[Noozhawk’s note: This story has been updated to correct errors in the original version.]
In 2003, Cottage Health System purchased St. Francis Medical Center with the hopes of using the six-acre Riviera property to provide affordable housing for its hospital employees and to attract out of town medical professionals who may have been deterred by Santa Barbara’s high cost of living.
Now, nearly 10 years later, the majority of the 115 Spanish stucco and Craftsman-style homes that occupy the site are expected to be ready for residents by late December and early January. Fifteen homes have already been occupied since June.
The workforce housing was designed by local architects Cearnal Andrulaitis and was certified green by the City of Santa Barbara. The paving is permeable with built-in underground water collection systems.
Of the 115 one- to three-bedroom units, officials say 81 were initially sold to Cottage Health System employees through a lottery system, and later on a first-come, first-serve basis. The price depended on household size and income. Prices for the market-rate homes, which make up the rest of the 115 units sold, range from $585,000 to $1,095,000.
“We did a survey to find out what people wanted,” said Janet O’Neill, Cottage Health System’s public affairs director. “It keeps great employees here; they have the opportunity to buy fantastic homes and live in Santa Barbara. Its been very positively responded to.”
The Cottage employee homes come with a buyback guarantee so residents can sell their property to someone on the waiting list. If there are no offers, Cottage Health System will purchase the property to be inventoried and relisted.
Last week, the sound wall that ran along the outer rim of the complex was taken down. According to contractor David Burke, construction most likely will be complete before the Jan. 10 contract date.
“We are under the budget and in less time than scheduled,” said Burke. “Come Monday, California Street will be open and on Salsipuedes we only have the upper third to do.”
The majority of residents will begin moving in in September, as 52 units are expected to close in a matter of six weeks starting that month. As per a requirement set out by the city, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital will provide a shuttle service to and from Cottage Hospital so as to reduce commuter traffic in the neighborhood.
“We worked very closely with the city, almost 10 years now,” said O’Neill. “I think they (the public) were terrified it was going to be this massive project, though now it looks like it will really fit into the neighborhood.”