The Bacara Resort and Spa’s plans to expand the hotel by constructing a 56-unit condominium-hotel complex on the cusp of Haskell’s Beach – located about two miles up the coast – has been met with criticism from local environmentalists.
Haskell’s Beach is one of the few easily accessible public beaches in Goleta, and opponents to the resort’s expansion have been vocal in their concerns. Environmental groups argue that the Bacara’s plans will be detrimental to the environment, limit public access to the popular local surf spot and disrupt a Chumash archeological site.
The proposal, which would constitute a major expansion for the luxury hotel, is currently in the review and permit process with Goleta, the county and others. Currently, the City of Goleta claims that the Bacara expansion plan would require ten amendments so as not to violate the city’s General Plan, which was adopted in 2006 to govern land use and development projects in the town.
The proposed project is large in scale. In addition to the 56-unit complex – which will be organized in a nine-building spread across the Tecolote Creek area and feature rooms estimated to be between 2,300-2,900 square feet in size – the Bacara hopes to build a pool, pool cabanas, support facilities, multiple parking lots and garages, a tennis club and four additional tennis courts.
According to Mike Lunsford of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the conditions of the resort’s original development required protection of the Chumash archeological site in that area, in addition to re-vegetation plans and general land improvement to mitigate the potential negative environmental impacts of construction. Lunsford believes the current construction plans violate all of these conditions.
“They are apparently going to be building on the re-vegetation area… Can they do that?” Lunsford said. “[These are] policy inconsistency issues that will further haunt the city.”
Additionally, Lunsford said he feels the construction plans for the condos are excessive.
“The size of the rooms is larger than most people’s houses in Goleta,” he said. “Why must they be this big?”
The area that has been designated for construction is currently labeled as an “environmentally sensitive habitat area,” giving it protection from development under the California Coastal Act. However, attempts to change this designation are underway. The policy changes made for the Bacara would be applicable for all of Goleta, although Lunsford said the full scope of the environmental impact is unknown.
“If these requested general plans and amendment are made for the Bacara condos, they will apply citywide in Goleta,” Lunsford said. “There will be growth-inducing aspects elsewhere in the city … [with] other environmental impacts at the other sites. [These environmental] impacts are undetermined at this point.”
The proposed expansion is currently undergoing a three-tiered assessment process, which analyzes the plan’s consistency with Goleta’s General Plan and the Coastal Land Use Plan. The assessment is due to be completed a year from now, although some critics of the expansion feel that even this step in the planning process conflicts with long term environmental interests.
“I think they’ve made a huge tactical mistake by processing this at all,” Lunsford said. “The question is: Why?”
After an analysis of the environmental report, the city will bring the document through the Planning Commission process to the Goleta City Council for assessment. If the plan receives city approval, it will be passed to the California Coastal Commission for consideration.
City Hall will accept public comment on the construction project until 5:30 p.m. Thursday.