I stayed at the Franciscan Inn this week for 3 days (21-24 Oct 2012) and was very pleased. I was in the older, probably 1930s/1940s motel building in a standard king. There is also a newer (1960s/1970s) two story building and at the corner of Bath and Mason Street what looks like was at one time a private house or perhaps a duplex or triplex from the 1920s/1930s. The latter is quite attractive.
The room wasn't large but was of reasonable size, and the total bill for three weeknights including tax came to $304. All of the requirements were well met. A very comfortable bed, a small but attractive bathroom, and reliable (and free) wifi. Normally I don't watch TV but I did watch the presidential debate and the TV and remotes worked well, and best of all were out of sight in an armoire when not in use. The in-room coffee while not great (is it ever anywhere?) gets a solid B compared to many other hotels including the tonier ones.
As other reviewers have noted, the front desk staff is friendly and helpful, and the woman who hosts the morning continental breakfast is very congenial and helpful. It adds a nice touch to what is normally a routine and unstaffed presentation of breakfast items at moderately priced motels and hotels. The pastries are of higher quality and non-institutional origin - a plus, and the freshly baked cookies in the afternoon are terrific.
Also a nod to the friendly, efficient, and numerous housekeeping staff. They took good care of my room.
The West Beach area where the Franciscan Inn is, is also home to a number of other moderately priced yet attractive hotels. I did not see a single shabby one, and that includes the Days Inn. The Franciscan Inn's location on Bath Street (along with four others) is one of its best features because it is incredibly quiet. A block away is Castillo Street where several others are located, but Castillo Street is a busy arterial during the day, and probably a little noisier at night. Bath Street is super quiet. I didn't hear a thing at night in my room.
Yet, the Franciscan Inn is only a block and a half away from Cabrillo, which runs along the beach. It's more of a hike to lower State Street but not a real challenge and I did it twice to go the Zen Yai, a very good Thai restaurant.
This hotel (and the others in this area) are also remarkably close to the train station, and Amtrak operates a fair number of trains to Santa Barbara. I came in on the train and it was an easy walk of perhaps 3 blocks with a wheely-type suitcase and a laptop. Only the most overburdened with luggage or out-of-shape would need to take a taxi from the station. (If you need to rent a car Hertz has a location at the DoubleTree Resort not too far down Cabrillo and they'll pick you up if you don't want to walk there.)
The only drawback to the location is that there is not much of a selection of restaurants unless you walk over to State Street or drive up to the Mesa (Cliff Drive). But there are two good places just a very short walk from the hotel at the corner of Bath and Montecito: Rudy's Mexican Restaurant and the Santa Barbara Brewhouse. The latter has a happy hour from 4-6 pm with $3.50 pints of their own tasty beers. (I had a West Beach IPA and it was very good.)
Runners note: great runs either direction on Cabrillo Boulevard. East toward East Beach (ask the hotel for the how to run all of the way to the Biltmore Hotel (about 7 miles round-trip) using a ped only bikepath past the cemetery) or west along Shoreline Drive up to the Mesa area.
The only two things at the hotel I would offer as improvements are to have a better selection of fresh fruit in the morning and afternoon (bananas, grapes, etc.) and to have a more aggressive replacement program on the towels or just pay more to begin with for thicker, higher quality towels. They were perfectly adequate but kind of tired.
Other than those minor quibbles, i can highly recommend this hotel as a way to fashion a reasonably priced trip to Santa Barbara: one of the prettiest places in California.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.