*To be clear this rendering above is from Kosmont of another development of what mixed use looks like. Not the rendering of what the proposed project will look like.
By Raiza Giorgi
The Solvang City Council is hosting a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, to discuss entering into a special agreement with Santa Barbara based developer Ed St. George, for a proposed project at the old Solvang Lumber Yard and current site of the Solvang Veteran’s Memorial Hall as well as several other identified areas in Solvang.
The project will consist of a multi-phase plan that will create “a central European style plaza. The development proposes adding property tax value by building hotel and housing infrastructure while creating central place for larger gatherings and events and day to day use as a park. The proposed development is also a mixed use with dining space expanding experiential tourism to the downtown area,” according to the staff report released Thursday evening.
The rendering above from Kosmont shows a style of mixed use from a previous job in downtown Asuza.
The parcels are owned by multiple entities including, the City of Solvang, St. George (he recently purchased the Solvang Lumbar Yard property from local developer Mitch Williams), and the County of Santa Barbara. The County of Santa Barbara has contractual obligations with State Courts, and the Senior Center for the use of facilities. The County of Santa Barbara also runs the Sheriff Sub‐Station within this location, providing law enforcement services to the City of Solvang. The City of Solvang operates the Library services and provides designated space for the Veteran’s within identified facilities.
The proposal includes a three-story public administration building which includes a new City Hall, Veteran’s Hall, 3rd District Supervisor office, Senior Center and Cyber Library. It also includes two hotels, commercial space and penthouse condos on the fourth floor of the residential unites. There is also a two-level parking garage.
In January 2020, Kosmont Companies performed Market Demand Analysis for the City of Solvang. Kosmont identified potential demand for additional hotel rooms in the trade area and a demand multi‐family residential units. Kosmont recommended a blended use development integrating hotel, restaurants, and residential units.
The city also determined that the Vet’s Hall is not retrofitted for earthquake, which they say presents a safety concern for the use of the Veteran’s Hall as City Designated Shelter. Seismic structural remodel of the building would be very costly. They also indicated the Solvang Senior Center also needs to be expanded and upgraded, as well as the Library. The current tenant of the veterans groups of the VFW Post 7139 and American Legion Post 160. They were just notified last week of the proposed project, and will be at the meeting to comment, according to Al Salge, Commander of the VFW Post 7139.
The initial conceptual scope of the project contemplates inclusion of a multi‐purpose administrative uses building to accommodate the City of Solvang Administrative needs, Library, Senior Center and Veteran’s Hall. It is contemplated that the Sheriff’s Sub‐Station and the Courts operations would be relocated. Staff will continue to work with the developer and the County of Santa Barbara to develop alternative locations, including potentially current City Hall location.
“The proposed development’s Community Center would ensure continued support by the City and County for providing public good services, and would include a Library, Senior Center, Veterans Hall and City administration. The City and County are also working collaboratively to accommodate and improve the Sheriff’s Sub-Station and Courts space needs. This is the very beginning of the public process and outreach, including community and stakeholder input, to develop the final project. The final proposed project would then be vetted through City approval process,” wrote Mayor Ryan Toussaint in his weekly message.
The outreach summary shows this project began in February when Williams and St. George met with Kosmont to talk about the multi-use development and to include the City/County building as well.
This isn’t the first time that Solvang has considered putting in this type of use, as a previous study in 2014 (COnferance report Final Report 6-23-14) by REVPAR International, looked at attracting a new target market of visitors to Solvang during the off-season, as well as mid- week from Sunday to Thursday. In other words, the objective is to provide an economic driver, i.e., a conference center/meeting venue, to expand the target market of potential visitors beyond the existing leisure-oriented guests.
That study looked specifically at the Vet’s Hall and said because of the historic building status, the city could build an adjacent conference center and attract a developer to the Solvang Lumbar Yard property to build a hotel.
The study also indicated because of the proximity to Santa Barbara and Santa Maria that already have large scale convention centers, building one in Solvang wasn’t feasible. “As in a few instances, the conference center facilities required some form of subsidy to remain in operation, and in one case had to close a portion of its facilities due to lack of demand,” the study said.
The current proposal has been met with a lot of adversity as a Facebook post in the SYV Chat Room group has more than 350 comments from residents saying for the majority they are opposed to demolishing the Solvang Vet’s Hall.
There is now a petition against it and there will be a protest rally at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday in front of City Hall.
City Hall is located at 1644 Oak Street in Solvang.