Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 3:43 pm | Fair 77º


Local News

Architect Wanted for Santa Barbara’s Single-Family Design Review Board

Outgoing board member says panel's oversight crucial for quality of residential neighborhoods

Getting a building approved in Santa Barbara requires getting past the city’s design review boards, which is often no easy feat. For the professionals who shepherd projects through the process, two upcoming vacancies on the Single-Family Design Board mean they could have a chance to sit on the other side of the table.

The Single-Family Design Board, Santa Barbara’s newest review panel, was created with the updated Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance in 2007. The terms for positions reserved for an architect and a landscape architect are expiring this year.

Architect Paul Zink serves on the single-family home board as well as the Architectural Board of Review and he won’t be reapplying for the former. Zink said he wants to give other architects the opportunity to participate in the process and “find out it’s really not that bad.”

Design review boards have the power of subjective decisions to determine whether a building project is appropriate, which can include size and aesthetics relating to the surrounding neighborhood.

“Our town tends to be more conservative and boards don’t want to take risks,” Zink said. “They come back to bite us.”

Board members “don’t want to piss people off, but we want to make sure the quality is what the community expects,” said Zink, adding that the board tries to tone down issues perceived as objectionable.
In the end, developers who are willing to adapt to proposed changes are the ones who can get their projects through more easily, he said.

Brian Cearnal, founder of Cearnal Andrulaitis, has been a Santa Barbara architect for 30 years and says he got his strategy for dealing with review boards from Joni Mitchell: “Charm ‘em, don’t alarm ‘em,” he laughed.

“It’s a good motto to have in this town, because they’ll drive you crazy otherwise,” he said.

Cearnal said the third design review board is “kind of ridiculous” when the city already has the Architectural Board of Review and the Historic Landmarks Commission, but he noted that it could help give people clarity on residential guidelines.

Cearnal served on the ABR for eight years and advocates high design thresholds, but he says review boards can “overreach” for subjective decisions and sometimes hold projects to their own experience and personal taste.

“Even if it’s something they wouldn’t do, or don’t like aesthetically, they should look at the standards and send it on its way if meets that criteria,” he said.

Zink said the new neighborhood preservation standards were developed and architects were pushed to the boundaries, which made the city call for some design review for residential buildings, since the ABR deals with commercial, industrial and multifamily building projects.

Cearnal believes people should have some flexibility as to how they express themselves as long as it stays within the framework of neighborhood compatibility.

“I’ve had situations where people in the Single-Family Design Board vote against a house just because they don’t like it, no reason other than that style of house in that location,” he said. “That’s kind of overreaching a bit.”

He, too, encourages professionals — including his employees — to apply for the review board positions.

Resignations for the board are due to the City Clerk by Wednesday and the application deadline for the next four-year term is 5:30 p.m. May 16. A new member, or members, will be appointed by the City Council in June.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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