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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:59 pm | Fair with Haze 56º


Proposed 52-Unit Apartment Project Enrages Downtown Santa Barbara Neighbors

Three- and four-story building would be built over 8 parcels on Anapamu, Figueroa and Garden streets

Man showing off development story poles in his neighborhood. Click to view larger
Steve Hogerman worries that a 52-unit apartment building proposed for his downtown Santa Barbara neighborhood would ‘destroys the fabric of our community.’ Behind him are story poles for the project (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Steve Hogerman lives on a tiny courtyard with eight cottages near downtown Santa Barbara. The lifelong resident said he feels privileged to live in a little town.

But as he walks around, his neighborhood and others around him are changing. Large-scale housing projects are replacing bungalows and older homes in favor of housing for millennial young workers.

“How does this solve our housing problem in Santa Barbara, but it destroys the fabric of our community,” Hogerman said.

Hogerman was one of several dozen neighborhood residents and activists who spoke out at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting against a high-density housing and commercial project proposed on eight different parcels on Anapamu, Figueroa and Garden streets.

The project calls for a three- and four-story building with 52 apartments, including studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

The project includes 72 parking spaces, 60 of which would be contained inside an automated stacked parking configuration.

If the plan is approved, the developers would demolish the 6 homes at the site, except for two Queen Anne Free Classic-style homes built in 1905.

The project is the latest example in a high-stakes battle over the future of Santa Barbara. For decades, preservationists and environmentalists ruled over Santa Barbara’s land-use policies, dictating a slow-growth mentality, one that kept buildings small and maintained ocean and mountain views for everyone.

Developers chose to build for-sale condos, rather than apartments, because of the high cost of land; apartment projects simply didn’t pencil out.

Man holding a baby at a public hearing. Click to view larger
Donny Brubaker, who brought his nearly year-old daughter, Ivy, to Thursday’s Santa Barbara Planning Commision meeting, said the character of his downtown neighborhood would be lost if a proposed 52-unit apartment building is built there. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

However, the city, in an effort to create more rental apartments, passed a high-density housing ordinance in 2013 that allows developers bonus density if they build apartments.

Property owners and developers have pounced on the policy and are proposing hundreds of high-density housing units, creating a narrative that the small homes are necessary for millennials and young professionals who want to work downtown.

But the units are not income-restricted, and property owners can rent them out at market rates.

Although several AUD housing projects have been approved, the first and only one to have been built advertises two-bedroom units for $3,500 a month.

Developer Greg Reitz, representing, Barranca Enterprises, said the project is near public transit and close to downtown.

“This site is ideal to live without a car,” he said.

Dozens of residents spoke at the meeting, some of them with babies and young children, in defense of their neighborhood.

“You are the guardians of our community,” said Natalia Govoni. “The mass, size, bulk and scale is out of character with this community. Today we are asking you to draw a line right here and right now. End the sprawl and destruction of our community. Stop being sellouts and deny this project.”

Planning Commission chairwoman Lesley Wiscomb frequently hushed members of the crowd, who applauded after some of the speakers.

“We would really appreciate it if you would not applaud,” she told the crowd.

The commission heard so many public speakers that it ran out of time before it began its deliberations; the panel needed to be out of the room before the start of the 6 p.m. Harbor Commission meeting. The meeting will be continued on Aug. 9.

Bill Mahan, a longtime member of the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, said the project has improved over several meetings with the commission. 

“I believe this is an approvable project and we can get there,” said Mahan, a member of the Historic Landmarks Commission. “Rental housing is really important. We can’t have enough rental housing in El Pueblo Viejo.”

Commissioner Steve Hausz also spoke at the meeting, expressing his opposition to the size, bulk and scale of the project. 

Donny Brubaker brought his nearly year-old daughter, Ivy, to the near four-hour meeting. She pawed at the microphone gleefully while her father spoke.

He lives on Figueroa street, in the shadow of the project.

“High-tech parking garage aside, I think it is foolish to believe this project is not going to cause parking problems in the neighborhood,” Brubaker said.

He said the project will wreck the neighborhood.

“It is ludicrous for anyone to suggest that the project can maintain the character of the neighborhood, especially those who don’t already live in the neighborhood,” Brubaker said. “It is my firm belief that overkill is not only a possibility, but a certainty."

For Hogerman, all the development needs to stop.

Hogerman, 68, who was born at St. Francis Medical Center, which has since been demolished to build housing, urged the commission to “keep this massive proposal under control. Help save our neighborhood, our courtyards, my home.”

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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