Tuesday, August 22 , 2017, 9:53 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara City Council OKs Apartment Project on Castillo Street

Councilmen Jason Dominguez and Harwood 'Bendy' White vote in opposition

This single-family home will be demolished to make room for a seven-unit apartment building on the 1800 block of Castillo Street, a project that was upheld on appeal Tuesday by the Santa Barbara City Council.
This single-family home will be demolished to make room for a seven-unit apartment building on the 1800 block of Castillo Street, a project that was upheld on appeal Tuesday by the Santa Barbara City Council. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Following a fiery debate pitting the need for more rental housing against the desire to preserve the city's neighborhoods, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday denied an appeal to block the construction of a seven-unit apartment building on Castillo Street.

A handful of neighbors, led by appellant Eric Wernicke, expressed opposition to the project as proposed, saying that there's not enough off-street parking, and that residents and their guests will park on the street, further exacerbating a parking problem in the area.

Wernicke also said that a third-story element of one of the proposed buildings could easily have been turned into two.

The vote was 5-2 to deny the appeal and allow the housing.

Councilmen Harwood "Bendy" White and Jason Dominguez wanted to approve the appeal.

The remainder of the council indicated the city's need for more rental housing trumps any perceived neighborhood impacts.

"We have a severe housing shortage, and we need rental units," said Councilwoman Cathy Murillo. "This is the space for the (Average Unity Density) project."

The proposal includes the demolition of an existing single-family home, a studio apartment, a detached garage, and two sheds at 1818 Castillo Street.

In their place, the developer plans to build a two-unit, two-story duplex and a five-unit, two- and three-story residential apartment building under the Average Unit-size Density Incentive Program.

The project will result in seven units comprised of two two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units, totaling 6,609 square feet, according to city staff.

The average unit size will be 944 square feet. The project will also include eight uncovered surface parking spaces. 

It was the second appeal hearing for the project.

The City Council last summer actually upheld an appeal and directed the developer to redesign it. The property owner reduced the number of bathrooms from 19 to 12 and, most importantly, broke the building up.

Instead of one long building, the units are split, with the parking in the middle. The architectural board of review approved the new project in January. 

Nearby resident Wernicke gave a presentation that a couple of the council members said they were impressed with. 

He showed slides of the congested parking situation at night, and questioned why the developer couldn't have included tandem parking to increase the number of parking spaces at the site.

He also wondered why the project never went to the Planning Commission for review. 

"You can't just build, build, build and not do something creative to try to solve the problem," Wernicke said. "Being able to get to your house in an easy manner does affect the compatibility of your neighborhood."

Wernicke said the project would need a minimum of 11 parking spaces, assuming that no one ever came to visit and none of the residents has overnight guests. 

He also asked the city to consider removing curbside red paint to increase the number of on-street parking options for the community.

Councilman Gregg Hart said that the issue of rental housing vs. neighborhood compatibility is bigger than just this one property, and that the architectural firm, RRM Design, had gone to great lengths to make the project smaller and reduce the impact on the neighborhood.

Hart said the AUD program came as a result of "a very long community conversation about density and affordable housing," and that the community issue is much more complicated than just repainting red curbs and adding more off-street parking. This is a neighborhood in transition, he said. 

"It isn't truly that simple," Hart said. "This is a very eclectic neighborhood. This is as diverse a neighborhood in any one single block in the city."

The meeting was stalled a bit by Dominguez, who reminded the public he was new, while asking a lot of questions, including requesting that the applicant walk him "through the deliberative process" at the Architectural Board of Review.

Mayor Helene Schneider jumped in as Dominguez continued, offering him some advice for future appeal hearings.

"You can always watch the full meeting prior to the meeting," Schneider said. "That sometimes helps in terms of our deliberations."

Later in the meeting she urged him to take the time to attend an ABR meeting so he can learn the process.

Dominguez said one of the reasons he couldn't support the project was because it didn't include any "affordable housing" component. 

White, however, countered that rental housing is affordable housing, even if it is not subsidized by the government. 

"Rental housing by definition is a whole let more affordable than for-sale," White said. "This project a decade ago would have been condos."

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.

Two two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units — averaging 944 square feet, will be built at 1818 Castillo Street in Santa Barbara under a plan upheld Tuesday by the City Council. Click to view larger
Two two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units — averaging 944 square feet, will be built at 1818 Castillo Street in Santa Barbara under a plan upheld Tuesday by the City Council. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
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