Thursday, July 27 , 2017, 4:15 pm | Fair 73º

 
 
 
 

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Project with 24 1-Bedroom Apartments Wins OK from Santa Barbara Planning Commission

4-story building with 2 dozen 525-square-foot rentals proposed for East De la Guerra Street site under Average Unit-Size Density ordinance

A project proposed under Santa Barbara’s Average Unit-Size Density ordinance would transform the property at 214-216 E. De la Guerra St. into 24 one-bedroom apartments, two two-bedroom units and commercial space. Click to view larger
A project proposed under Santa Barbara’s Average Unit-Size Density ordinance would transform the property at 214-216 E. De la Guerra St. into 24 one-bedroom apartments, two two-bedroom units and commercial space. (The Cearnal Collective LLP rendering)

A proposed four-story building with 26 small apartments along with commercial space appears headed for approval near downtown Santa Barbara.

The project, at 214-216 E. De la Guerra St. between Santa Barbara and Garden streets, consists of 24 one-bedroom apartments, with an average size of 525 square feet. Two existing buildings at the site will remain, and be converted to two-bedroom apartments.

The property is owned by the Betty Jo Lauritson Trust and the architect is The Cearnal Collective LLP.

“I think these units truly are affordable by design because they are so small,” architect Brian Cearnal said. “These units needed to get smaller in order to make this project compatible on this site in this location.

“Frankly, the site would not have allowed for larger units without the building getting significantly bigger.”

The project is the latest proposal under the city’s Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program ordinance, which is intended to create more rental apartment housing. As a result, developers are proposing high-density housing projects throughout Santa Barbara, stacking units on small lots with one parking space per unit.

Housing activists hail the ordinance as a creative, smart way to develop urban infill housing. Neighborhood activists and preservationists have expressed opposition to the some of the projects, however, saying they are too large and create street parking impacts.

The ordinance is also fueling a wider community debate about the direction of development in the city. Is Santa Barbara going to be a home for single millennials and young workers, who prefer to rent rather than own property, grew up with a shared-economy mentality, and choose to bicycle or call Uber to get around? Or will it remain a community of older homeowners, with a slow-growth mentality and who believe the mountain views should be protected and that the city should resist the smart-growth, urban infill trends in planning and development circles?

It’s an issue that the community is wrestling with, and one that will serve as a key backdrop in the November mayoral and City Council election.

Cearnal said the rents will be “limited” because “these are very small units.”

“These are ideal in terms of their location relative to the downtown,” he said.

Story poles outline the height of a proposed four-story apartment building at 214-216 E. De la Guerra St. between Santa Barbara and Garden streets near downtown Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Story poles outline the height of a proposed four-story apartment building at 214-216 E. De la Guerra St. between Santa Barbara and Garden streets near downtown Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

At a recent meeting, Planning Commission members praised the project as an example of good infill development, before voting unanimously to approve it.

“I remember in my early 20s wanting to live above the Sojourner Café,” commissioner Deborah Schwartz said. “I thought that would be the coolest place to rent. They were very hard to come by and there are not that many units up there.

“This is kind of taking me back to my early 20s, thinking this would be so cool if I were at that time in my life.”

Two additional units are proposed to be two-bedroom units, only because the buildings are already there and being used for commercial space, and the developers do not intend to knock them down. The project also includes 4,479 square feet of commercial space.

“We have designed it to be a simple, generic space with lots of natural light,” Cearnal said.

Although AUD projects only require one parking space per unit, the De la Guerra project proposed 43 spaces. The developers plan to build an automated stacked parking system for 32 of the cars. Like a child’s Rush Hour toy, the automated system moves and stacks cars using lifts and ramps to improve efficiency and maximize space.

The system is large enough for most cars, but some bigger vehicles, such as a Ford F150, won’t fit.

“The lifts really gave us a simplicity and flexibility,” Cearnal explained. “It is quite remarkable in terms of its efficiency of packing cars in.”​

Cearnal said residents of the apartments might enjoy the modern, stacked car design.

“I don’t know if there’s a correlation between the size of a unit and the size of a car someone drives, but maybe, maybe just a little bit,” he said.

The rest of the spaces will be traditional, in the subterranean garage. The project will also include 28 bicycle spaces.

Commissioner John Campanella said he likes the project. He noted that each AUD site is different, and that kind of density works at the De la Guerra location.

“There should be a good demand, and it really fits the needs of what we are trying to do,” he said.

Schwartz added that the project “hits the sweet spot.”

“We need to find the best and highest uses for our very limited and costly land in Santa Barbara, and at the same time the livability, the experience, our urban forest and open space are also a priority component for us,” Schwartz said.

“It’s beautiful. It’s perfect in all ways.”

The Planning Commission approved the project on a 7-0 vote. The Historic Landmarks Commission will have the final say.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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