A Community Post from a concerned reader. --Sara
Chapala Street, Outer State Street , the Mesa, St. Francis neighborhood, Waterfront, Hidden Valley , and now the Riviera .
Virtually every part of the City has felt the crushing impact of the City’s practice of piecemeal planning and approving projects that violate the City’s zoning ordinance, through the granting of “modifications.” This “death by a thousand cuts” will eventually destroy the very character and charm of the community so many have worked so hard to maintain.
On Tuesday, April 28th, at 2:00 p.m. the City Council has the opportunity to uphold sound planning practices and preserve the historic qualities of the El Encanto Hotel by upholding the appeal filed by a group of concerned residents.
We all loved the El Encanto Hotel and want to see it restored, updated into a first class hotel that will continue to be a vital part of the historic Riviera neighborhood as it has for 96 years.
But, since the Orient Express purchased the El Encanto with a Master Plan just completed in 2004, the new owners have received permission by city staff to change the approved plan five different times, and a modification to the zoning code with virtually no public notice or review. This included tearing down the historic main building, and replacing it with one that is substantially larger and taller, all without any environmental review whatsoever!
Now they are asking to add an additional 17,000 square feet of new non-residential development on the site, including transferring 10,000 square feet of development rights from an industrial area of town to the residential Riviera . This far exceeds the voters intent to limit non-residential development by adopting Measure E, and again with no environmental review.
We support the restoration and modernization of the El Encanto Hotel, we recognize the importance of this hotel to the local community and our economy. Now that the Orient Express has told the community that they have halted construction because of the economy, there should be no rush to approve a plan that doesn’t fit our community character or that violates our zoning ordinances.Help uphold Santa Barbara existing zoning ordinances.
Zoning for the El Encanto is R-H. This Resort-Residential Hotel Zone, was initiated in 1957, and updated in 1974 and clearly states the “Legislative Intent” as:
The purpose of the R-H Zone is to provide for the highly specialized uses that are associated with the development and operation of resort-residential hotels and to insure the least possible conflict with or disturbance of the amenities attached to and associated with adjoining residential areas.
The current proposal before the Council seeks 4 more modifications to the Zoning Ordinance! A “modification” is the City’s term for allowing projects to be approved that do not comply with the requirements of the City’s own Municipal Code. This is happening all over town, and must end.
One of our major concerns is the introduction of a huge, redesigned hotel operations and utility distribution complex combined with a 43 car valet parking lot proposed for the corner of Alvarado Place and Mission Ridge Road – one of the gateways to the Riviera .
Previous plans shared with the neighbors and the community, provided for subterranean parking spaces beneath tennis courts. Most in the neighborhood and community felt this was reasonable, and the immediate neighbors supported it. However, without communicating with any of the neighbors or those most effected, the out of town (actually out of country) developers attempted an end run and revised the plans in a manner that will destroy the neighborhood character as we know and love it. This is inconsistent with sound community planning, and we need your help to make our voices heard.
The newly revised plan includes a 43 space, above ground, tandem valet parking lot and the relocation, from the main building, all of the ‘back of house’ operations, administration, laundry, dry cleaning, employee rooms as well as the installation of a centralized industrial plant for heating and cooling for all 96 rooms, hot water boilers, back up generators and electrical transfer stations. In other words, all operational equipment and personnel would be moved out of the main building and away from the guest rooms and placed directly adjacent to the residential neighborhood. THE RIVIERA’S FATE WILL BE POLLUTION, NOISE, BLOCKED VIEWS, CONGESTION, AND LOSS OF HISTORICAL CHARACTER.
We know there are other ways to design this project so it can be in conformance with existing City codes and ordinances.
Next Tuesday, the project is finally going before officials we elected, and who have indicated in the past that they support Santa Barbara ’s historic fabric and maintaining our quality of life. We are hopeful that they will stand up to the developers make a positive decision to uphold the intent of the zoning code and protect the residential ambiance of this area, by upholding the appeal, and require Orient Express to change their plans to fit the community character.
Labels: El Encanto, Growth, Riviera