Proposed 66-Room Hotel Entails Demolishing the Press Room

In August of 2020, SIMA began the permitting process to convert six downtown lots—fronting both State Street and E. Ortega Street—into a single 30,000-square-foot development with 36 apartments, a restaurant, and an office. The plan involved demolishing 710 State Street, currently home to Restoration Hardware, and 15 E. Ortega, where The Press Room bar is. The latter was built in 1925 as a plumbing store; earlier in 2020, the city’s History Landmarks Commission determined that it’s not historically significant.

Two months later, the Press Room got a reprieve when SIMA’s Jim Knell announced that he was pulling the plug on the project because the city council was threatening to force developers in the area to include more affordable housing.

Now, however, the Press Room is on the ropes again—Knell evidently determined that the best way to solve the problem was to avoid residential altogether. The Historic Landmarks Commission’s December 7 agenda includes “a proposal to construct a 32,799-square-foot, four-story, 66-room hotel including a restaurant/bar and conference rooms on six lots totaling 30,004 square feet. The project also includes 16 parking spaces on the ground floor. A Lot Merger is required for the properties at 710-720 State Street and 15 E. Ortega Street. The 14,455-square-foot buildings at 710 State Street (including 19 E. Ortega) and the 1,000-square-foot building at 19* E. Ortega are proposed to be demolished. The remaining 6,071 square feet of existing nonresidential development will remain (714-720 State Street).” [*That’s a typo; the plans specify that 15 E. Ortega, a.k.a. the Press Room, is also being demolished.] This graphic included in the plans explains it better; the dark line indicates the boundary of the project.

The design, by Kevin Moore Architect, is similar to the residential version, with varied facades that give the feel of a village street and a paseo running from State to Ortega. The elevations below show, respectively, what you’ll see from State Street, as you walk along the paseo, and what you’ll see from Ortega.

The ground-floor restaurant fronts State Street, with the small lobby tucked behind. I would imagine that the paseo is gated, seeing as how there are guest rooms along the paseo.

The floor plan for the fourth floor and roof shows another restaurant; sure enough, the agenda is wrong—the plans mention two restaurant spaces.

Last time, the Historic Landmarks Commission ate it up—but that was in good part because the  project promised more housing. This time might be more interesting.


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I’ve got an even better solution. Buy the SB News Press building and turn THAT into a hotel. I hope the Press Room can be preserved. But I guess if you’re not a local and a fan of that beloved bar, then you have no problem bringing in the demo equipment.


It always sucks to lose a local favorite spot.. but I’m mostly concerned that affordable housing requirements led to zero housing and a hotel instead. Well intentioned policy backfiring


Agreed. It would be much better if the SB News Press building turned into affordable housing.


Ultimately, Knell seems not only like a typical developer, but also a petty little man. Jerk…


The city pissed him off so he decided to develop something that would be even more onerous to not only the city, but also most of the rest of the community (the ones who live in a commune here, at any rate).
So, yes. Petty. Little. Man.


You must know him personally to make an assumption like that. From the article he wanted to build apartments, “city council was threatening to force developers in the area to include more affordable housing” – i.e. reduce the value and potential income of what he was trying to build (housing units!). In the face of city councils threat, Knell changing concepts makes him a “petty little man”? So to not be “petty” he should have just built something that could have lost him and his investors money?

Eva Coleman

I got a better idea—get a new Historic Landmark Commission, with Commissioners with generation legacy/knowledge of the City of Santa Barbara. Another Hotel!!! Just ridiculous


I really don’t believe the city needs another hotel that will switch owners many times over.
I would love to know is how many apartments are affordable housing out of 36?
How mant is too much according to the builder?
Also , Con someone do the math, 30 apartments plus other spaces that is less than 1000 sq ft per apartment. Will this eventually be converted to condos?

Proposed for the hotel: 16 parking spaces and 66 rooms, really? I hope the city does their math.


It looks like Restoration Hardware goes away, reduce a reason to attract tourists. Then reduce a bar that draws all the foreigners to downtown. Then build a hotel with 1/4 of the necessary parking spaces. Yup seems perfectly logical, Knell is a nice guy, but this is a bad idea. Now if the hotel maintained both locations then I would say go for it. Keep the retail space and the local favorite spot or integrate them in. Please everyone.