Back with a new team, design and attitude, developer Ed St. George revived his 32-room hotel project on Tuesday, winning support from the Santa Barbara City Council.
The council voted 6-0 to approve his project at 302 and 308 W. Montecito Street.
Councilman Oscar Gutierrez was absent because he is on vacation.
“I appreciate the incredible effort the applicant has made,” said Councilwoman Meagan Harmon. “I am excited about this.”
The project had previously been denied by the city’s Planning Commission.
St. George appealed the project to the City Council, which on Nov. 17 gave him another month to redesign the project because they had concerns that he was replacing four units of housing for low-income people to build a hotel.
The decision was particularly frustrating for St. George because the area is zoned for hotels and he wasn’t asking for any zoning modifications.
St. George returned to the meeting Tuesday night with a new planning firm, Vanguard Planning, and land-use attorney, Steve Amerikaner.
The revised project is now designed in Santa Barbara Spanish-style architecture, has greater setbacks around the half-acre property, and the entire building has gotten smaller.
The third floor has been reduced in mass by 25 percent. Most of the room sizes also have been reduced, to approximately 388 square feet each.
The developer also intends to replace the four housing units that will be demolished with six new units.
St. George said he will post a still-to-be-identified performance bond that ensures the replacement housing units are constructed. If he, for whatever reason, doesn’t build the units, the city can take the security funds and construct them itself.
“This is a completely redesigned building, but it still meets the project goals of the owner,” said Jarrett Gorin of Vanguard Planning. “This wasn’t easy. We spent a lot of time on this.”
Councilman Randy Rowse said the hotel project is good for the area.
“The neighborhood is in need of refurbishment,” Rowse said. “It is in need of revitalization. That neighborhood has value. It is a dynamic neighborhood.”
Tuesday’s meeting was far less dramatic than the one in November, when dozens of St. George’s supporters showed up to speak on his behalf, as did many of his critics.
St. George, the developer of Beach City student housing near City College, grew up in Santa Barbara, and said he wants to make the city better for locals. He provides discounted rents to some of his tenants.
The hotel project is a departure for him and the several hundred units he has built around town. Some of his critics fear he is going to turn the hotel project into student dorms over time, or that he will build the housing units for students.
Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon, a geography instructor at Santa Barbara City College, said all types of housing helps the community.
“Student housing is housing for people,” Sneddon said.
Others want to make sure that there’s affordability, particularly for people earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the area median income, about $79,200, built into the housing portion of the project.
“I am still very concerned about the six units,” said former mayor Sheila Lodge, who now sits on the city’s Planning Commission. “I hope we can figure out some way to ensure that these units are rented to the workforce.”