SANTA BARBARA, CA – The five-star El Encanto Hotel—jewel in the crown of Santa Barbara’s gold-plated hospitality empire—is announced by a secretly crummy sign. So concludes a months-long Santa Barbara Today Examiner! investigation. The longtime landmark sign—located in Mission Park at the corner of E. Los Olivos and Alameda Padre Serra—charmingly points the way up the hill to the deluxe hotel’s Mission Ridge aerie, where a visitor can marvel at the spectacular view, and room rates that drain the face of blood. Following an anonymous tip Wednesday afternoon, curious pedestrians and a Santa Barbara Planning and Development inspector surrounded the rust-colored relic, looking carefully at the embraceable front of the sign, then taking two steps and a half-turn to observe the obverse. “The front is all fancy but the back of the sign looks dumb,” a visitor noted aloud.
The city inspector concurred. “The public face of the El Encanto sign, with its cozily archaic suggestion of old world iron and delicately inlaid lettering,” said the inspector, “well…mon coeur ne bat que pour toi!” Walking around to the untended back of the sign, with its riot of Frankenstein-like solder scars, big dumb electrical box and splotch of timid graffiti, the city official seemed to sag within his vivid yellow safety vest. “This is not my Santa Barbara,” he intoned. At press time American Riviera Reputation Enforcement had dispatched a worker to the scene, where with a steel baton she waved the morbidly curious away from the heart-sinking ass-end of the lousy sign. “Nothing to see here,” she called out to the crowd, and lightly struck a curious visitor trying to sneak a peek.