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Santa Barbara Council Approves Expansion Project for Valle Verde Retirement Community

After a marathon meeting, city leaders deny appeals filed over the decision by the Planning Commission to allow the proposal to proceed

After a marathon meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-0 shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday to let the Valle Verde Retirement Community continue with its expansion and renovation project.

It denied appeals by the Hidden Oaks Homeowners Association, SEIU United Healthcare Workers and Friends of Valle Verde and approved the conditional use permit amendment to allow the project at 900 Calle de los Amigos to move forward.

The plans were considered complete in August 2008 and were approved unanimously by the city Planning Commission. On Tuesday, three commissioners reiterated their support to the City Council.

“It’s a clear plan with a clear design,” commissioner Deborah Schwartz said, adding that the project was vetted rigorously and that there would be a 125-foot space between the closest home and any facility building. Valle Verde also agreed to plant hundreds of oaks to make up for the 15 demolished by the project.

With changes, the facility will gain 37 residential units, more parking and new support facility buildings. To expand, the facility needed to amend its permits and get modifications on setback requirements, which the City Council granted.

Valle Verde Executive Director Ron Schaffer said he was proud of the project and the dozens of residents who filed into the Council Chambers on Tuesday.

“The purpose of this project is to add senior homes to Santa Barbara,” he said, adding that it should reduce nearby traffic since residents will be able to access facilities without driving.

Modifying one of the new units accessed off Torino Road was denied, but Valle Verde can keep it if it works with the Architectural Review Board to place it somewhere else on the property, Mayor Helene Schneider said.

There were other items that Valle Verde’s attorney, Steve Amerikaner, agreed to implement after the appellant’s attorney presented them.

Concerns about the project focused on environmental review and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, though city staff determined there would be no significant, unavoidable impacts.

Marc Chytilo, representing the Hidden Oaks Homeowners Association, said he wanted the plan to be more internal and to minimize the impact on the surrounding communities, pointing out parking, traffic, destroying oak trees and building out the Rutherford area of the facility.

Senior planner Danny Kato said the project will include one parking space per unit and enough for all staff members.

Councilman Dale Francisco brought up neighbor concerns about speeding and parking on the street, and added, “Yet we have traffic engineers saying that’s not a problem.”

Councilman Grant House also raised issues with the traffic engineer numbers.

“You’ve got to be there and watch your kid almost get hit,” he said. “We should take it seriously.”

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss said the council was “micromanaging the project.” He said that for the group behind the appeal, the changes the applicant was putting forward wouldn’t be enough.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to be totally satisfied,” he said.

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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