Friday, October 9 , 2015, 1:41 pm | Fair 88º

Karen Telleen-Lawton: Measure B Lacks Sustainability

The building-height initiative is too simplistic for Santa Barbara's complex planning issues

By Karen Telleen-Lawton, Noozhawk Columnist |

The funny thing is, most of us agree on what we want for Santa Barbara: a personal, livable city. Despite the onerous cost of housing, despite its proximity to Los Angeles, and despite its penchant for fires, floods, Pacific storms and earthquakes, we moved here or remain here as adults because it is a beautiful city, a friendly city and a right-sized city.

You nearly always see someone you know while out for errands, and yet the city isn’t so small that there’s nothing to do but mind everyone else’s business.

Karen Telleen-Lawton
Karen Telleen-Lawton

What we’ve disagreed about since it was discovered more than a century ago by vacationers from L.A.. and the East is how to keep it that way. We’ve tried limiting access to water, which seemed artificial but may have made a lot of sense in terms of living sustainably in our semi-arid climate. We’ve implemented building-height restrictions and zoning, and balked at the state’s mandated growth assimilations.

Now, with anger over the corridor-creating Chapala One development, we’re looking at further restricting building heights. It makes some sense on the surface, kind of the flip side of “if we build it, they will come.” But is Measure B consistent with a livable, personal city?

I contend that it’s not. Instead, it encourages the sprawl that defines our immense neighbor to the east, the City of Angels. It exacerbates the problem of affordable housing, thwarts the goals of alternative transportation and increases pollution.

Santa Barbara, naturally confined between the Santa Ynez and the Pacific Ocean, would be better off taking “compactness” as a model for growth. A compact city provides amenities such as apartment space over street-level shops; frequent public transit with buses or vans commensurate with the need; and sidewalks, traffic signals and bike lanes that encourage zero-emission commuting. It’s good for our health and the environment, appropriate for our climate and contributes to the approachable feel of a right-sized, sustainable city.

Sustainable cities are not a new concept. One of the first to observe and write about them was an urban planner named Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). She noted how well-functioning, organically grown city neighborhoods worked at that time. Nearly everything could be purchased within a radius of a few miles, and children were raised in an atmosphere of familiarity with their neighbors and the shopkeepers.

The way we want Santa Barbara to look is inescapably intertwined with how we want it to feel. Measure B is a reaction that is too simplistic for the complex planning issues we face. What we need is to pour this energy into updating our General Plan, the 20-year look-ahead that is now in process.

Instead of protecting 15 or 20 feet above our downtown buildings, let us protect what remains of our open spaces. Sustaining our parks, our trails, our national forest and our dwindling farmland and ranchland will preserve the look and feel of Santa Barbara and allow our children, our wildlife and native species places to roam.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations supporting sustainability. Graze her writing and excerpts from Canyon Voices: The Nature of Rattlesnake Canyon at

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» on 10.27.09 @ 11:53 AM

I am sorry to say that Karen Telleen-Lawton’s article does not present a cogent argument in support of her position or the title of her article. All of what she wants to see happen in Santa Barbara can still happen with Measure B being approved.  Those of us who have lived in Santa Barbara all of our lives are not going to take a chance that recent arrivals to the city will do what is right “later”.  We are going to do what is right “NOW” and vote Yes on B and also support what Karen is talking about.

» on 10.27.09 @ 11:55 AM

Right On!

» on 10.27.09 @ 11:59 AM

Please get your facts right before publishing. Santa Barbara has conformed to State mandated growth.

Your assertion that:

“Instead, it encourages the sprawl that defines our immense neighbor to the east, the City of Angels. It exacerbates the problem of affordable housing, thwarts the goals of alternative transportation and increases pollution.”

is entirely false. Growth and pollution of that kind only happens when City’s and County’s don’t put restrictions on growth. Our City Council has no space left to grow except upward. Name one undeveloped lot within city limits that has no growth plans.

The intellectual model of “sustainability” is a university model taught at colleges that has destroyed what was once nice city’s like Portland and San Jose. Conforming to ignorance will kill the charm of Santa Barbara or any City. Your observations are a good reason to support height limits.

» on 10.27.09 @ 12:01 PM

Karen, thanks for the courage to speak to the benefits of compacting growth.  Even the author of the Whole Earth Catalog would sing your praises as he, too, supports concentrated growth over the “back to the country” of his original tome (see Whole Earth Discipline).

You’re right.  We do love the look and feel of Santa Barbara just how it is…or rather before we imported water..or before the stop lights were removed…or…well, it’s always been a special place despite the change. 

We need holistic thinking and not narrow rules and regulations that invite loop-hole lawyers.

It’s harder to do complex thinking.  It’s easier to have black and white…but were life so simple.

» on 10.27.09 @ 12:53 PM

So are you suggesting skyscrapers to avoid sprawl? Are you suggesting squeezing as many “affordable housing” types into the downtown area as possible? I don’t see what your solution is. Is it to squeeze as many people into as small a crime ridden area as possible so the open space will remain open? While you, of course, live in your nice big house in the countryside? Karen you are really good at dictating how everyone else should live.

“let us protect what remains of our open spaces. Sustaining our parks, our trails, our national forest and our dwindling farmland and ranchland will preserve the look and feel of Santa Barbara”

You left out the part about “how”. You are not allowing for growth unless it means higher and higher density. What the heck are “organically grown city neighborhoods”? Do you do this with some kind of seeds and organic manure?

» on 10.27.09 @ 12:58 PM

This notion that everyone (other than the wealthy elite environmentalist liberals) should be squeezed into the downtown and walk and bike everywhere and there will then be no cars is unrealistic and insane. Go live in New York, because that seems to be what you want Santa Barbara to be like - at least there they have taxis and subways.

» on 10.27.09 @ 02:50 PM

I agree with Ms. Telleen-Lawton - Measure B is overly simplistic and is not a viable solution.  If only it were so simple.  Chapala One suffers from too much breadth, not height.  And, speaking of loss of our natural environment and open spaces, please look into and get involved to stop the the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Administration from achieving it’s proposed large development up in the Canyon.

» on 10.27.09 @ 03:11 PM

Where are we going to sprawl?  A home with a yard, garden and pets is where most of the proponents of cube dwelling live.  Like most of these new thinkers, you should make this choice, not them.

Santa Barbara has NEVER be an affordable community because of what it offers as a city.

New urban development will make SB more affordable. Damaging the charm of the City, diminishing our quality of life, and clogging our streets will eventually reduce property values.

They seek to kill the golden goose that is our home. They are not of ill intent, just missing pragmatic thinking skills.

Reread and better understand what Jane Jacobs was saying.

She was arguing against big developers tearing down neighborhoods.

This is what those of us supporting Measure B are about.

» on 10.27.09 @ 03:27 PM

This idea that we have to grow is fiction. The height versus sprawl idea assumes that we have to grow. Communities are free to say no to sprawl and upward growth. Democracy works if you let it.

» on 10.27.09 @ 03:47 PM

The idea that we have to grow is fiction? Not if we don’t control immigration and the birth rate. We have freebie giveaways here that can’t help but attract growth. “Affordable Housing” is just one of them.

» on 10.27.09 @ 04:28 PM

Karen has written about JUST A FEW CONCERNS that Yes on B raises.  Frank, Michael, please understand the whole picture about why it is a very flawed ballot measure about an issue that a future city council chould deal with as they appoint new members to the discretionary review boards of which there are numerous.  Thanks, Karen for sharing your view point!

» on 10.27.09 @ 04:50 PM

This article is nothing but another rambling diatribe replete with the classic “buzzwords” like “compactness”, “liveability”, “sustainabilty”.

The same buzzwords used along with “affordable housing”, “green” (everything) “alternative transportation”. “traffic calming devices”, “pedestrian friendly”, etc. etc.

Words that have come to mean uncontrolled growth, ugly, too-tall buildings, traffic congesgtion, lack of parking and access, and so called city planning that is in reality nothing but social engineering contrived by those hollier than thou fools who still see the Emperor’s Robe that isn’t there!.

They are an out of control, arrogant and non-responsive lot made up of elected politicans, and their appointed officials and lackies including these so called “planners” that have their own utopian and idiotic agenda. An agenda completely lacking in the most fundamental common sense and understanding of human nature! They are only too happy to tell the rest of you ignorant plebians what is best for you; you just don’t recognize it yet!

Sadly they are either totally corrupted by the property development interests, blinded by their own propaganda or too stupid to see they are being used and manipulated by those profiteers who use those same “buzzwords” to destroy the very character, beauty and charm of Santa Barbara that Ms. Telleen-Lawton babbles about in her feeble attempt to justify opposition to measure B.

Measure B is not the panacea to correct the disasterous results of a decade or two of the social engineering that has infected City Government. Rather it is the first step in reclaiming control of the City from this collection of utopian pin heads with their absurd schemes like painting blue lines on the streets and sidewalks to remind all of us where they think the Ocean will be in 100 years or spending a fortune on unused bike lanes and tiny mini-buses that criss-crossed the downtown virtually empty for years at the taxpayers expense. Someone finaly realized that program was not the great success it was often trumpeted to be, but rather a major boondoggle which finally, quietly and thankfully slipped into oblivion!

These same “forward thinkers” are the designers of bulbouts, Chicanes and roundabouts filling the streets that are nothing short of major traffic hazards. They have even met in committee to decide the merits of depositiing piles of simulated animal dung on the sidewalks and calling it “Artwork” and, once again, doing so with the taxpayers money.

Measure B is the first step toward regaining control of Santa Barbara from this cast of characters that now hold the reins and who have been steering this city relentlessly down the pathway toward disaster.

» on 10.27.09 @ 04:59 PM


This is a great article and Karen is right on track with any logical person’s thinking focusing on a sustainable future for our community.  This would of course be contrary to the “just shut the door behind them”, “recession what recession, I’ve got my millions?”, “just say no to the future of the middle class” folks who are trying to force this rediculous Measure B down the throats of SB.  Let’s just hope that the citizens of our community have the wisdom to not let their votes be SOLD OUT to aome billionaire from Texas.

Jonathan in SB

» on 10.27.09 @ 05:31 PM

As a lifelong resident of Santa Barbara for over 50 years, I believe Measure B is not the right thing to do. While its backers have good intentions, it is too heavy-handed.

I was convinced of this after mulling it over with a friend who works in the Planning Department. Any *healthy* city will grow over time. The most efficient way to do this is to build near existing infrastructure (e.g. traffic corridors) and make the most of a property’s footprint. This doesn’t mean you have to build “skyscrapers” (backers of Measure B certainly have been disingenuous/inflammatory in using that term). But a 40’ height limit is too low, especially considering that *many* existing buildings are already taller than that. Some of those buildings are shown in this video made by Measure B opponents:

I also speak from personal experience, having built a multi-story mixed-use property (no, I’m not a developer or land baron, the building is my retirement nest egg). I can say with confidence that it would be difficult and expensive to redesign my building to conform to a 40’ limit and still have the same amount of utility. I would also have to increase the building’s footprint, making the setback undesirable.

Having watched the town hall meeting and League of Women Voters advocacy meeting on City TV, my hunch is Measure B is being backed by a well-to-do constituency who’s interests are more aesthetic in nature than practical.

» on 10.27.09 @ 06:03 PM

I commend Michael Self for being honest enough to say what’s on her mind (11:11 AM post). But therein lies the problem ... is Self really being, as she says, “pragmatic”? Or elitist?

I think Self is like many other Measure B supporters. They’re looking out for themselves now that they’ve got their little piece of paradise. To heck with all the younger people in this town who are providing the services Measure B supporters enjoy.

I won’t paint all Measure B supporters with a broad brush (I suspect Sheila Lodge doesn’t think the same way Self does) but Self’s take on Measure B really makes it look like a battle between the have’s and have nots.

I’m going to support the younger generations and give them a chance to live in the town they grew up in. If you think the same way, vote No on Measure B.

» on 10.27.09 @ 06:43 PM

Karen Telleen-Lawton, Noozhawk Columnist doesn’t know what she is talking about when it comes to sustainability.  Talk about uninformed!

It is a fact that in any ecosystem that a lower population is more sustainable than a larger one.

Karen wrongly thinks there are only two choices:

1. Grow to 200,000 high density vertically downtown in monster 4 story 60 feet buildings
2. Grow to 200,000 horizontally with sprawl.

Vertical high density is more sustainable than sprawl but we cant sprawl as there is no land to sprawl onto.  and in a location of infinite demand like the South coast even if we built vertically downtown the exact same demand to sprawl would remain and the sprawl would still occur.

But there is a third and much more sustainable choice:
3. Slow growth—- where we neither grow by heigh density vertical growth or horizontal sprawl but remain close to 100,000.  a far more sustainable vision for Santa Barbara and one that lives within our very limited resources.

Measure B is just that slow growth sustainable vision.  the same vision and path that we have been on for the last 40 years and which is responsible for Santa Barbara being the most desirable place to live in California.

Measure B is not at all about sprawl.  We will implement measure B and we will also prevent sprawl.

The choice to the voters is clear:
1. Vote No on B and get 200,000 population living in dozens and dozens of monster buildings downtown, and ruin your quality of life,
2. or vote Yes on Measure B and get 100,000 population and keep the city a desirable place to live like it is now. prevent bumper to bumper traffic congestion,  and preserve your quality of life. 

Now thats what I call a tough choice!

» on 10.27.09 @ 07:26 PM

Universities do a poor job training students who major in Planning and Development. They have a very analytical approach where city residents are only relevant if they can be heard over the normal “special interests for profit” voices who never miss a meeting or chance to define issues to their favor. So when regular people do something on their own, planners get nervous because it doesn’t fit into their limited model. Ph.D. professors come up with theories on how to engineer human beings lives, but their theories don’t work with human nature, they only solve problems if humans are mechanical parts of a system. When planners and politicians read intellectual books about various growth theories like the “smart growth” belief system they disconnect with people and start following ideologies that are disconnected from the human condition. People can say what they want, but it’s not going to stop concerned citizens from protecting what they love. Human beings natural state is in nature, and when you try to change that you create the mental and physical problems that come with the urban environment. Many Santa Barbarans are still connected to the natural environment and want to protect the balance that keeps them healthy. If you grew up in a big city or an apartment building you may think what I’m saying is nuts and makes no sense. Anyway, Measure B is more about saving our soul, and the City Planning and Development Department along with out City Council needs to really do some soul-searching because most of the people who live and work here, are seriously wondering if they still have one.

» on 10.27.09 @ 08:27 PM

Michael Self’s comments about fighting big developers would be funny if her campaign and the Yes on B campaign weren’t single handedly being financed by a rich Texas developer who won’t step into the light of day to explain his interest in Santa Barbara. I’d sure like to see Michael explain how she can take so much money from a man who is smearing anybody who dares to think differently than he. Vote No on B and no on all of VanWolfswinkel’s cronies.

» on 10.27.09 @ 08:33 PM

Yours are the best words I have ever read!

You are very perceptive because everything you said is so very very true.

You are right-on when you say that the City Planning and Development Department along with out City Council needs to really do some soul-searching because most of the people who live and work here, are seriously wondering if they still have one.

These city planing and transportation staff have no soul!  They are but high density vertical smart growth social engineers who want to force the public to live like chickens in a chicken factory in a little ticky-tacky box on the forth floor downtown with no connection to the land and no tiny yard they can call their own.  No place for pets, no place for their children to play, but with odors, Crime, noise, traffic, congestion—-going back to the New York tenements and instant slums of the 1880’s.  Yeah that’s progress alright—in the wrong direction!

A recent nationwide study has shown that 90% of all people desire to live in a small town in a single family home with a yard of their own and only a maximum 10% of the people desire to live downtown.    It’s fine for those few to live downtown but lets not force the vast majority to live against their will in the high density vertical smart growth vision.

Vote Yes on B and preserve the American dream of being able to live in a residence with your own tiny yard.  A no vote on b means you are going to be forced to live on the 4th floor of a building downtown with no yard of your own.

» on 10.27.09 @ 08:55 PM

Who’s the “we” that Karen Telleen-Lawton uses? It’s sad but true that only city residents can choose how Santa Barbara will be—- and I believe that the writer still lives in Mission Canyon.

There have been many, many who wished they could vote in the city, who think of Santa Barbara as “theirs” but the reality is not. I couldn’t agree more about the need for protecting open spaces, but there simply are not very many open spaces that might be developed in the City of Santa Barbara.

The issue is what do we, those of us who live here, want the city to look like, to be like? Is it to be high rise to protect the wishes of those who live in the County or is it to be low rise to protect our views and qualities of life. With much respect to Karen T-L’s writing and efforts for the Mission Canyon environment, I, a city resident, say, yes to Measure B.

And, consider, since a foremost opponent of B, Dave Davis, maintained at a recent forum that 45’ downtown and elsewhere, as upper State Street,  would be fine, just not 40’, how is that so very much better, defeating the parade of horribles trotted out?

» on 10.27.09 @ 09:40 PM

Vertical or horizontal growth in Santa Barbara is driven by population growth.  Population growth of 500,000 a year is entirely driven by immigration and births to immigrants in California.  Is 500,000 more people a year packed into CA sustainable?  What is the real agenda behind such high immigrations numbers—1.5 to 2 million legal + illegal immigrants per year? 1.5 work visas per year when we have a 12 percent unemployment rate in the state? The current debate in Britain over immigration is very revealing and exactly mirrors the situation here.

“Ministers today faced calls for an inquiry into claims that their open-door immigration policy was designed to make Britain more multicultural and allow Labour to portray the Tories as racists.”

Is making California more “multicultural” such a worthy goal as to justify destroying our quality of life and our economy?

» on 10.27.09 @ 10:17 PM

It is astounding that so many people will take the proposal for this arbitrarily low 40-foot limit for downtown and say, “that sounds about right” given that the drafters did absolutely no survey of existing building heights to determine what the “norm” is for downtown.  40 feet is simply too low.  It is in conflict with over 1/3 of the most highly regarded Santa Barbara architectural landmarks.  To accept what this group gained support for by standing in parking lots with pictures of one disagreeable building and saying “if you don’t want more like this, then sign right here” is the antithesis of any kind of rational planning or evaluation.  What if they said limit the height to 30 feet?  How about 20 feet?  Would anyone know the difference?  The News-Press stated that they think 40 feet might be too high!  (Their building is about 45 feet high, and the tower section is over 50 feet).  And we don’t even need to talk about the effect on Cottage Hospital’s long-range planning.  And by the way: Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is often compared to Santa Barbara in terms of it’s attention to architectural themes and proper scale, has a maximum building height of 75 feet.  That height limit applies to their hospital zone.  Congratulations to Santa Barbara, for arriving at the brink of incompetence in its stewardship of its architecture and community services with its consideration of this deeply flawed measure.  Vote no on Measure B, and give Santa Barbara the opportunity to find real solutions to its planning challenges.

» on 10.27.09 @ 10:46 PM

Correction:  Santa Fe’s maximum height is 70 feet.

» on 10.28.09 @ 12:09 AM

Karen writes well, and I appreciate her thoughts. Unfortunately, she is wrong on almost
all her key points.

Densifying development in downtown Santa Barbara will do nothing to limit sprawl up
the Gaviota Coast or the hillsides, since those areas are in different jurisdictions, and
owned by different property owners than downtown Santa Barbara.

Building taller buildings downtown will not create more or better transit service, since MTD can’t afford to provide it, and the City of Santa Barbara doesn’t know how.

Nor can you compel downtown residents to work or shop in downtown, whether they could do it on foot, or by bike, or shuttle, or not. People will work where they
can get the best job to support their families, and shop where they get the best
value for their dollars.

Nor can we assume that the big, boxy, ugly buildings on Chapala were flukes, since
not one senior City official, or City Council member (except maybe Dale Francisco)
ever stood up and sounded the alarm. And the totally “conflicted” ABR “club” can’t
or won’t look their colleagues in the eye, and say, No, to bad design.

Finally, as regards a “sustainable community”, which Mrs. Telleen-Lawton says she
favors, she chooses to ignore the fact that in one of Pearl Chase’s last hurrahs, an
“Impacts of Growth” study from UCSB in the 1970s indicated that the resource
carrying capacity of the City’s natural and human resources was in the area of 85,000 full time residents ... a number we quietly passed several years ago, with
nary a peep from any of our “Blue Line” self-proclaimed enviros on the current City

The City Charter already requires that the City “must live within it resoures.” That
suggests that until we know how climate change will impact the south coast in the
years to come, or where our next water increments will come from, there’s nothing
wrong with throttling back on big, ugly, poorly located buildings, until we do.

Finally, if the 60’ building height we’ve had for the last 50 years was in any way
connected to providing more “affordble housing”, as some Measure B opponents
blithely state, why has so little of it been created by the same group of landowners
and developers who might be affected if Measure B passes?

So, please keep Karen’s elegant, thought-provoking essays coming. But Vote YES
on Measure B, as an extra insurance policy for the immediate future.

» on 10.28.09 @ 02:05 AM

Bravo Karen.  Height limits are already in place, but with Measure B nothing is said about set-back lmits.  Builders will build to the limit of their ability and destroy any semblance of balance between building and street. Measure B is too poorly worded, and maybe in the future, another more well thought sensible height limit measure will be on the ballot and prevail.  In this instance, I hope Measure B fails.  And yes, there are more hills where homes can be built, and the city will expand into the fire zones that will require more resources to defend from fires and floods.  I vote for No on Measure B.

» on 10.28.09 @ 02:36 AM

I am here to tell you, building heights are the smallest issue facing someone trying to live and work down here. Try going to the Farmer’s Market on Tuesday - you’ll get hit up by 5+ homeless guys who will get very aggressive and haggle with you. If you get past them, there will be the skateboarders zooming down State in full view of the ‘No Skateboarding on Sidewalks’ who will fight with you when you ask them to let you pass. Then there’s the gangbangers tagging your property in their senseless war. Who cares about building heights when there are pot shops going in on every corner? Please put in nice buildings, if you want, but if you live or work down here, you’ll spend all your time at Planning Commission, Ordinance Committee, and City Council meetings begging the city to protect your neighborhood.

A nice liveable, walkable downtown where we can all live closely and walk everywhere is a liberal fantasy. The reality is pretty harsh, people. That’s why nothing sold in Chapala One, and there it sits, vacant and in foreclosure.

» on 10.28.09 @ 04:53 AM

sbperspective, you just don’t know what you are talking about!

The Save El Pueblo Viejo committee , made up of dozens of leading citizens and which also including numerous respected local architects with a combined experience of literally hundreds of years, spent a whole year presenting our ideas to numerous local organizations and hundreds of people before deciding on 40 feet as our consensus. some wanted 35 feet, some 38 feet, some 40 feet and some 42 feet and some 45 feet.

40 feet was selected after a whole year of careful study and dialog.  Only then did we write the petition and collect the signatures. 

So anyone can see that 40 feet was not some arbitrary number but was a consensus and compromise between literally hundreds of citizens including many local highly experiences and respected architects.

We noticed during our extensive evaluation of heights of existing buildings that 40 feet buildings, like the one directly across De la Guerra plaza from city hall, were quite attractive and had human scale but that many 45 foot building appeared just too tall and human scale was lacking. less human scale.

Interesting to note that few of those against measure B say that a 60 foot building is attractive rather they base all their arguments on thighs other than aesthetics.

The most important factor is that the development community no longer want us to follow the tried and true slow growth path that we have been on for 40 years but have a new high density smart growth vision for Santa Barbara and actually want to grow our population to 200,000 and actually want to build dozens and dozens of now 4 story 60 foot monster buildings just like those on Chapala.  And that’s why they are fighting measure B, because under measure B they can’t fulfill their vertical high density growth social experiment vision and totally transform and super size our city.

Follow the money and look at the development community professions of the no on B committee and one can easily see the greedy development community is behind no on B.

But the voters are now are wise to the development community’s vertical high density vision to transform and super-size our city and we voters just wont stand for it.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE—-Send the developers the message—-Our city is not for sale—-Our city is not ripe for the plucking—-just say no to the greedy developers by voting Yes on measure B and protect your quality of life and small town character!

» on 10.28.09 @ 05:12 AM

I wouldn’t live in Chapala one if you gave me a free unit! 

Its an instant slim and a high crime area for God sakes with Pimps, whores, drug dealers, graffiti, low-life gang bangers stabbing and robbing everybody who dares to walk after dark, homeless , panhandlers and lots and lots of crime with the drug addicts breaking into every housing unit in sight to steal whatever they can carry and sell it for their next fix,—-
—-not to mention the air pollution, noise and odors of living over a pizza place or the problem of living over a pot store or thee street light shining into your bedroom window all night or the sound of police sirens all night.

Where are your pets suppose to go? 

And where are your kids supposed to play or walk to school. Just where are these parks one can walk to. if there were any downtown they would be full of homeless sleeping, drinking wine, and begging and pissing ( and worse) in them.

If I wanted to live in some tenement I would have stayed in new Your City.
and now city planning an transportation staff and Helene Schneider, Grant House,  and Das Williams are trying to turn Santa Barbara into New York City. 

One would have to have their head examined to buy one of these new units on the 4th floor of one of these instant tenement slums like those in Chapala.

Wake up, City staff and accept the fact that your smart growth social experiment failed—before we have to run you out of town.  Some heads are going to roll in the City senior transportation staff and City senior planning staff when we elect a new Mayor and City council.  Shape up or get ready to ship out!

» on 10.28.09 @ 11:44 AM

Measure B affects the height of a building; it is not a growth control tool. Those of you being duped by the wealthy retirees into thinking this, will be in for a big surprise when the next spurt of building takes place that your height limit did not stop.
There are much better ways to control growth and prevent the type of development that SEPV wants to stop. But those methods are not looked at because the entire city is now wrapped around the axle over an architectural limit. I do not agree with most of the loopy environment community here and their credibility is moot in my book, so Karen’s article is a conundrum. Unfortunately many conservatives are running knee jerk reactions up the wazoo over this. It doesn’t matter if loopy lefty liberals are anti B. They are right about their opposition even if they reasons they give are dead wrong. Measure B will not stop growth; it can’t, as it affects a single building dimension. What some are trying to do with this measure is reduce density (see Less is More’s comments).
The better way to do it is density limits, over an area, where those limits can be traded. This allows for the occasional taller mixed use building but prevents the canyon effect (a term that is way over used and inappropriate for the short buildings lining out streets) by requiring the taller building to buy up its neighbors density, thus reducing or preventing tall buildings from being built adjacent to each other. Area wide density is preserved so that population/landuse is controlled and all without turning the downtown of one of the few urban city cores in So Cal into a suburban strip mall.
I have accused SEPV and its supporters of trying to turn SB into a private wealthy retirement community, and so far that may be their intent. More power to them, but the city belongs to us all and as much as I would like even wealthy retirees to have the opportunity to live here, that’s no reason to stamp the skyline down and close the gates. After all, unless you were born here, growth had to occur so YOU could live here. Remember, preservation, like preservatives, is for dead things. Our city has been dead long enough and though some are proud of the formaldehyde approach, it only slows the rot and decay down it doesn’t stop it.

» on 10.28.09 @ 12:59 PM

The current crop of “planners” were indoctrinated into these social engineering agendas, probably in college. They are taught such things as how to overcome resistance by what they cnsider to be ignorant NIMBY’S. No matter what, they intend to foist these agendas upon the citizenry whether they are wanted or not, under the guise of “smart growth”. Their pious viewpoint is, that all of us “non-planners” who have lived here and loved Santa Barbara for genrations, know nothing.

There is NO clearer example of a complete lack of common sense and understanding of human nature than that displayed by their policies and the policies of the City Council members that appointed them.

All they needed to do was study the reasons why millions of American citizens fled from cities where “compact growth” and high rise tenements meant a high rise in noise, light and air polution. Where “compact growth” meant more crime, less privacy, less “greenery” and a dismal canyonization that emphasized buildings rather than what natural beauty that may have existed in the remaining open space, skyviews and landscaping. All the bicycles and buses, or silly “buzzwords” would not have changed their exodus from urbana to suburbia!

Yes “Chapala one” was a call to arms because it represented the inability of these “new wave planners” to understand what made Santa Barbara unique.  So like the pied pipers of destruction, they used every excuse in the world to thrust this social engineering upon the citizens from “sustainability”, through “compact development”, “smart growth” and “green” buildings to “affordable housing”, “pedestrian friendly” streets to “alternative transportation”, etc.

These ridiculous “buzzwords” were their mantra to convince the foolish politicians that their social agenda was right for Santa Barbara whether the people wanted it or not.  When they learned that ther people here would not follow the beat of their drum they ignored them. Instead they set about to concoct ways to try to force people to do so by taking away their ability to drive, their places to park. Taking away any hope of living in a single family home with a little yard or living in a relatively uncrowded polution free environment telling us we would have to live in box like apartments in massive ugly and even taller buildings close to downtown where those few jobs that are available to “walk to” are virtually all low paying and minimum wage jobs likely assuring the residents no avenue of escape from this “vision” of the new Santa Barbara.

These are ther utopian social engineers that have been driving the City of Santa barbara. Carpetbaggers like Helene Schneider coming here from New Jersey or wherever she came from, telling those of us who have lived here for decades, what is best for us and we just don’t know it yet. Grant House who never saw a density project or a traffic hazard he didn’t like, or Das Williams a political hack of the worst type who could care less about Santa Barbara and is only concerned about where the next rung in his ascent up the political ladder is!

As I have said before, measure B is not the panacea for righting the loose cannons who have been at the helm of Santa Barbara, it is merely a step towards taking back the City of from most of these out of touch politicans in power now.  To quote a famous line from an old movie, “We are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore”!

» on 10.28.09 @ 01:35 PM

reply to “reply to sbperspective”

It’s interesting to hear that “the building across from the City Hall” is just right.  That building, known as the La Placita building, was built after the 1925 earthquake to replace the destroyed McKay Building.  I agree it’s a good height and scale for De La Guerra Plaza.  It’s also approximately 45 feet tall.  Measure B has identified that building, as well as the 50-feet-tall News-Press building on the same plaza, as worthy of being “non-conforming” with regard to city regulations.  And my point is that it appears the experienced leading citizens who drafted this measure didn’t know how tall it is, and likely forgot about the Lobero Theatre, the Montecito Bank and Trust Building, the Lobero Building, the Masonic Temple, the Museum of Art, the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and many other landmark buildings which are, and have been, just right.  And the reasons they’re “just right”, such as their small footprints, adjacency to open space, or relatively small mass, have been ignored in order to focus on the simplistic single issue: height. 

I’m sure there was dialog among the SEPV group.  Study, not so much, as the record shows.  Where did the building height data come from?  Not from the city…their records are embarrassingly incomplete, as the No on B group has learned.  Did any SEPV members do their own survey?  Your and other B-proponents’ comments suggest not.

And since I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll refer you to the city’s official design guideline booklet for El Pueblo Viejo.  Over one third of the examples cited in that document as “good design” are over 40 feet.  See for yourself, and then wonder how the “study” part of SEPV’s initial meetings ignored the city’s well-documented context.

And one more thing:  I’m talking about aesthetics.  The kind these over-40-feet buildings display:

» on 10.28.09 @ 04:32 PM

How is it possible that bringing more people into the area is “sustainable”?  To me, sustainability means we can live within our means (read natural resources).  We live in a coastal desert (I learned that in second grade at Franklin school in our conservation unit), people.  And desert is the operative word.  That means limited, unreliable water source.  What is the one thing humans need to survive?  Water.  What do we already have in short supply?  Water.  What will more people use more of?  Water.  The position that sustainability means taller buildings with more people is absolutely ludicrous.  This is a finite area nestled between the foothills and the ocean with an unreliable water supply.  We are at our “sustainable” limit.  BTW, both sets of my husband’s and my Grandparents came here in the 1920’s, my parents were born and raised here, my husband and I were born and raised here and our children were born and raised here…..we’re not recent LA transplants who want to close the door behind us.

» on 10.28.09 @ 07:35 PM

When I said you didn’t know what you were talking about i was only referring to your comment that Save El Pueblo Viejo didn’t adequately study where to draw the line at.

in that you were wrong because you didn’t know just how much time we spent on that single question. literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of discussions by literally hundreds of residents including many community leader and many respected and knowledgeable architects.  The criteria we used didn’t include the statement in the Save El Pueblo Design booklet listing which buildings were examples of good design.
And yes we went to great lengths to determine the heights of many existing buildings. the bottom line was that the consensus of hundreds was that many of our landmark buildings were just too high and even though some of them were attractive due to various reasons such as setback that allowing the same height would result in many new buildings being excessively tall.  We decided that most of us could all live with 40 feet new buildings, but we also decided that 45 feet was just too tall for the historic character of EL Pueblo Viejo—and that 45 feet just crossed the line for having human scale and charm.  yes, it was an aesthetic judgement call but the whole point I am making is that it was done with great care and after extensive study and discussion and compromise over a whole year and involving literally hundreds of people.

The point is that if we had to do it again it would be the same and certainly no more than 45 feet over thee entire town including El pueblo Viejo. 

We also took into consideration that the council is going to re-define the definition if height and probably to measure height to the mid point of a roof so this effectively adds yet another 5 feet.  So a ridge can be 45 feet in El pueblo Viejo which is enough for any 3 story mixed use building.

We don’t want any 4 story buildings anyway—-even for housing but towers are exempt so one can still do a church similar to those downtown, etc.

» on 10.28.09 @ 08:54 PM

Tomahawkdeb, good point, only problem is that we are not sustainable now. You would have to get rid of 75% of the current population to achieve this so called sustainability (code for kill capitalism and return the middle class to serfdom). So the lefties really step in it every time they bring that word up (like JAX said, they’re just using buzzwords without one wit of understanding the underlying science technology or philosophy).
As for you JAX, measure B is nothing more than spite! Well go ahead and cut off your nose then to spite your face. Or you could lobby to throw the bums who have been screwing up out of office instead of wrecking our city just to show them you mean business. Sheeesh! You along with your wealthy retired friends at SEPV will be in for one hell of a surprise when you find measure B didn’t do a ding dong damn thing to solve any of the problems you all think are related to the height of a building

» on 10.29.09 @ 04:14 AM

reply to “reply to sbperspective”

OK, I’ll take one more go at this, although it seems we’ve reached the end of evidence-based discussion.  You’ve singled out the La Placita Building in De La Guerra Plaza for representing the “human scale” that Measure B is aiming for, yet it is in fact 45 feet tall.  You’ve described how SEPV’s literally hundreds of hours studying and discussing whether 35, 38, 40, 42, or 45 feet would provide this human scale arrived at a preferred 40 foot height limit.  And you state that SEPV found that many of the taller landmark buildings over 40 feet (which date back to pre-1925 earthquake days, such as the Montecito Bank and Trust Building of 1920) are in conflict with the “historic” character of EPV.  Can historic buildings actually be in conflict with a region’s historic character?  And you still claim that the 40 foot limit is not arbitrary?  Can any of this really make any sense to you?  And that would be a rhetorical question.  Another response is not necessary.

» on 10.29.09 @ 02:59 PM

sbperspective, I can see that you are a knowledgeable and intelligent person.

I can see that you got some of what I was trying to convey:
1. That the 40 foot was selected with great care and after great effort, discussion and compromise—and that we did know thee heights of the existing buildings.

but you still don’t get two important points:
1. I did not say:  that SEPV found that many of the taller landmark buildings over 40 feet (which date back to pre-1925 earthquake days, such as the Montecito Bank and Trust Building of 1920) are in conflict with the “historic” character of EPV.  What I said was that if we used the height of some of these tall buildings that we all like as the height limit that many new building built to that height would be harmful to the small town character of Santa Barbara that we are trying to maintain. Case in point; the new monstrosities on chapala.  The point is that we have to prevent a few beautiful new 60 foot buildings in order to prevent a whole lot of ugly ones.  ( yes the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater). This is because we can’t trust the architects, ABR, PC or council.  The people needed to take matters into their own hands and put it min the charter to prevent dozens and dozens more behemoth monstrosities like those on chapala.  Don’t you dare say there would never be another one!  Some of the smart growth no on B advocates want a lot of 75 feet buildings, and desire Santa Barbara to grow to 150,000 or 200,000, or more, over the next 50 years. 

2. I agree with you that the 40 feet was arbitrary.  but what you just don’t get is that ANY number is arbitrary.  75 feet is arbitrary, 60 feet is arbitrary, 50 feet is arbitrary 45 feet is arbitrary.

The number was set by aesthetic judgement and aesthetics is arbitrary!  Aesthetics is but a matter of opinion.  Our opinion is that 40 or 45 feet is the maximum height acceptable to us.  Your opinion might be that 50, 55, 60 or even 75 feet might be acceptable to you. YOUR NUMBER IS JUST AS ARBITRARY AS OURS!

Certainly you don’t think thee way to do it is to take thee tallest building in town and say that will be our limit because it is determined by how high our tallest historic buildings are (which were built before there was a limit).

Now we did include this thinking also which had nothing to do with aesthetics. We wanted to make sure that almost any three story mixed use building could be built and we determined this number to be 40 feet.  Proof of this is that most all recent proposals for 3 story projects, including Radio square,  are coming in at 40 feet.  Coast Village road was much less than 40 feet.  IT CAN BE DONE!  Yes the peak of the roof of the the La Placita Building in De La Guerra Plaza for representing the “human scale” that Measure B is aiming for is 45 feet . We knew that.  But the parapet is not more than 40 feet and the city council is going to change the definition of height, with our help, to be the midpoint of a sloped roof ad so the ridge can be about 45 feet.  45 feet can still appear quite tall and bulky.  So we still need the ABR to make sure 40 and 45 foot buildings have small town human scale.

And that is not the only building that we used to determine where to draw the line between small town character human scale and excessive scale.

And yes, some of us, like me, wanted to use 45 feet everywhere in the city but were in the minority.  Yes, Dave Davis said he could live with 45 feet.  In hindsight maybe we should have used 45 feet but then with the change in definition of how height is measured the ridge could be 50 feet and this is very close to more monstrosities like those on Chapala and so would allow many more like them—and we are determined to prevent that.  If the architects had policed themselves we wouldn’t have had to resort to this initiative!  So you can thank Detty for this!

And , yes, we fully agree that setbacks is a part of the equation. But state law restricts a ballot measure to one issue only so we picked heights as the fist one to start with. but we will tackle setbacks next.  Work with us on setbacks and we will all do it together.  Or don’t work with us and we will put another ballot measure to deal with setbacks and let the voters decide.  After all,  it’s their city, and their not as dumb as you give them credit for.

» on 10.29.09 @ 06:00 PM

reply to “reply to sbperspective”

What have we learned about your pro-B position from your last comment?  We’ve learned that Measure B will throw the baby out with the bathwater, that the 40 foot limit is arbitrary, but that all numbers are arbitrary, and we’ve learned that aesthetics are arbitrary.  We’ve learned that Measure B supporters think that 45 feet would have been a better height limit, but they are counting on city council to change the city’s height limit definition to something other than the top of a roof’s ridge, thereby allowing higher maximum heights in all zones, not just commercial (houses 35 feet high!).  And why didn’t they just propose just a 45 foot limit to begin with after their hundreds of hours of study and dialog?  Oh, then we learned that we can’t trust architects, the Planning Commission, or City Council.  Wait… but City Council was going to fix Measure B’s problems!  Who can we trust?  Parks and Recreation?  Maybe they should design and approve future projects.

Seriously:  the answer you are looking for is beyond height limits.  The unacceptable nature of the buildings you cite is their mass, especially their excessively large footprint.  Height is but one element, regardless of what the Measure B gurus are telling you.  That is why the tall historic buildings are assets to the community and the tradition of Santa Barbara’s urban design standards.  Their designs are in harmony with their surroundings in all categories including height, breadth, setbacks, wall articulation, and landscape.

» on 10.29.09 @ 08:10 PM

Sbperspective, your arguments and logic are of course brilliant. But you are arguing with a closed and narrow mind. These people don’t give a damn about what is right only what they want. They want short buildings because that is what they like. Everything else they say is a big lie (see the thread on “Measure B Debate Turns to Reconstruction After Disaster”, where they actually admit their true motives).

» on 10.29.09 @ 08:43 PM

sbperspective”, I support measure B but I agree with you on much of what you say.
We agree that this is a very complicated subject.

Yes, heights is but one issue and but one part of the puzzle.  But heights is a major factor and there has to be a height limit.  All you and I disagree on is just what that limit is.

I think it should be 45 feet.  You haven’t said yet what you could live with but maybe you could live with 50 feet?  The point being that we are not that far off.  And does Santa Barbara , which id almost fully built out really need 4 stories?  Pleases tell me why you can’t live with 3 stories?  Would you have been happy if we had left the height at 60 feet and just put in a limit of 3 stories?

And if we can agree on 3 stories than surely you can agree that 45 feet is enough to design a nice 3 story building.  The proposed Radio square did it and it looked fully functional beautiful to me at that height, but I couldn’t live with any more.  But was a little big and a little tall still for some.  My guess is that you would find it fully acceptable in appearance and agree that further height would not improve the aesthetics of it. that architect tried a four story design and it was totally out of the question for Santa Barbara small town character.

Architects can design a really beautiful building in 40 and 45 feet!  So the lower building height is not going to hurt our town aesthetically and you may be surprised—it just might prevent some monstrosities.

You and I fully agree on one thing.  The main problem is the bulk.  All measure b is doing is taking on heights first.  We are not about to leave the problem of bulk unaddressed.    We are going to take on that important issue next.  We tried in good faith to work with you guys on height issue, but the No on B folks dug in their heels and refused to give up their demand for an exception for affordable housing.    If you had compromised and given that up we were ready to have compromised and gone to 45 feet and also agreed to an exception for a community priority projects like cottage hospital—but not for affordable housing.

Our recent survey has shown that Measure B is going to pass Tuesday by 60% to 40%.

You need to make a decision whether to work with us on the remaining issues of bulk, setbacks and density where both sides compromise and come to consensus or we will be forced to put more initiatives on the ballot as a last resort.  We agree that working together is the best approach and we are prepared to do that in good faith.  Are you?

» on 10.29.09 @ 10:00 PM

reply to “reply to sbperspective”

Well, as it’s been commented, I don’t really seem to be getting through.  40 feet is absurdly low, and the fact that you wish it was 45 feet doesn’t seem to correct the situation.

This proposal was arrived at due to dissatisfaction with one building and one particular building type:  mixed use residential.  Measure B is wrapped up in this one building type of the moment, and is unable to address and provide for the particular architecture of meeting halls, hospitals, galleries, performance halls, shopping centers, parking structures, places of worship, museums, amphitheatres, and other vital elements of real cities.  And if passed it will cast a shadow on them all for generations to come.  You seem to enjoy imagining No on B people wanting crowded, dysfunctional cities.  Visit a place like Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley.  It has about the same population as Santa Barbara, is the civic center for the Valley although a part of the City of Los Angeles.  It has sprawling low-rise buildings, wide boulevards, and absolutely no recognizable urban design concept.  It is amorphous, characterless chaos.  You will be glad to return to this city with 40 to 60 feet tall buildings and a strong image of a confident city with a clear sense of style.

So no, we are on different planets with regard to our views.  And reciting dubious poll numbers doesn’t make your position any more valid; it’s just sad how people in this fine town have been deceived.

» on 10.30.09 @ 02:18 AM

“reply to sbperspective”, just who do you think you are?

Your opinion means nothing, as it is but one personal opinion as to aesthetics.

My opinion means nothing, as it is just one personal opinion as to aesthetics.

But the whole point is that my aesthetic opinion is every bit as valid as your aesthetic opinion, and I say 50 feet high buildings for Santa Barbara are just REDICULOUS.

For get I mentioned opinion polls.  That statement meant nothing!

The fact is that with 5 days left and three weeks of voting behind us this height decision has already been made by the voters and the remaining votes are not going to change that.

So Tuesday night we shall see what the will of the Santa Barbara voters is.  Learn to deal with it!

Unlike you, I give credit to the voters to be intelligent enough to understand this issue enough to make up their own minds about what they want to see in THEIR TOWN. 

Yes, my friend, it is THEIR town.  Not your town.  Not my town.

Don’t you ever tell me it’s sad how people in this fine town have been deceived by us.  Because they have been deceived, and lied to, over and over by the lying No on B greedy development community with all of your Red herrings!  AND THAT MEANS YOU, sbperspective.

» on 10.30.09 @ 01:39 PM

“reply”. Your emotional breakdown here as on other threads is well documented. Do your side a favor and let someone else carry the torch. Yes you have deceived. You have spilled across many comments in various venues the lie that this measure is about stopping or slowing growth when in fact it’s just a matter of your taste. That’s ok, really! We have already shown the deception long ago which you have not been able to refute logically. So when cornered you finally admit your hatred of tall structures. Hey to each his own! You go man! But I will tell you this, your aesthetic desire sucks.

It is inappropriate for a city this size and yes it does matter that your loony aesthetics are wrong. It matters how things look and react together in an urban environment or we wouldn’t have ABR’s, zoning, ordinances or whacky citizen groups putting daffy measures like B on ballots. So I hate to jab you in the ribs AGAIN but you are wrong AGAIN. Our personal aesthetics do matter and it matters why we have them. As I have pointed out numerous times there is a reason why people like things they what they do and it is relevant whether or not those aesthetic desires are a good fit, make sense and have little unintended consequences for the whole community.

Your absurd desire to imprint a small village aesthetic on a city of 90,000 is illogical and emotionally driven. You can have all that small town feel you want, you just have to find a small town to do it in. Trying to do it to a city the size of SB is like trying to force your 40 year old son to wear the clothes he wore when he was 10. It may make you feel good about your middle aged son returning to his past when he was a little boy but oh God do you really want him out in public dressed like that? Well measure B is the answer. Yes you want to embarrass our city with this delusion of smallness that doesn’t exist anymore and cannot be forced.

Yes you can overlook the history, culture and promise this city once had if you can only delude yourself into believing it is good. SEPV has done that and done well in convincing the public the same. But it is not good, it is wrong and no matter how much you shout and scream or how many people you connive into joining this insanity you cannot change either of those facts.

BTW - sbperspective, my apologies for stepping in the middle of your conversation with “lester the skyline molester”, but I just can’t help myself!

» on 10.30.09 @ 02:52 PM


It is YOU who still does not get it!

Santa Barbara looks the way it is.  You, and the no on B folks do not like it.  You and the No on b folks want to add a lot more tall buildings.

Why can’t you get it through your thick skull that the vast majority of the voters love Santa Barbara the way it looks right now.  We don’t want to change it into the look of New Your city just because you think it would look better.

the reason Santa Barbara looks the way she does is that the vast majority of the buildings downtown are 2 story. with a few 1 story and a very few 3 story and almost none over 3 story except for a few landmarks.  It is this low density that gives our city its appearance and its small town feel.  We don’t want to squash it flat and measure B wont do that.  All measure B does is require all new buildings to be of the same character as the existing buildings which will keep Santa Barbara looking the same way it does now.  The vast majority of the voters want that, and measure B gives them that.  If the majority had the same esthetic taste as you then they would be voting no instead of yes.  But they are not.  So this is not a debate about the esthetic preference of you and me but is about the esthetic preference of the voters.
Measure B allows the voters to say how Santa Barbara is going to look in the future.
And thats what you have a problem with—-the voters deciding instead of you. 

Measure B is about much more than esthetics. Measure B will slow growth and keep our city sustainable and living within our resources.  Measure B will prevent overpopulation and traffic congestion.  Measure B will preserve our small town feel and most important measure B will preserve our quality of life!

Stop high rise development and vote Yes on measure B!

» on 10.30.09 @ 05:29 PM

Less I don’t care that people suffer the same delusion you do. It’s still wrong. Look, what if the citizen group measure was to allow 30 and 40 story high rises, because that’s what they liked? Would it matter if they were a majority? Of course not! It would be wrong for such a measure, even if by a majority of voters, it were implemented. I would be fighting right along side you to defeat it for the very same reason I am fighting you now, its wrong. Your measure is wrong and having a bunch of lemming voters follow you does not make it right. You’re still trying to dress that 40 year old in a10 year olds clothing. It doesn’t matter if you, SEPV or half the loopy voters like it, it’s discussing, inappropriate and delusional.

Less look at all the major cities around the world before the advent of structural steel construction. They all have the same appearance, dense low rise architecture with little vertical variety. Why? Because technology only allowed for 4 to 6 stories, so most cities built out to that height until the entire city was the same height. That’s what the existing limit has done to SB and your limit will exasperate that affect. It is aesthetically and architecturally abhorrent. So screaming and jumping up and down that its what people want doesn’t matter.

You know the old adage; would you jump off a bridge if SEPV told you to? Nope. So the people have a choice, join your insanity or look at some much better alternatives. Let’s hope they choose to do the right thing and vote the nut job measure down. When they do that I’ll look you up, you can throw a beer in my face cuss at me and get it all out of your system, and then we can work on that better alternative. But Less, it will include taller buildings because that’s the right thing to do.

» on 10.31.09 @ 01:08 AM

You say tall buildings are the right thing to do.  I say tall building is not the right thing to do.

Now just what makes you think your judgement call and your aesthetic opinion is more valid than mine.  What makes you think your aesthetic training or aesthetic ability or aesthetic judgement is more than mine.  Might it just not be possible that I know just as much about this subject as you do—or maybe even more?  Would you care to match architectural design education, experience or ability?  I have designed over 350 buildings in my lifetime.  How many have you designed?

You say short buildings are disgusting, inappropriate and delusional.
I say 60 feet tall building are disgusting, inappropriate and delusional.

Just what make you think your opinion on this building height matter is the correct one for Santa Barbara.

You say I am delusional
I say it is you, AN50 who is delusional!

But this doesn’t matter as in just 4 short days the voters, in their wisdom and their preference,  are going to decide this matter for us.

And when measure B passes, as it is going to 60% to 40%, you can bitch and moan how stupid the majority of the voters are and how you, AN50 in your brilliance know what’s best for them.

Thank God this is America and the majority rules and not the likes of you, who thinks you know what best for all the rest of us.


» on 11.02.09 @ 02:53 PM

Less, you poor devil. It doesn’t matter to me what your professional credentials are. In this kind of forum it is meaningless to even bring them up. I can say I have designed as many buildings or that I have designed communities and cities, so what? What matters is how you demonstrate those credentials in the discussion. So far what I hear from you is “I hate anything over 3 stories and see no need for anything taller and that’s that, period end of discussion.” I try to counter that with a few tid bits of info I have picked over the decades on urban design principles and you tell me that’s my opinion and it doesn’t matter. Ok, then neither does yours OK?

So who it right? Well I am of course! My discussion points, minus my constant and annoying ribbing of you guys, has been thoughtful and logical. I have done an adequate job of dissecting your talking points and showing their fallacy. Your response seems to be “well I’m the professional so I don’t care if you make more sense, it’s my way or the highway and besides we convinced a whole lot of voters that we are right so therefore we are!” Yep if only lawyers ran the world! Well they do and they have really done a good job convincing everyone else they are right when in fact they are not.

So my suggestion, my friend, is take a chill pill, forget about the professional credentials (I’m not challenging yours anyway), and tell people why you hate tall buildings instead of trying to convince people your hatred is justified by your emotions. I don’t hate buildings of any size, just where they are put. There is a place for everything, including your short buildings; it’s just not in the downtown central business district of a city of 90,000. That’s irrational and illogical and really doesn’t even look good. Quit obsessing over this small town crap that does not exist and start dealing with the problems we have as a midsized city with big city problems. You cannot create the small town charm you all seem to think we have with a building dimension. That kind of character depends on the type of people who live in a city and how many people there are. You have too many people already (since 1905 at that!) and people here are the most selfish, stuck up, narcissist on the planet so forget the charm. We cannot duplicate smallness when we already are not. You just look like an old man trying to relive his youth by wearing smaller clothes, not very pretty.

» on 11.03.09 @ 12:11 AM

We were not arguing about credentials.
No matter what I say you always miss the point and always find a way to twist my words and spin it into something different than the point—thus eliminating or dismissing my counter to your point.

You have stated 1000 times that you aesthetically prefer tall buildings and therefore somehow that what’s right for Santa Barbara.

I have responded 1000 times with the inconvenient fact that the majority of the voters, me included, like the aesthetic appearance the way Santa Barbara is now which is primarily that of small 1,2 and 3 story buildings—with a smattering of tall buildings.  I have been trying to make the point that our aesthetic taste and preference is just as valid as yours—even for a city of 90,000!

I have made the point that beauty and aesthetics is in the mind of the beholder and is thus SUBJECTIVE.  I agree with you that subjective does not make it factually right.
I never said I was right .  I merely said I was as right as you and our preference for shorter buildings is every bit as valid as your preference for tall ones.

I agree with you that there is a time and place for everything.  I don’t dislike tall buildings per-se.  They are just fine for another city.  We are talking about Santa Barbara in this discussion and many of us prefer for Santa barbara to remain aesthetically pretty much the same way it appears now.  Of course there will be change.  But my point is why cant a new building be 3 stories and 45 feet instead of 4 stories and 60 feet.

Now I often have given you many specific examples of what’s bad about tall buildings.  You seem to simply ‘dismiss’ anything I say.

for example:
1. Tall building block mountain views.
2. Tall buildings block the sunlight from walks, paseos, and plazas.  Shade is gloomy while the sun is cheerful.
3. Tall buildings when built right up to the sidewalk give a canonization effect.
4. Tall buildings located next to shorter historic ones detract aesthetically from the historic ones and are not compatible.
5. We don;t want any more monster 4 story 60 feet tall buildings like those on Chapala.
6. Tall buildings hold more stories and thus more units and thus cause more population growth which in turn causes more traffic congestion.

these are all very valid concerns and are shared by a majority of the voters and proof of this is that measure b is going to win by a 60% to 40% landslide victory.  sending clear message to the likes of AN50 that the majority doesn’t agree with him on matters ofd aesthetics for our town. 

Now we didn’t trick the voters into voting yes on B.  the voters are not stupid and they heard all the counter arguments by the No on B folks who raised more and spent more money on their campaign as we did.  And they told many more lies than we did. in fact we didn’t tell any lies—just stated things as we see it. 

My guess is that when measure B passes tomorrow that AN50 says that the voters are stupid and claims he knows what’s best for them if they had only listened to him (his garbage that is) .

I can’t day its been fun debating with a cocky, arrogant, know-it-all, one sided, biased rock, without an open mind, who dismisses any aesthetic opinion as incorrect when it differs from his own.

» on 11.03.09 @ 11:46 AM

Your description is for a small town. Quit trying to clothe a big town in small town clothes. What you still don’t get is your aesthetic is wrong for this city and it doesn’t matter how many agree with you. Wrong is wrong and numbers don’t mean a thing. You may get your way, but it is the wrong way, and at the end of the road you will have to pay.

» on 11.03.09 @ 01:01 PM

Re: “Less Is More’s” list

1. Tall buildings don’t in themselves block mountain views if designed properly.  In fact, they can protect views by rearranging the mass of the building out of view corridors.  The DA building on Santa Barbara Street (over 40 feet tall) was so designed. 
2.  Tall buildings can provide shade on hot, sunny days, too.  And they can encourage the preservation of open space in the urban design pattern by easing pressure on building at ground level. 
3.  Tall buildings can be presented as monolithic walls (I prefer that term to the silly “canyonizing”) if not set back from the street.  This can be mitigated by breaking the wall with open space (again, facilitated by building taller) and by articulating the wall with balconies, columns, and sculptural fenestration (windows).  And a 2 or 3-story building can be every bit offensive in this regard as a 4-story building.  The height has little to do with it.
4.  Tall buildings can complement any adjacent building, historic or not, tall or short.  Setbacks and small footprints are two of the most effective tools.  The 50-to-100 foot tall Courthouse was once a new tall building in a historic neighborhood.  The designers chose to create a 60-foot deep landscaped setback around the entire building.  We now have a “building in a park”, enhancing the entire area.
5.  First of all, only small portions of the buildings on Chapala are 60 feet tall.  And their greatest failure is their mass—-large footprints—-and inadequate setbacks with provision for landscape.  It would be nice to hear about at least one or two other recent examples of these “monsters” that haven’t been beaten to death.
6.  Tall buildings hold more stories, of course.  They don’t hold more units.  LARGER buildings hold more units.  Why is that so hard for some people to understand the concept of larger vs. taller?  The issue is not building heights.  And simply saying it is over and over does not make it true.

» on 11.03.09 @ 04:38 PM

No AN50

My description is of Santa Barbara just the way it is.

O.k. you win—- Santa Barbara is not a small town.

but you still miss the whole point:

You pick a word that describes the aesthetic character of Santa Barbara.

The whole point is that whatever word you picked that is what we like and that is how we want to keep Santa Barbara looking for the next 20 years.

We don’t want to change the aesthetic character Santa Barbara.  We love the aesthetic character of santa Barbara just the way it is.
it is you and the No on B folks, consisting mainly of members of the development community, who want to change the aesthetic character of Santa Barbara, by adding a whole lot of 4 story tall buildings. 

Its really a very simple matter.  The voters are going to decide tonight whether they side with us and like Santa Barbara aesthetically the way it is and want to keep it that way by voting yes on B or they are going to side with you and the No on B development community and say its o.k. to super size our city add a whole lot more tall 4 story buildings like those on Chapala.

So the aesthetic future of Santa Barbara is in the hands of the voters to decide, and it really doesn’t matter one whit what you or I want.

» on 11.03.09 @ 04:52 PM

reply to sbperspective:

I agree with most every one of your valid points.

But you miss the point here. 
Yes every aspect of architecture design must be addressed.  And we plan on addressing every single one of them.  But height is one of them and we selected height to tackle first.  Once that issue is settled by the voters we intend on taking on every single other issue.  The issue of height was not being allowed to be discussed or decided during plan Santa Barbara so we had no choice but to take it to the voters.  It appears we are going to be allowed by city planning staff to able to discuss density, mass, bulk scale, setbacks unit size and open space.
what you may not realize is that city staff has total control of what and when they allow to be discussed and decided by the general plan.  Staff is controlling this process with an iron hand.  Staff never once put the issue of height limits on the table for discussion and possible change, ( because staff wants to keep the 60 feet height limit) so some citizens took matters into their own hands to force the community to discuss it outside of plan Santa Barbara.  Sorry but this is the reality we are faced with! 

A biased Staff!

Who appear to have already known what outcome they wanted to see before the whole Plan Santa Barbara process started and staff appears to have been ‘steering’ us through the process in a way to end up with their desired conclusion.

» on 11.03.09 @ 05:39 PM

Hi Karen….my oh my you have stirred things up in SB!  Thought you might appreciate a note that just says “hi.”

» on 11.03.09 @ 08:08 PM

Less there is a place for obstinance and this isn’t one of them. Look at what sbperspective wrote. He is saying the same thing I’ve been trying to get through your thick scull for over a year now. There is height and there is bulk. Height limits only address height without controlling bulk. The result is a Chapala One, a Paseo Nuevo, the Double Tree and now the new Cottage hospital. All of these buildings were designed and built with “height” sensitivity and without regard to foot print. In fact all of these buildings typify the foot print you can expect with irresponsible height limits. You and SEPV have unwittingly condemned our city to massive ground swallowing structures, like these examples. You chose a single building dimension to solve a complex problem and you will pay. You will not find the missing charm you blindly go on about when your city is covered by these new Chapala One style buildings. Oh yes they may be a storey less in height but they will be massive structures none the less. Thanks for throwing all your professional experience and know how out the window for such a cheap and dirty solution.

» on 11.03.09 @ 11:34 PM

reply to AN50

AN50, No No No No No !
You got it wrong yet once again.
I always agreed with you that all these other design factors are crucial and must be dealt with.  Like density, unit size, setbacks and open space.
but what you don;t get is that height is also one of many crucial factors.  and it also has to be dealt with.

What you can’t seem to get through your thick skull is that we are just getting started.  We dealt with height and now we are going to deal with all the rest.

We could have just as well, have started with setbacks.

How many times do we have to inform you that state law only allows a citizen ballot measure to deal with one subject.  If we had picked setbacks then you would be complaining that setbacks is but one dimension and heights is also an important factor in aesthetics.

In an ideal world we could have dealt with all of it in Plan Santa Barbara.  But as you know this is not an ideal world.  SWe were facing two problems:

1. Plan Santa Barbara only deals with zoning ordinances and any future city council can grant a modification to height on any given tuesday. so we had to put it in the charter.  We went to city Council 2 1/2 years ago and begged them to do it but they refused!

2. The second problem is city planning staff.  City Planning staff are strong advocates for high density vertical smart growth and are using Plan Santa Barbara to implement it.  They strongly desire and need 60 feet to implement their vertical vision.  The planning process is but a sham and everybody in the community who is closely and actively involved in this process knows it. City staff had their vertical vision and knew what end results they wanted before the planning process even started.  Staff has been running, controlling and manipulating this process with a heavy iron hand from the very beginning. during the last 3 years there has been dozens of public meetings.  Tell me just one time when staff said : “Well folks today the subject of building heights is up for discussion and possible change.”  Never happened and never will or would have happened.  Staff came up with the concept of the MODA ( where they pan on tripling density from the existing 20 units per acre to 60 units per acre)not the public and staff never really asked the public if they wanted a MODA or not—it simply appeared in the plan one day and that was that.

So we had two choices—let staff have their way and implement their vertical vision and transformation
Take the decision away from staff and give it to the people to decide.
We chose the latter and the rest, as they say, is history. 

So if you want to blame anybody for measure B blame city staff.

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:37 PM

Less, I do get it. I get what you are trying to do and I agree with your analysis of the council’s dismal performance in this area. Drop the height limit and we are on the same side and always have been. At this point the argument is moot now that it appears measure B is defeated (much to my shock, but delight). However with the election over we cannot allow bitterness or resentment to take its place. We will have to work very hard to ensure that the physical attributes of our city are not destroyed by blindness or greed. You are right Less, we need to wrestle control from the oligarchy, the elitist and the politicians and return it to the people. But as you and I have discovered in the last year we are a stubborn and tenacious lot and that makes our job all the more difficult.

» on 11.04.09 @ 03:15 PM

You won AN50!

I will admit defeat like a man!  No bitterness or hard feeljngs here. The better man won!

The architects did an excellent job in finding the imperfections in the wording of measure B and pointing it out to the voters.  More power to them.

I fully admit measure B was not perfect.  But we learned from our mistakes!

Oh….....and by the way…...... this ain’t over.

Until next time.

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