The fantastical five-story Ablitt House, built on a 20-by-20-foot footprint behind a strip of bars on lower State Street, is one of Santa Barbara’s newest vacation rentals.
For just $325 a night, $1,800 a week or $5,400 a month, you can stay in the marble-floored house, designed by architect Jeff Shelton and built by contractor Dan Upton.
Although the home, owned by dry cleaner Neil Ablitt and his wife Sue, had been used as a vacation rental as far back as 2012, the all poured-concrete home was officially converted into a “hotel” in May, when the city required all vacation rentals in commercial zones to be recategorized as hotels.
At a time when Santa Barbara is locked in a controversial debate over whether vacation rentals should be allowed in commercial zones that also permit residential housing, the Ablitt House conversion was a smooth and easy one, largely because it was never intended to be a residential home for anyone but the Ablitt family, and it received an over-the-counter approval, since the house, at 13 West Haley St., is less than 1,000 square feet.
If anything screams vacation rental for a couple who enjoy the downtown nightlife and close proximity to the beach, it’s the Ablitt House.
“It’s not really a house,” Ablitt told Noozhawk. “It’s a work of art.”
The home has captured national attention, written about in dozens of newspapers and magazines, and appeared on the HGTV network and on California's Gold with Huell Howser.
Ablitt found the unusual piece of vacant land in the 1980s and paid $6,400 for it.
He said he wanted a Haley Street address so that he could get a spot on the parking commission. The city at the time was talking about buying land off State Street to build parking lots and Ablitt wanted to protect the interest of his dry cleaning business nearby at 14 W. Gutierrez Street.
He lived at the home with his wife for 5 ½ years after the house was built in 2006. Sue used to like to get up at 5 a.m. and watch the sunrise.
With more than 50 windows, the house features magnificent views of the mountains, the Riviera, and the ocean.
Ablitt said the home is a great vacation rental if you don’t mind the noise that comes from bars. His biggest challenge, he said, is keeping the alley between the house and the bars clean. The home has proved to be popular among vacationers.
Theo Kracke, owner of Paradise Retreats, manages the vacation rental. He said the Ablitt House has annual occupancy of around 55 percent, which is slightly above the 50-percent average annual occupancy for the company’s properties.
Ablitt said the house was never a moneymaker, but at least people enjoy it for what it is: a spectacular piece of architecture. He said he doesn’t believe vacation rentals take away affordable housing in Santa Barbara, but even so, the Ablitt House is unique.
“The house is so happy,” he said. “It is so much fun.”