County Housing Authority reaches $20 million deal on Goleta Super 8 for homeless housing

When Super 8 opened in 1974, it charged $8.88 a night for a room. The award was part of an aggressive – even fanciful – marketing campaign to take on the Santa Barbara-based Motel 6 for the title of most affordable roadside lodging in the country. When Motel 6 opened in 1962, it charged $6 per night. Today, the County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority is engaged in efforts to acquire one of each of these iconic chains in hopes of turning both into permanent, supportive housing for homeless people.

The Super 8 deal — for a 65-room motel in Hollister and Fairview just steps from Goleta Airport — looks poised to succeed, thanks to $16.5 million in public funding for the purpose. Goleta City Council — sometimes seen as the political linchpin of NIMBY sentiment — held a special council meeting to not only endorse the proposal, but to contribute $600,000 to the fundraising effort. County supervisors have contributed an additional $3 million to help ensure residents receive “comprehensive” services to help them with all their difficulties from day one.

A similar effort to acquire an 80-room Motel 6 in Santa Maria, however, is meeting significant resistance from the Santa Maria mayor and city council, and it remains to be seen whether that deal will ever materialize.

John Polansky of the Housing Authority pointed out that both projects involve the development of permanent housing. “These will not be homeless shelters,” he said. “These will not be centers for the homeless. This is permanent housing where people have annual leases.

Polansky said he plans to launch a neighborhood outreach offensive — via Zoom — later this month or early February. In doing so, he will re-plough the fields he worked 18 months ago when the Housing Authority first appeared set to acquire Goleta’s Super 8, an architectural testament to the optimistic low-cost modernism of the 1960s, with a phalanx of towering palm trees serving as scenic sentinels.

That deal fell through when a New Jersey motel franchisor, Wyndham Vacation Resorts – representing 20 brands and 9,280 locations – stepped in and promised to keep the “Super 8 flag” flying.

“We didn’t lose it because of the price,” Polansky said. “That was the flag, the big Super 8 sign.”

Wyndham brochures describe the motel’s location as “where value meets convenience.” But with COVID raging, it’s unlikely the chain got as many business travelers as it had hoped and attracted too many homeless people instead. Polansky said landlords told him it’s not uncommon for people who get their checks at the start of each month to splurge for a few days of respite at the Super 8 before hitting the streets again.

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