Miramar Hotel win carries nostalgic undertones

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Lounging poolside at the Miramar circa 1950s. Credit: Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The co-founder of New York disco Studio 54 couldn’t do it, nor could the Beanie Baby tycoon. But, Los Angeles-based real estate developer Rick Caruso has successfully cut through the red tape of local government agencies to get the green light to build his vision of the Miramar Hotel in Montecito.

The seaside resort circa 1915. Credit: Santa Barbara Historical Museum
Some fear Mr. Caruso’s planned redevelopment will lack the Miramar’s historically low key charm. Credit: Caruso Affiliated

The storied oceanfront hotel has quite a history. According to historian Michael Redmon at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the property was originally a working farm. The Doulton family, who owned the property, started renting rooms to bring in extra money. Over the years, they added wooden-floored tents and, eventually, built a hotel on the property.

The railroad stop was on the Southern Pacific route. Here it is circa 1910. Credit: Santa Barbara Historical Museum

“There was a tradition for a time where as guests detrained they were showered with geranium petals,” says Redmon.

Resident Ken Pfeiffer of Carpinteria says the railroad added to the uniqueness of the seaside resort. “It ran through the middle of the property, separating the ocean side from the freeway side,” he says. “There was a railcar in the middle of the property that was a snack bar.” He doubts Caruso can restore the historic property to its original charm.

A century later, the hotel had fallen into disrepair. After more than one marathon meeting with the Montecito Planning Commission, which didn’t always go in his favor, Caruso finally won approval on his plans to build the hotel. Upon being granted unanimous approval by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, an ebullient Caruso instructed the supervisors to mark their calendars for April 30th, 2018, the planned date of the grand opening party for Montecito’s Miramar Hotel.

“When the board of supervisors approved it the way he liked, he was all smiles, grinning ear to ear,” says reporter Lyz Hoffman, who has been covering the story for the Independent. You can read her latest story here.