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Santa Barbara Council Upholds Approval of High-Density, Low-Income Senior Housing Project

The Santa Barbara City Council affirmed its support for a high-density, low-income senior housing project on Tuesday when it voted to deny an appeal filed against the project.

Concerns about the project’s setback from the Arroyo Burro Creek caused the Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council to appeal the 90-unit project slated for 251 S. Hope Ave.

The issue was raised during the Planning Commission review of the proposal, but that advisory committee recommended that the City Council approve the project.

The project proposed by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara would include 34 parking spaces, a trail between the building and the creek, and some amenities on site, according to Housing Authority executive director Rob Pearson.

The Gardens on Hope is meant to be a second Garden Court project, he said.

The creek in that area has a concrete channel now, and Santa Barbara has plans to restore the creek to its natural state.

This proposal has a conservation easement in place, meaning any work done within that area, including a trail, would be removed whenever the city does the restoration work.

A Creeks Council representative said the group wants assurances a full-scale Arroyo Burro Creek restoration will happen. While there is a need for low-income housing in the city, it’s not necessarily at this location near the creek, he said.

Pearson said no study shows the restoration project couldn’t happen with the 42-foot setback the project has now.

“I think on a policy level the city is sending mixed messages, and that is creating a significant number of problems,” Mayor Helene Schneider said.

There is no city policy requiring a 50-foot creek setback, and the Planning Commission was supportive of the Housing Authority concept when it moved forward more than a year ago, she said.

The City Council approved zoning changes that allow multi-family housing on that land, and voted 5-2, with Cathy Murillo and Harwood "Bendy" White opposed, to deny the appeal and approve the project.

The project still has to go through the design-review process, but the council’s approval asks the Housing Authority to increase the creek setback in the parking area to 50 feet, which means losing a few spots.

Pearson said the project can spare a few spots, and the plans will be redesigned around that change.

Noozhawk managing editor 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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