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Local News

Hillside House Project Tops Planning Commission Agenda

A packed agenda awaits the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on Thursday, including changes to a 121-unit residential rental project and the widening of Highway 101.

The commission will be looking at plans from Hillside House, a nonprofit residential facility for people with developmental disabilities. The project has been in the city’s queue for more than a decade, while wrangling over creek setbacks, road access and the number of units added to the delay.

In 2009, the project was deemed complete for environmental review, and public comment was gathered in 2011.

The 24-acre lot has been requested to be annexed into the city from Santa Barbara County, and all of the structures on the site were removed to make way for 121 residential units in buildings two to three stories tall.

No formal action will be taken on the Hillside House item since it’s a conceptual review hearing. The hearing will be held to get commissioners’ opinions on the changes, as well as comments from the public.

The project would be rental with a mix of market rate and affordable units, and two conservation easements are also slated for the site — one that would encompass Arroyo Burro Creek, which the project has slated for restoration, and another easement encompass the hillside on the northern side of the project.

The changes are that the project would consist of all rental units, with 10 units for Hillside House residents, 44 low-income rental units managed by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara and 67 market rate rentals.

The previous proposal had 81 ownership units, with 40 units being low-income, 12 of which would be for Hillside House residents.

Another change is that the residential units were formerly spread out among 33 two- and three-story buildings.

Now, 17 two- and three-story buildings are proposed, and that reduction is partly due to the number of bedrooms in some units being reduced and because garages are being eliminated in favor of a single surface parking lot. An increase in parking spaces is also proposed to 246, and increase of 24 spaces.

The commission was also expected to consider the Highway 101 HOV widening project, but that item has been continued indefinitely, according to Julie Rodriguez, planning commission secretary.

The project would widen the final remaining four lanes to six, providing a continuous-access high occupancy vehicle lane in both directions.

The City of Santa Barbara’s jurisdiction is between Olive Mill Road and Sycamore Creek, and the South Coast HOV runs from Carpinteria to Sycamore Creek.

The commission will receive an update on the project, and commissioners’ comments will be forwarded to the Caltrans District 5 director.

For the project to move forward, design approvals are needed from the cities of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, as well as a host of other approvals and permits from other agencies. 

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission will have to find that the project is consistent with the city’s local coastal plan, but its decision would be appealable to the City Council, and that decision would be appealable to the California Coastal Commission.

The city, county and Coastal Commission staffs have raised concerns about the adequacy of the environmental impact report, but Caltrans has said it intends to prepare and certify a final EIR.

The Planning Commission will have to consider the final EIR before reaching a decision on the coastal development permit, and the staff report raises concerns about the lefthand ramps that would be replaced, traffic on local streets and other concerns.

Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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