Downtown Carpinteria Crossroads: The Future of Linden Avenue

The identity of the small town of Carpinteria could soon undergo big changes, with three major developments planned to reshape the look of the main strip of Linden Avenue.

In a community generally resistant to change – full of residents who are quick to voice their displeasure with new developments – Carpinteria town management is learning to adapt to the times and finding ways to modernize the town of a way that keeps the sleepy-authenticity of the seaside town but doesn’t leave it lost in the past.

The Surfliner Hostel

In what appears to be the greatest example of the fervor against new development in Carpinteria, the hotly contested Surfliner Inn has struggled for years to win over townspeople.

The proposed hotel has undergone countless redesigns, proposals and adjustments since it was first launched around City Hall in 2016. The center of the controversy is that the 30 to 39 rooms would be built on city property. lot, on two parking lots at the corner of Linden Avenue and the railroad tracks.

Learning that the hotel would be built on what city residents consider a “community space” raised eyebrows from many locals, who swarmed public hearings and criticized the idea of ​​public land being used for purposes commercial.

In November 2020, a group called the Coalition Against the Railroad Hotel, led by residents Judy Mulford and Marla Daily, wrote a letter to the city council, worrying that the project had “grown” to the point of exceeding the corridor south of the train tracks and part of a community garden adjacent to the property.

“It’s the property of the people,” Mulford said. The same letter alleges numerous “violations of Carpinteria’s general plan”, citing that the land was acquired for public use and should remain so.

Since then, opposition to the project has grown, despite several attempts by developers to work with townspeople, reduce the size of the project and even adjust plans to keep the community garden intact.

The development team is led by a group of local families — led by Andy Morris, Matt and Jim Taylor, Whit Hollis, and Jack and Jeff Theimer — who have been hand-picked because of their community connection and their desire to create something. more than just taking money. Each family has experience in hospitality and real estate, with the Theimer family known for developing Storke Ranch in Goleta, Ennisbrook in Montecito, and Beaver Creek in Colorado.

The Surfliner, they claim, is locally owned and will be a step towards sustainable, community-based and walkable tourism, as opposed to out-of-town developers moving in and creating a tourist trap. in the big cities.

Despite attempts to extend an olive branch to the opposition to no avail, the developers have won over staff and city leaders who say Carpinteria must adapt to growing trends along the coast.

“Things are changing rapidly. You can’t say no to everything,” said council member Gregg Carty, who participated in the 4-to-1 vote approving a lease agreement with property developers in July 2021. The deal allowing landlords to use the property could be net for the city. estimated annual revenue of $621,000.

During the same July meeting, Carty encouraged opponents of the hotel to take a step back, referring to social media posts calling for city leaders to be recalled on the issue. “I don’t appreciate that. I urge everyone to be respectful and go from there,” he said.

Since then, more than 1,000 townspeople have signed a petition to take the issue to voters in the November election in the form of a ballot initiative: Measure T. The initiative was supported by the association at non-profit YES! Save our downtown open space, and it puts the future of both city lots up to a vote – if the T measure passes, both lots will be zoned as open/recreational space, which could kill the city. future of the Surfliner.

Four city council members — including Mayor Wade Nomura and council members Carty, Natalia Alarcon and Roy Lee — have since chanted their own ‘argument against Measure T’, in which they say the measure is a ‘misguided’ attempt to bypass the city’s usual scrutiny to shut down the hotel. “The Surfliner, like any other project, must go through public scrutiny,” the letter states, “but that won’t happen if the T-measure passes and your voice on the hotel project may not be heard.”

City residents will vote on the T measure in November. If unsuccessful, the project reverts to the city’s regular review process for approval.

700, avenue des tilleuls

(Formerly Austin Hardware)

Much further down the development pipeline, and by contrast more widely accepted than the Surfliner Inn, is the 700 Linden Avenue project – a full block of adaptive reuse retail and commercial space that will house a hodgepodge of restaurants , cafes, markets, and a rooftop bar.

Rendering of the 700 Linden Avenue project. | Credit: Courtesy of DMHA

The project is fully approved by the Carpinteria Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board, where it received near-unanimous approval despite concerns over the size of the development and the parking changes granted due to “public benefit provided by the project.

The only member of either council to vote against the project was Planning Commission chairwoman Jane Benefield, who feared the council was being too generous with its concessions because they were all in favor of the development . The project was initially to provide 64 spaces, then 48. Finally, the final approved plans provided for a 20-space parking lot.

“I cannot make these findings for a modification. I don’t see it as a public benefit,” Benefield said. “Retail is nice; retail is good, but it falls short of a public good. I love this project, but we’re not letting anyone else get away with a parking modification.

Other curators were excited about the prospect of a new look for Austin’s Hardware’s former location, and they praised the development team — locals Terry Huggins and Matt LaBrie — for being open to changes and terms. imposed on the project agreement.

Commissioner John Callender said the design goes above and beyond by redesigning the buildings instead of tearing them down, and the project “does a terrific job of figuring out how to change while preserving what we value”.

The latest renderings, designed by Santa Barbara-based DMHA Architecture, are much more modern than the rest of Linden Avenue – with long lines and a second floor that relies heavily on glass and wood panels – but embrace downtown Carpinteria’s “eclectic nature,” according to the DMHA website.

“We have stripped the buildings to their bones and revealed their original hardware and architectural foundations,” the description reads. “We then enhanced these features with new architecture that echoes the geometric shapes and designs of the original buildings.”

The space will be more of an ‘urban park’, meant to draw people into the ‘heart of Carpinteria’, several local businesses have reportedly already shown interest in renting the space, including Santa Barbara hotspot owners Corazón Cocina , Milk & Honey and The Blue Owl.

Carpinteria senior town planner Nick Bobroff said the development is currently in the process of receiving permits and the project’s developers are looking to delay the start of construction until after the annual Avocado Festival on May 1. october. The project could start. by the end of the year.

The Palms Hotel project

The Palm trees. | 1 credit

Directly across from 700 Linden is the former site of the Palms Restaurant. Originally built as an 18-room hotel when it was built in 1912, owners Bill and Todd Bennett plan to bring back the hospitality aspect with an 17-room hotel/bar/restaurant project.

The project – which was designed by architect Kevin Moore, who chairs the Santa Barbara Architectural Review Board – was due for an initial design review with the Carpinteria Planning Commission earlier this month, but the hearing was postponed after the escrow. failed with the Miramar group. The project has been put on hold indefinitely while the owners meet with potential buyers interested in the hotel’s plans.

Early designs showed a ground floor lobby and reception with a bar and restaurant, and six bedrooms facing the surrounding street. The upper level would include the additional 11 bedrooms.

For more information on upcoming projects at Carpinteria, visit the “Hot Topics” section on

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