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Local News

Santa Barbara Council Denies Appeal to Coast Village Development

Opponents take issue with the height of the proposed three-story, mixed-use project

Denying an appeal on a project that was reviewed by a city review board four times, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday upheld a decision to stand behind the board’s preliminary approval of a mixed-use development in Montecito.

The project, a three-story building that would contain a floor of commercial space and eight two-story condominiums, was approved by the Planning Commission in March 2008. But opponents of the project filed an appeal.

At 35 feet in height, opponents of the project took issue with the third story, saying it was out of character for the neighborhood. The site, at 1298 Coast Village Road, is home to a 76 gas station, which would be demolished to make room for the building.

The project was sent back to the Architectural Board of Review after council members unanimously spoke of their concerns about the project’s size, bulk and scale.

Tuesday’s marathon meeting, where 80 speaker slips were turned in from members of the public, resulted in a 6-1 vote, with Councilmember Dale Francisco dissenting.

Project architect Jeff Gorrell spoke representing the owners of the property, John and Jana Price. Gorrell talked about the changes that had been made since the council had seen the project, including a shuffling of 28 percent of floor area and volume, which was relocated. “(We) made a number of changes to add charm and interest,” he said, and worked to redistribute nearly 1,400 square feet of space from the tower to the courtyard area to help reduce its height.

One of the appellants, Jeff Farrell, who works next-door to the project, said it was still too big. He played a short video of the televised council meeting from July, where all of the councilmembers expressed apprehension about the size.

“It sounds like you all agree with the appellant,” he said.

Opponents of the project included the groups Protect Our Village and Save Coast Village Road, and the appellants brought their own attorney, traffic engineer and blueprints showing a project without a third story and an alternate parking plan.

“This is a classic example of overbuilding,” Protect Our Village attorney Tony Fisher said. “This sets a bad precedent for the street. It doesn’t comply to the general plan.”

Santa Barbara resident Jim Hamilton said: “I see a gorgeous building that is going help the neighborhood, and I don’t see why there’s any argument.”

Rob Vance, who spoke in favor of the project, took issue with the process. “If you find otherwise, you need to pretty much tell your architectural board of review, the planning commission and all of your staff to go get another job,” he said.

Pete Jordano said he had drives Coast Village Road to work and that the project would be a “gorgeous masterpiece” compared to the gas station.

Others disagreed. Frank Hotchkiss said he felt that the council made its discomfort with the project’s third story known to the Architectural Board of Review. “I don’t think that was listened to, and it should have been,” he said.

“The project is completely out of character,” Naomi Kovacs of the Citizens Planning Association said. “It will block views from almost every direction.”

Francisco expressed reservations with the changes, saying they still weren’t enough to reduce the mass of the building for him, and that he would be supporting the appeal. “I think we didn’t achieve what we were looking for,” he said. “I’d like to see a building that is more open and more welcoming.”

Councilmember Das Williams said the council was restricted to looking at the size, bulk and scale, and while he commended the ABR for its work, he recommended that the height of the rear of the building be dropped another foot and a half on the northern side of building that faces the neighbors.

Mayor Marty Blum said she didn’t have a problem with the building’s overall height. “I don’t think there’s a canyonization,” she said, because the streets in that area are wide enough to create an openness. “I think it’s going to be a much better building.”

Just before the motion was made, Francisco made one last comment.

“The ABR worked hard on this, and I would like to see, in the future, less design work up here,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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