Hotel magnate Fess Parker is giving up his previously announced attempt to seek a waiver on his obligation to build a youth hostel — an exemption that he said would have allowed him to pour up to $10 million into local programs for gang prevention.
The hostel was a condition imposed upon the former movie star 15 years ago by the Santa Barbara City Council and the state Coastal Commission. The mandate came with the approval of a new hotel he is planning to build across the street from his namesake oceanfront hotel on East Cabrillo Boulevard, Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.
The idea of the hostel was to ensure that Parker would provide lodging for low-budget travelers in return for approval to build an upscale facility.
On Thursday, Denise Carrero, Parker’s personal assistant, said that although Parker never took his request to a formal Coastal Commission meeting, he contacted several commissioners by phone to ask about the feasibility of his offer. She said they told Parker it was too late in the game to avoid the requirement.
“The Coastal Commission basically laughed at us,” she said. “It might have been possible to find a way, if we had a lot more time.”
At a Santa Barbara Rotary Club luncheon in early January, Parker announced his intention to ask the commission for the waiver. In return for the exemption, Parker said he would sell the property — which he estimated is worth about $5 million — and donate the proceeds to gang-prevention expenses, such as putting more police officers on the streets.
In addition, Parker — made famous by his portrayals of Davy Crockett for Disney movies in the 1950s and Daniel Boone on TV during the ‘60s — promised to donate another $5 million to the cause, in increments of $500,000 per year for 10 years. The money, he said, would “maintain a number of bodies on the street.”
The new hostel will be named in memory of Rodney Shull, Parker’s former son-in-law, who died about 10 years ago at age 32. It will be located on a half-acre lot on the intersection of State and Montecito streets, several blocks away from the new hotel, which will be on Cabrillo Boulevard, across Calle Cesar Chavez from the DoubleTree.
Construction for the hostel will begin next month. By law, it must open the day before the new hotel. Both facilities are expected to open in the fall of 2009.