But the upscale Italian automobile makers may be headed for a spinout on the American Riviera if they don’t dramatically redesign their proposal.
New Century Automotive Group wants to build the two-story dealership at 350 Hitchcock Way, between DCH Lexus of Santa Barbara and a complex of town homes to the north.
Alfa Romeo and Maserati would have showrooms on the first floor of the proposed building and Ferrari, along with service bays, would take up the second. A vacant, single-story building currently occupies the site, which is used to park cars.
But members of the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review and some residential neighbors are looking to put the brakes on the proposal. They say it’s too big, has too much asphalt and not enough landscaping, would cut down too many trees, and is overall “not Santa Barbara architecture.”
“I have a problem with this building and the whole way you have planned activity on this site,” ABR member Howard Wittausch told the applicants.
“The idea of putting showrooms and service bays on the second floor is unnecessary. It is done for the purpose of just creating a big, bulky massive building.”
The proposal calls for a 35-foot-tall, two-story building, with glass panels allowing buyers to peer inside, and a Ferrari arch hanging over the side of the structure.
The proposed 39,000-square-foot building would include 12,500 square feet of showroom space, 11,500 square feet of interior car storage, 9,500 square feet of enclosed service bays and 5,500 square feet for the office and a parts department.
“The Ferrari arch is something that really throws this building out of scale,” said Scott Hopkins, ABR vice chairman. “It strikes me as something that is not characteristic of Santa Barbara architecture.”
Board member Stephanie Poole said the building should be smaller.
“The front of the building could be lowered to a more pedestrian-friendly height,” she said. “It seems really monolithic and bigger than it needs to be.”
Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati also want to cut down a row of 22 eucalyptus and pine trees between the dealership and homes on the other side.
“We feel that they are dropping limbs and we fear for the neighbors living that close to them, as well as the cars,” landscape architect Chuck McClure said.
The dealership wants to park cars against the back of the lot underneath the trees.
The proposal to remove the mature, 80-foot-tall trees irked ABR members. Even though the eucalyptus trees are not native to Santa Barbara, removing them in this spot is not an automatic decision.
“I am having a real issue with the removal of 22 trees on this property,” said Courtney Jane Miller, an ABR member. “I would challenge the applicant to design the parking layout such that you are protecting the trees and not vice versa.
“It looks like you have the room. I don’t see why that can’t be accommodated.”
Miller said the trees are “a valuable skyline … resource to this community,” and she also expressed concerns about the building’s height.
Some residents of the nearby Francisco Villas have also complained about the proposal.
“I strongly oppose such a huge structure right next to my complex,” said Rhonda Adawi, a homeowner. “The car dealership is my backyard. This is my only home and I intend to remain here permanently, but this project will ruin my neighborhood.”
The proposed complex is located in a three-block area of Santa Barbara that already is home to several automotive dealerships, including a new Tesla dealership.
Adawi, in a July 16 letter to the city, called the proposal a “monstrosity of a car dealership” that would decrease property values.
New Century Automotive Group and its team, which includes Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services, will continue shaping the proposal for a return to the ABR. It’s not known how long it will take team to modify the plan, though.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to take place,” Poole said.