Hotel Californian Quietly Reopens on Lower State Street

Release Date: September 18,2017


Guests enjoy the rooftop pool at the Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara on Sunday.


Hotel Californian managing director Carlos Lopes stands at the corner of State and Mason streets as he gives a tour of the hotel's three complexes.
Front desk clerk Rayme Elliott, right, explains the layout of the Hotel Californian to visitors in the hotel lobby Sunday.

September 18, 2017 7:27

After more than a decade in the making, Santa Barbara's Hotel Californian opened on Sunday not with a splash but with a whisper.

The 121-room, three-building hotel located at the corner of State and Mason is developer Michanel Rosenfeld's latest project to come to fruition.

The hotel was built on the site of the original 1925 Hotel Californian.

The new hotel is described as a "passion project" for Mr. Rosenfeld, who is based in Los Angeles, said hotel spokeswoman Kristen Ahrens of J Public Relations, adding that Santa Barbara has remained close to his heart because he was married here, among other reasons.

Built in the style of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture that resembled many local structures nearly a century ago, the hotel contains a variety of amenities, plazas, gardens, fountains, a Moroccan-inspired spa, a presidential suite and a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view. The interior was designed by celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard.

The original hotel was only open a week before a 6.8 magnitude earthquake forced it to close for repairs. It was subsequently rebuilt and was successful for years before falling into disrepair decades later.

The new hotel is being described as an "American Riviera" with a "modern Moorish vibe." The original 1925 facade was preserved with The Californian building, which includes 62 guest rooms and a 1,300-square-foot rooftop pool. The Mason building contains the hotel's lobby, library, restaurant, a luxury boutique and 58 guest rooms. The State building contains a 4,200-square-foot plaza lawn, a 3,000-square-foot ballroom, a 3,500-square-foot rooftop event deck, and the hotel's 1,700-square-foot presidential suite.

Managing Director Carlos Lopes says the details are what sets the new Hotel Californian apart from its local competition. Hand-cut tile is used throughout, with different designs for practically every room. The hotel departs from the warm color schemes traditionally used in local interior designs, in favor of dark navy and black accents on everything from the floors and doors to the bed linens and tile wainscoting.

Bronze fixtures, colorful custom-made furniture and an abundance of natural sunlight bring a colorful pop to the otherwise monochrome suites.

"We've become accustomed to certain design and color schemes. Today I can go into the three top luxury hotels in Santa Barbara and what you're gonna see is the same chair. You know? Here the intent is a commitment to designing something different for the city," said Mr. Lopes.

"As an independent hotel we can be a little more liberal when it comes to design. People have traveled all over the world; they're already exposed to this. Why not bring it to Santa Barbara?"

Hotel guests already booked rooms weeks in advance, with a going rate starting at $550 per night.

Ms. Ahrens said the hotel will take advantage of the local attributes and partner with local fisherman, farmers, and wineries, which she said is the "pride of the hotel," adding that wine will mostly come from the Central Coast.

Mr. Lopes added that all the produce at the hotel's restaurants is sourced from within two hours of the hotel.

"It's a little bit of a big deal for the Central Coast," Ms. Ahrens told the News-Press, adding that this region has much to offer in terms of natural beauty and activities.

Not included in the opening on September 17 is the hotel's restaurant, Blackbird, which will instead open a week later on September 24. The restaurant features Mediterranean and contemporary American cuisine.

For casual dining all day, the hotel's Goat Tree cafe provides a playful mix of Moroccan-inspired dishes and classic cafe staples including lamb meatballs, buckwheat waffles and assorted pastries.

Paul Tilson has been hired as the hotel's food and beverage director, along with Alexander La Motte as the executive chef, Mark Bernardo as the director of venues, and Benjamin Kunert as the pastry chef.

No huge party is planned for the opening; however, Ms. Ahrens said a small shindig is in the works in the coming months. A local ribbon cutting with city officials that's not open to the public is planned for October, Ahrens said.

Staff writer Paul Gonzalez contributed to this report.


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