Tourists walking by on Beach Street can't help but express surprise at how the 45-room apartment building that was a gem of a hotel in 1926 is such an eyesore today.
"It will take a lot more than paint to fix that up," said one, watching a photographer shoot pictures. "They should knock it down and start over."
That was the plan submitted by developer Barry Swenson and approved by the Santa Cruz City Council. They wanted to put a luxury 125-room hotel there with a meeting center.
Hundreds of people spoke in front of and wrote letters to the Coastal Commission, the vast majority in favor of the project.They included hotel competitors, UCSC, and Bookshop Santa Cruz, all of whom claimed a desperate need for more meeting space to bring people into the area during the off season.
However, the developer said that to make it profitable he had to go 18 feet over the 43-foot height limit set by the Commission, in order to add 17 rooms and make the construction pay off. (The tallest structure at the beach is the 125-foot Double Shot ride, approved in 2004.)
The hotel and meeting center was voted down 6-4 Thursday (Commissioner William Burke skipped out on the vote).
Commissioners said it would block views and wasn't consistent with the rest of the area, with the and excepted, as they were built before the Commission formed, and wouldn't be approved today, members said.
City officials, condemned for years as being anti-business, were stunned to lose millions of dollars in taxes, jobs and economic trickle-down in a business deal they thought would help the community.
They wanted the new building to anchor redevelopment in the area that includes the new $15 million Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, just down the block, scheduled to open by the summer of 2012.
Opponents, led by residents in the Beach Hill area, behind the apartments, want to see the it remodeled, but not torn down.
The building played a big role in the 1983 Clint Eastwood film Sudden Impact, as did the Beach Boardwalk.
The slide show at the right depicts some of the good, the bad and the ugly of La Bahia, which means, the Bay, in Spanish, and which now houses students who pay between $800-$1,200 a month to live there nine months of the year.
In the summer it's occupied by Boardwalk workers from all over the world.