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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 7:47 pm | Fair 49º


Hotel Developers, Chumash Close In on Compromise

No final decisions have been made, but project proponents have redrawn plans to accommodate an archaeologically sensitive area.

Representatives of the local Chumash Indian population and developers of a proposed hotel on an ancient Chumash midden in Goleta are closer to a compromise on the project, but the details still need to be worked out.

A meet-and-confer session May 5 between the two parties resulted in a seemingly more cordial relationship Monday night before the Goleta Planning Commission as they continued to hash out the particulars of a proposed 140-room extended stay hotel operated by Marriott Inc., just across from the Santa Barbara Airport’s traffic control tower.

“We really think it’s going to be a great amenity for the city,” said Scott McChesney, vice president of R.D. Olson Development, which with the Sares-Regis Group is proposing the hotel. The hotel is within the Goleta redevelopment area and stands to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the city in transient occupancy taxes, as well as provide about 40 new jobs.

“In retrospect, we’re a little sorry that we did not consult with the Indian group," McChesney said. "We did not understand the significance of the site, but now we’ve taken the time to be with them ... and we’ve gone a long way to mitigate (the sensitive archaeological area)."

The project’s proponents redrew their plans to change the intensity of development over the most archaeologically sensitive area of the nearly four-acre hotel site by switching the location of 15 rooms in the front, southeastern corner with a small park in the northwestern corner.

It’s not the most desirable location for the 15 rooms, architect Gene Fong said, but it would be done to accommodate the Chumash. The builders also plan to avoid the midden, a refuse mound said to be 16 inches below ground, by grading at a shallower depth.

Meanwhile, Santa Ynez Band representative San Cohen urged the commissioners for a process that allows more Chumash input on sites that could hold important artifacts as well as inform potential developers of sites that could contain such artifacts.

The discussion is not yet over for the two sides, who both requested a continuance of the matter to further discuss options, including whether to look for human remains (two cemeteries were located near the hotel site) and whether the project’s environmental documents are adequate.

Details, including the design of the building, also may be reconsidered. Frank Arredondo, representing the Chumash, says the building’s architecture, which the developers based on Wallace Neff design, takes elements from the Navajo culture. “It looks great, but to put a Navajo design on a Chumash site, I just don’t think that’s ... kosher,” Arredondo said.

For the planning commissioners, the original project’s requirement to exceed building guidelines in height and footprint is still in the air, pending the final design of the hotel. The project will come before the commission again on July 14. The developers and the Chumash reps will have another meet-and-confer session next Monday.


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