Monday, March 19 , 2018, 7:59 am | Fair 41º


Letter to the Editor: City Design Board Serves Useful Purpose

What makes being on a local design review board a joy? Working with talented architects who are creating wonderful architecture in town. What makes it painful? Trying to pull weak architecture by weak designers into an acceptable category. How do you nicely tell people that what they believe will be an asset in town has the potential to be an eyesore?

The design review process is in place to ensure that our special Santa Barbara character and attention to detail don’t get lost with construction budget concerns and waves of modern design treads. We all can differ on what is appropriate for our city, yet once something that is not appropriate is built, it is too late to remove that building from our community.

Many people believe that design review is for reducing the size of a building or to lessen the appearance of a building. This is not the case. The skill of design reviewers is to make sure that the building belongs in the community. An oversized building, however nicely designed, will never fit in town if it is overshadowing its neighbor. At the same time, a well-designed building — even if it is twice the size of the neighboring building — can blend into community if the forms are in balance with its neighbor.

This is the dance that occurs on the design review board. It is not about the number of square feet or overall building height — it is about sculptural form.

Architecture is the slowest changing art form. Fashion design, art, media and music are ever changing with new ideas emerging on a regular basis. Before most of us were born or moved to the area, the city of Santa Barbara has been reviewing architectural plans for the community benefit.

When comparing our town with other Southern California towns, it’s easy to see that we are doing something right. The design review process is working, and it is staffed by volunteer architects, designers and community members.

In June, the Santa Barbara City Council will be looking for a licensed architect to sit on the Single Family Design Board for a four-year term. The position is currently filled by this author who will not be requesting a second term. This opens up an opportunity for a local architect who has been creating wonderful buildings in town to give back to our community with their voluntary service. It is a chance to reinforce what you believe is working with the design review system and to change the process and to perhaps remove the barriers that you have experienced in the past.

This is our town. One of the characteristics that makes our town beautiful is the architecture. Here is your chance to be on the other side of the table.

Paul Zink, AIA
Member, City of Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review and Single Family Design Board

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