Divided Santa Barbara council rejects proposed moratorium on new hotel development | Local News


Despite the housing crisis, new hotels are welcome in Santa Barbara.

The city council on Tuesday voted against a proposed emergency ordinance to halt new hotel development until the city completes its housing component update at the end of 2023.

“When someone walks into the community development department with plans, they’ve already wasted $5,000 easily,” Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said. “I would have loved to warn the community, like a year. In 2024, we will do it. Be aware. Attention. To point this out to members of the community who have submitted applications, I just think it’s unfair .”

The order would not apply to developers who have existing apps, only those submitting new ones.

Mayor Randy Rowse, Councilor Gutierrez and Councilor Mike Jordan voted against the proposed emergency ordinance. Councilors Eric Friedman and Oscar Gutierrez and Councilors Meagan Harmon and Kristen Sneddon were in favor of the order to stop new hotel development. The emergency ordinance required six out of seven votes to pass.

Other council members agreed the city should continue to streamline the process for developers, but now is the time to act on housing.

“We’re booming in the hospitality industry right now,” Sneddon said. “Once these hotels are up and running, they won’t become accommodations again. The idea of ​​this order is to stop this meteoric rise. It’s not about targeting just one industry.”

About 750 hotel rooms are in preparation. None of these would be affected.

Jordan said a new hotel moratorium was unlikely to have a significant impact on new housing opportunities in the city.

“There are some things we control and some things we don’t,” he said. “We are trying to find an answer to a question in an area that we should not control.”

‘We should look in the mirror,’ he said, mentioning a recent housing project on East Canon Perdido Street that lost seven homes because a design committee didn’t think it was suitable for the community. .

“We do it all the time for ourselves,” Jordan said. “We need to do better to convey our goals.”

He said change needs to happen within City Hall to make it easier for developers to build housing so they want to.

“If we really wanted to change something, we should be looking inward, not outward toward a practical target,” Jordan said.

The hospitality industry is booming. Billionaire Bill Foley paid $130 million for the Californian Hotel at 36 State St. last year. The 75-room Hotel Santa Barbara at 533 State St. sold for $42 million. Hotel Indigo, at 121 State St., was on the market for $19.5 million and sold in a cash transaction. In Goleta, meanwhile, New York-based AWH Partners paid $240 million for the former Kimpton Goodland Hotel at 5650 Calle Real, along with four other properties in California. Hotel Goleta has recently been renamed The Leta.

Hotels are also attractive because owners and managers are able to increase room rates as needed, in the context of the state of the economy and the overall market. Santa Barbara is a hot market as the coastal community is a top destination for visitors to Los Angeles and San Francisco and offers a steady supply of tourists.

The issue gained attention recently after a new hotel project quietly slipped through the city’s planning process without discretionary review. A 12-suite commercial office building at 812 Garden St. will be replaced with a 30-room hotel without a front desk and receptionist. The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission reviewed the project three times on the Consent Agenda in March. The elements of the Consent Program are considered routine and are not televised, recorded, or placed on YouTube. The only discussion was about trees, exterior lighting, and other exterior changes. The project itself could not be debated.

At the same time, the availability of housing is scarce and rental apartments cost more than $4,500 for two bedrooms.

Councilman Oscar Gutierrez pleaded with his colleagues to reconsider their opposition to the ordinance. He linked the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down federal abortion rights to a potential housing issue in Santa Barbara.

“There are going to be millions of people who are going to wake up and realize that they are no longer welcome where they currently live,” said Oscar Gutierrez. “They’re going to go where they are. California, Santa Barbara, will most likely be one of those places. We’re already in a bad place with housing. Just wait a few more months and see what happens. “

Gutierrez said opponents of the hotel moratorium don’t see the big picture.

“I’m looking at a dam that’s about to burst,” Oscar Gutierrez said.

Harmon said she supports the emergency order. She acknowledged both sides of the issue and said there was no need to choose one or the other.

“I understand that wouldn’t be a panacea to solving our housing crisis,” Harmon said. “Yes, we do, and we are moving forward to put in place housing policies that properly encourage the type of housing that we want to see. For me, this type of action is really important because it indicates that we are serious about solving this (housing) crisis.”

– Noozhawk writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.


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