Tuesday, January 16 , 2018, 10:12 am | Fair 60º


Local News

Planning Commission Upholds Appeal of Proposed Mixed-Use, Green Building

The Bradbury Avenue project had been approved by Santa Barbara's Architectural Board of Review after more than two years of planning

Approval of a proposed mixed-use building on Bradbury Avenue was overturned Thursday after Brinkerhoff district residents appealed to the Santa Barbara Planning Commission.

Contractor David Lack’s building, which would include two commercial spaces and two residential spaces, was approved by the Architectural Board of Review after two and a half years of planning.

An appeal was filed by Wanda Livernois, who owns a home on Brinkerhoff Avenue and said the building was “out of harmony with its surroundings.”

Other residents of the historic district spoke at Thursday’s meeting in support of the appeal, agreeing that the project wasn’t compatible with the neighborhoods.

Bradbury Avenue is in a C-2 zone, which allows commercial and residential buildings up to 60 feet tall without requiring setbacks.

Lack and his architects at AB Design Studio designed the building to be LEED Platinum, which includes a green roof and solar panels and tops out at a little less than 30 feet.

The project’s outdoor area modification request was supposed to be the focus of Thursday’s meeting, but its aesthetic appeal — or lack thereof, according to residents who commented — dominated the discussion.

There were no residents of Bradbury Avenue at the meeting to voice support or objection, but there were many from the Brinkerhoff area. They said the building would “tower” over the rest of the street’s buildings and ruin the “quaintness” of the area. The size and lack of setbacks was an issue for many, and it was called a litany of names, from monstrosity to eyesore.

While the area is near El Pueblo Viejo and Brinkerhoff Historical Districts, Bradbury Avenue itself is not classified as such. The project was approved because it met all of the guidelines set forth by the General Plan and zoning ordinances.

“The owner and myself are LEED accredited,” architect Clay Aurell said. “We want it to be a leader in the community.”

Lack and a few members of the community stressed that the building satisfied all the requirements and had worked closely with design review boards to make an appropriate design.

“The appellants are opposed to the intent of the General Plan,” Mike McCormac said. Personal distaste of a building doesn’t qualify as a reason to delay or deny a plan, he said.

The commission agreed with residents, saying that while Brinkerhoff and Bradbury are different districts, they have many similarities. The east “hodgepodge” commercial side of Bradbury is vastly different from the more residential westside, they said.

Glossing over the issue of modifying the common outside area, the commission denied the findings of the staff hearing officer and ABR, saying the project was “drastically different” from the rest of the neighborhood.

“I can’t make a finding of neighborhood compatibility,” commission chairwoman Stella Larson said.

The commissioners tried to put the denial one step further, by requiring that the project be subject to a Historic Landmarks Commission courtesy review upon resubmission and suggesting mandatory story poles.

However, the staff insisted that one board couldn’t dictate which projects another board hears.

Senior planner Danny Kato even asked the commission for suggestions, given that the Planning Division takes a lot of stock in the position of the ABR and the Planning Commission reversed it.

“Admittedly, it’s a subjective judgment,” Commissioner John Jostes said.

People said the design was within all the rules, and that’s true, Commissioner Sheila Lodge said. “But that doesn’t mean we have to approve it.”

Lack has 10 days to appeal the decision to the City Council, which he said he will definitely do. When asked what he would do if the denial stood, he said he doesn’t plan to lose.

“I’m very disappointed the Planning Commission doesn’t understand the findings of the General Plan,” he said.

Lack said the lot was in bad shape and had numerous violations, including drug activity, before he purchased it. Now, he wants to build the project to be his personal residence, future office and example for future LEED projects. “In my eyes, Brinkerhoff has no jurisdiction in my area, and vice versa,” he said.

Neighbors on Bradbury with whom Lack said he had talked have been supportive, but can’t make a meeting in the middle of the day because they work, he said.

“There will be real tug-of-war on this down the road,” he said. Although his plan is in line with the 2030 plan for Santa Barbara, it was down by a group of people who aren’t in his district on aesthetic grounds, he said. In his opinion, it could prove to be a deterrent for future green builders.

“Why would anyone even take the chance?” he said.

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

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >