Creating a sustainable community starts with smart development, utilizing infill sites or redeveloping land that is already served by infrastructure and is centrally located. Current development patterns often utilize open space and agricultural land, rather than redeveloping within urban areas, thus causing urban sprawl.
The other component of a truly sustainable community is socio-economic sustainability, which goes far beyond building materials and energy efficiency.
The Santa Barbara economy is primarily made up of retail, service and tourism sectors, which rely heavily on low-wage, entry-level workers. The expensive local housing market offers few housing opportunities for these workers. Many are forced to pay a large percent of their income on housing, double up with another household or commute from more affordable communities 30 to 60 miles away.
As many low- to moderate-income residents are forced to commute due to the lack of local affordable housing, the community bears the brunt of long automobile commutes: traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality and increased reliance on fossil fuels.
The 12 projects included in ArchitecTours on Oct. 5 create opportunities for Santa Barbara residents to live close to work, shopping, entertainment and recreation to counteract this effect.
El Carrillo, Cearnal Andrulaitis Architects
Recipient of the 2007 AIA-HUD Award for Excellence in Affordable Housing Design, this project is in the heart of Santa Barbara’s downtown. The location provides pedestrian access to local shops, markets, many employment opportunities and the city’s public transportation hub. A growing homeless population and closure of several affordable housing structures have forced many to seek shelter at transitional housing facilities. This project provides that desperately needed housing relief to an underserved population.
Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the site includes natural stone courtyards, native plants and a fountain. The courtyards offer serene gathering places and act as common space, encouraging neighbors to interact. Accessibility is ensured to all units via an elevator whose tower acts as the architectural centerpiece.
Bradley Studios, Peikert + RRM Design Group
This Craftsman-style infill project replaced a number of vacant and blighted buildings in a quaint downtown residential neighborhood. The buildings are connected by walkways, with most of the units opening onto a central courtyard. On-site amenities include a community room, a recreation room, laundry facilities and common open space.
The 53 studio units are targeted to low- and extremely-low income residents. Half of the units are reserved for residents with special needs — individuals who want to lead active, independent lives but need affordable housing, a supportive community and the services that this project provides. The other half are residents who work downtown, with preference given to applicants without cars.
The project received a significant density bonus and parking modification; the project exceeds Title-24 energy standards by 35 percent, solar photovoltaic panels offset electrical use and bio-swales treat on-site storm water.
Casa de Las Fuentes, Peikert + RRM Design Group
This 42-unit urban infill community was developed by the nonprofit Housing Authority and favors residents who work in the downtown area, allowing them to walk or bike. The design concept focused on village-like massing and mixed-use appearance along the transportation and commercial corridor.
The community room is located behind a deep arcade, which buffers the interior of the development from the street. This interior communal space is enhanced by a curved corner fireplace, heavy beamed ceilings salvaged from the former building onsite and a common kitchen.
Various outdoor community areas include a corner entry plaza with a traditional Spanish fountain, a curved tower element, quiet walkways (paseos) and landscaped courtyards with fountains.
The LOOP, DMHA and Mayer Architects
This project brings a new type of bold, striking architecture to Isla Vista. A mixed-use, private student housing project, it continues the transformation of the college town into a pedestrian downtown environment.
The centerpiece of the building is a 60-foot rusted cor-ten steel tower that leans sideways towards the park. Sections of the building are finished in different materials to suggest a neighborhood grown over time. The apartments were designed to be economical in size, which allows for higher density and more space for amenities and community areas.
The apartments are contemporary, with high ceilings and oversized windows creating light-filled, modern loft-type space. Most units have usable outdoor space, concrete floors, modern kitchens and barrier-free bathrooms. The ground floor accommodates several commercial spaces as well as a semi-automatic mechanical car lift garage.
The tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. Architects and their construction teams will be on-site to describe the design and construction solutions that make these projects fit the urban environment. The tour will wrap up with a festive party in the courtyard of The Lark in the Funk Zone.
Ticket prices are $65 for general admission and $55 for AIA members, students and seniors. For more information and online ticket purchases, click here or call 805.966.4198.
— Ellen Bildsten was 2011 president of AIA Santa Barbara.