35 Anacapa St., the site of a proposed project with 12 hotel rooms, a restaurant, grocery store and art gallery.
An undeveloped lot at 35 Anacapa St. is the site of a proposed project with 12 hotel rooms, a restaurant, grocery store and art gallery.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is already jam-packed with people on evenings and weekends.  

Now comes this: “Meet me at the steps!”

Those steps are part of a three-story hotel project proposed for 35 Anacapa St. with a restaurant, art gallery, tasting room and grocery store.

“One of the things throughout history that you can see all over the world you can see is actually where stairways become place-making,” architect Mark Kirkhart said during a Santa Barbara Planning Commission review last week. “We feel that this has the opportunity to become known as ‘hey, meet me at the steps!’ Everyone will know this. It will be a real central location.”

The project was met with mostly positive feedback from the Planning Commission. 

Commissioner Sheila Lodge said she was concerned that no housing was proposed as part of the project, although the city’s zoning ordinance does not allow housing in that spot. 

“It is a big disappointment that this area south of the railroad tracks does not allow housing,” Lodge said. “I see a lot of low wage jobs. Where are these people going to live?”

She said that Santa Barbara already has too many hotels and not enough housing.

The proposal calls for only 12 hotel rooms because of the space constraints on the lot, according to developers. 

A rendering of the proposed development at 35 Anacapa St.

A rendering of the proposed development at 35 Anacapa St. submitted to the Planning Commission.  (DesignARC photo)

Kirkhart said the goal of the project was to “create a central anchor for the Funk Zone and a gathering spot for locals and tourists alike and provide places for food, drinks and art. 

The plan, he said, is “to create a legacy project that would stand the test of time.”

The Theimer Group is the developer of the property, which currently is an undeveloped lot on Anacapa and Mason streets near the railroad tracks. 

Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone has experienced a dramatic transformation in the past two decades, going from surf, craft and manufacturing shops to a hub for wine, beer, cocktails and restaurants.

The cost of the land at one time was less expensive than that on State Street, so developers slowly but surely purchased lots and transformed them into destinations for younger adults.

The Funk Zone has emerged as a popular spot for dining and drinking, for locals and tourists alike. 

Last week’s Planning Commission meeting was a conceptual review to give feedback to the developer, so no action was taken. 

“I think this project is really, really exciting and it is going to be a model for the Funk Zone and all the changes happening in the Funk Zone,” said commissioner Lesley Wiscomb. “It is an exciting project. There’s a lot of thought that has gone into the amenities and features that I think it will truly be a real gathering space. I love the architecture. “

The commissioners seemed open to the concept, and allowing the project to build less parking than what the zoning ordinance requires.

The project proposes 85 spaces, about 77 fewer than what is required for the development. Parking is scarce in the Funk Zone on most evenings and weekend nights. 

“I would support less parking,” said commissioner Jay Higgins. “I don’t think we should be using our resources for vehicles.”

Higgins said 12 hotel rooms seemed appropriate considering the size of the lot. He said he recently visited The Battery Hotel in San Francisco and said that the check-in and lounge area was small and not like a traditional hotel, which is something that could work at this site. 

“I think smaller hotel opportunities from a design standpoint are there,” Higgins said. 

Commissioner Gabe Escobedo also said he liked the concept. 

“It is a very intriguing, interesting, inviting project,” Escobedo said. “There is a lot of design work to be done, but I am really excited about this.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.