mishandle or develop on the former Chumash site.

Councilman Jim Farr suggested the city try to create a Chumash village near the Stow House to honor the heritage, an idea supported by Vallejo and Mayor Michael Bennett before the project approval vote.

“We need to do something positive,” Farr said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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