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Santa Barbara High-Density Rental Housing Supported by ABR; Neighbors Upset

Revised project at 1818 Castillo Street fits with the neighborhood, ABR says

A scaled-back high-density rental-housing project proposed for the 1800 block of Castillo Street in Santa Barbara has been given approval by the city’s Architectural Board of Review.
A scaled-back high-density rental-housing project proposed for the 1800 block of Castillo Street in Santa Barbara has been given approval by the city’s Architectural Board of Review. (Contributed)

A high-density rental-housing project on Santa Barbara's Westside won support from members of the city's Architectural Board of Review, despite objections from some neighbors of the proposal.

Architect Detlev Peikert brought a scaled-back proposal for 1818 Castillo St. to the ABR last week after the City Council rejected the previous project on appeal in July. 

The new project addresses some of the concerns expressed during the first go-around. It has been separated into two separate buildings instead of one long rectangular mass, with eight uncovered parking spaces on site instead of below the building, inside garages. 

Much of the three-story elements have been reduced, and the largest portions of the building have been pushed to the back of the property. The tallest part of the building is 35 feet instead of 37 feet. 

"What we are looking at today is nothing like the previous project that was successfully appealed," said ABR chairman Kirk Gradin. "If I were a neighbor, I would be very pleased with the changes that are now being proposed."

But some neighbors are not convinced.

"The building that is proposed is 35 feet high, which will tower over every other building in this entire neighborhood," said Pam Lasker, who lives a few doors down. "We really feel the project has just been rearranged. It does not fit into the neighborhood."

She wants the architect to eliminate the third story and a three-bedroom unit.

The city's Average Unit-size Density Incentive Program encourages developers to build rental housing by allowing them to build more units per acre and set aside only one on-site parking space per unit.

The city would like to see more rental housing for young professionals. City officials hope the program will provide incentives to build rentals for developers — who have long said they cannot build a profitable rental-housing project in the city without city subsidy or the ability to pack several units in on one site.

So far, the city has been successful in its mission. The AUD was approved in 2013. The council put a sunset on the program for eight years or until 250 units were built, but at this rate this city is going to reach 250 units in half the sunset time.

So far, 118 units from two separate projects have been approved. In addition, 203 units from seven other projects are in some stage of design or staff review.

The Castillo project calls for the demolition of a single-family home, studio apartment, detached garage, and two sheds to build a two-unit, two-story duplex and a 5-unit two- and partial three-story residential apartment building.

The project will result in seven units comprising two 2-bedroom units and five 3-bedroom units, totaling 6,609 square feet. This 12,656 square foot parcel is designated as Medium High Density with a maximum average density allowed of 945 square feet per unit.

Peikert said what makes this high-density project different from some other proposals is the 3-bedroom component, rather than a smattering of studios and 1-bedrooms.

"There are very few rental units for families anywhere in the city, so having some 3-bedroom units in the project is an important benefit for the community," Peikert said.

The city has a 0.6-percent rental vacancy rate. 

Steven Harper, a resident of Castillo street, said the project is still too big. Harper said he sometimes has to park at least two blocks away from his home, and worries that eight on-site parking spaces are not enough for the number of people who will be living there.

"I just don't think it is sustainable in that neighborhood," Harper said. "We are just looking to not have that kind of bulk and that kind of congestion in the neighborhood."

The ABR voted 4-0, with three members absent, to support the project, although it has not yet received final approval.

The project will return to the ABR on Dec. 7 for a landscape plan, lighting proposal and site drainage. Peikert said it is too expensive to put up story story poles at the site to show how tall it would be, but that  he will return with aerial renderings. 

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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