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Santa Barbara ABR Pushes Back On East Micheltorena Street 4-Apartment Project

Panel sends proposal back for a redesign, saying the building is too tall and its style is not traditional enough for the neighborhood

The Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review sent a proposed apartment project, which would replace this duplex at 501 E. Micheltorena St., back to the drawing board. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review sent a proposed apartment project, which would replace this duplex at 501 E. Micheltorena St., back to the drawing board.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

A proposal to knock down a one-story duplex to build a four-unit, two-story apartment building received a frigid reception from the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review at a recent meeting.

The two-story, white-walled project is proposed for 501 E. Micheltorena St., at the corner of Olive Street. The project proposes a parking entrance on Olive Street and eliminating two single-car garages on East Micheltorena Street.

The design is contemporary modern, but the site is surrounded by bungalows, some Victorian homes, and commercial properties.

“I have a real hard time with this architectural style,” said Bob Cunningham, a landscape architect who sits on the board.

“Yes, this is an eclectic neighborhood, but this really pushes the envelope. I think it is inappropriate for the neighborhood. The neighborhood is full of traditional-style buildings, and this is not one of them.”

Ken Vermillion and Mark Kirkhart, architects with DesignARC, presented the project on behalf of property owner Roscoe Villa. The architects have proposed one three-bedroom unit, two one-bedroom units, and one studio.

The units would range from 880 to 1,300 square feet. The proposal also includes four parking spaces.

“We don’t feel the architecture presented really matches anything in the neighborhood,” said nearby resident Paula Cathey. “It is a neighborhood of charming bungalows.”

She also worried about the second story proposed in the project. 

The proposed design for a four-apartment building on the 500 block of East Micheltorena Street. Click to view larger
The proposed design for a four-apartment building on the 500 block of East Micheltorena Street.  (Courtesy photo)

“A lot of our concern is about elevation,” Cathey said. “Right now, I don’t even see the property from our second story. If this goes up we’re afraid that our minimal ocean views will be completely gone.”

She also said she was concerned about additional parking impacts on Olive Street.

Pat Saley, who owns a planning and permitting services firm, is a resident of the neighborhood.

“Our issue primarily is with the architectural style,” she said, speaking as individual. “There are funky apartment buildings, there’s no question there’s some beautiful Victorians. It is an eclectic neighborhood. It is very charming, but it works. We just feel it would be a mistake to introduce a brand new contemporary style of architecture in that neighborhood.”

Kirkhat disagreed.

“Our idea is that it is a very eclectic neighborhood,” said Kirkhart at the Feb. 12 meeting. “We understand that not everyone likes modern architecture, our client happens to.”

The ABR members voted 5-0 to send the project back for a redesign, saying the proposal is too tall and that the architectural style needs to be more traditional. 

Although it has only four units, the project is proposed under the city’s Average Unit-sized Density incentive program, which allows developers to build high-density housing with the goal of providing more rental housing. 

Critics of the AUD incentive program have protested that approved projects have been too large and units are too expensive for working-class Santa Barbara residents. 

Only one project so far has completed construction and opened to renters, The Marc luxury apartments on Upper State Street.

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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