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Local News

Arlington Village Design Upheld by Santa Barbara Council

Appeal by neighboring developer of design approval for the apartment project is rejected on a 6-1 vote

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday upheld the design approval for the proposed Arlington Village mixed-use project in downtown Santa Barbara.

The design had been approved by the city's Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) in August, but a neighboring property owner appealed that decision to the council.

Marge Cafarelli, from Alma del Pueblo owner Urban Developments, LLC, filed the appeal citing concerns about neighborhood compatibility and traffic.

After a lengthy hearing Tuesday afternoon, the council rejected Cafarelli's appeal on a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Dale Francisco voting no.

Arlington Village, designed by Peikert Group Architects, includes three-story buildings and a semi-subterranean parking structure with 42 spaces, plus 49 surface spots. The units are mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments, and the buildings’ tallest point is at 40 feet, 2 inches tall.

It shares the block with the Arlington Theatre and the Alma del Pueblo mixed-use site, which is under construction, as well as numerous businesses along State Street.

Under current city policy, the HLC is the final decision-maker for rental projects such as Arlington Village, but Francisco and other council members said they believe the Planning Commission needs to be included for such projects in the future.

The HLC can refer projects for comments, but that policy is being examined by city staff now and could be changed in the future.

Francisco voted no on the motion because the proposed development didn’t get reviewed at all by the Planning Commission, but said he hopes the project succeeds.

Scrutinizing traffic management plans is outside the HLC’s realm, while planning commissioners have extensive training in that area, Councilman Randy Rowse said.

Developer Bruce Corwin, whose family owns the Arlington Theatre and Metropolitan Theatres, said his family wanted to develop an apartment complex here because the city needs middle-income rental units badly.

No one is more dedicated and sensitive to the theatre’s needs and surrounding areas, he said.

“Trust me, we have worked hard to get along with our neighbors,” he said.

The Corwin family are among Cafarelli’s “biggest supporters” and let her use the theater property to do construction staging, he noted.

Council members unanimously supported the project, especially with the need for more rental housing units, but took the concerns of downtown business owners and residents seriously.

The major issues are traffic and parking, since the project will replace a 125-space fee-to-park lot, and could add more cars to the already impacted area of Sola and Chapala streets.

Every residential unit in the 33-unit complex is only given one parking space, and the two commercial units are each given one space as well.

In the end, council members suggested that the appeal, though unsuccessful, actually improved the project, since the developer added a second driveway on Sola Street to help with traffic and circulation issues after the design approval by the HLC.

The council’s vote Tuesday included the site plan revisions and four recommendations: that the HLC work with the developer to make sure the Sola Street driveway can accommodate low-hanging luxury buses, to look over the location of the trash enclosures, to ensure the commercial units are being designed for commercial use, and to discuss the pathway between the Alma del Pueblo project and Sola Street.

Cafarelli argued that the design wasn’t compatible with the city’s guidelines, and that the design and operational plan should be improved. Her property shares a driveway with the theater and the proposed project, and she’s concerned about large trucks and buses unloading and loading for events.

Cafarelli also brought up the point that the two commercial units have bathrooms and kitchens but are supposedly going to be rented as offices.

Attorney Steven Amerikaner, speaking for the Corwin family, said the developer wants to keep the option of converting the units to residential if there’s no interest in them as commercial space.

The traffic-management plan requires buses and trucks to come in one at a time and park remotely as soon as they unload, so it minimizes the impacts on the shared driveway, he said.

Nearby business owners mostly supported the project, but urged the City Council to consider parking impacts to both businesses and their customers. 

The project would fill the gap for local residents who work downtown and don’t qualify for subsidized housing but can’t afford to buy a condo or home, said Jeff DeVine, president of American Riviera Bank.

It’s the first privately sponsored, for-rent apartment complex in the city he can recall in his 20 years living in Santa Barbara, he said.

Owners of Opal Restaurant and 1329 Salon & Spa worried about parking for their staff and customers with the loss of the current lot and the small amount of spaces – 56 – allotted to the 2,000-seat theater.

Former Mayor Hal Conklin said the project finally does what the city always asks for – more rental units – and is compatible with the historic design of the Arlington Theatre. There may be a loss of parking spots, but new projects always have a trade-off, he said.

Others supported the project for revitalizing the northern end of the downtown core, helping it become a cultural and theater-arts district.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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