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Santa Barbara City Council to Vote on New Zoning Ordinance

After more than two years of discussion, the Santa Barbara City Council is poised to vote Tuesday on a new zoning ordinance, which is designed to improve consistency and ease conflicts among property owners, businesses and developers.

The new zoning ordinance (NZO) calls for dozens of changes, some procedural and administrative, while others will have a more direct impact on the public.

The document would relax parking requirements for restaurants, coffee shops, tasting rooms, bars, retail bakeries, delicatessens, and grocery stores. Three different parking requirements currently exist for businesses depending on the size, but the new proposal calls for one parking space per 250 square feet of commercial space. 

The ordinance also aims to protect the city’s manufacturing zone, and encourage the long-term use of light manufacturing, while limiting retail, restaurants and hotels. Stand-alone office spaces would no longer be allowed in M-1 zones, unless they are accessories to industrial uses.

Food trucks and other mobile food vendors are not currently allowed on private property, but regulations are addressed in the the NZO with multiple levels of temporary use permits, which would allow mobile food vendors on private property.

Mobile food vendors could sell for up to four hours per day at any particular site, with an annual maximum of 90 days at any one site.

New neighborhood markets would also be allowed under the new ordinance. Although about a dozen legal nonconforming neighborhood markets exist in residential zones in the city, new neighborhood markets in residential zones are currently prohibited. The NZO would allow new ones. 

Some parts of the NZO are very specific, such as the proposal to create new open space parkland by changing the zoning of the former Veronica Meadows development project.

The 15-acre property on three lots at 1425 Las Positas Road once called for 25 luxury mansions, but the developer, the city and the Trust for Public Lands partnered to create open space at the site, which is now zoned for residential use.

The city hopes the new and more clearly defined zoning rules will limit subjective interpretation and allow city planners to enforce rules with consistency across the board.

“The current state of the zoning ordinance is a jumble of amendments dating back to 1957, and staff have daily conflicts with property owners on how it is to be fairly and consistently applied,” wrote Danny Kato, the city zoning and enforcement supervisor, in a staff report for the meeting.

The murky existing ordinance also leads to staff and applicants spending a lot of time debating the meaning of the provisions, which can delay projects.

In 2014, the city met with several focus groups regarding the zoning changes, including the American Institute of Architects, the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, the Allied Neighborhood Association, the Citizens Planning Association, Mesa Architects, and the Chamber of Commerce. 

The City Council is expected to vote on whether to approve the changes at Tuesday's meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

If it is adopted, the new zoning ordinance is expected to go into effect Oct. 1.

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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