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With Proposed Hilltop Home, Some Santa Barbara Residents Want to Cut House Down in Size

But extended family’s plan to get an ocean view draws support from next-door neighbors and a unanimous vote of Planning Commission

The only brain tumor surgeon in Santa Barbara wants to build a house with an ocean view in the Campanil Hill neighborhood, but the size and location of the home has some people scratching their heads.

Dr. John Park has proposed a two-story, 5,886-square-foot, single-family home, with an attached three-car garage, on a vacant 2.2 acre lot at 511 Brosian Way. The site is in the Hillside Design District above Cliff Drive west of Las Positas Road.

The project includes a pool and spa, landscaping and 3,870 cubic yards of fill grading.

Architect Brian Cearnal presented the plan at a recent Santa Barbara Planning Commission meeting.

“I am going to start here with a view of the front door because I think it is important for all you to understand who is going to live in this house and why it is what it is,”​ Cearnal said, as he showed a slide of the proposed house during his presentation. “Dr. Park was recruited by the Santa Barbara Institute of Neuroscience at Cottage Hospital.

“Essentially he is the only brain (tumor) surgeon between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Cearnal stressed that the house would be for Park; his wife, Grace, a physician at Sansum Clinic; the Parks' three children, Grace's parents; and Park’s mother.

“Recruiting doctors to Santa Barbara is not an easy thing,” he said. “John and his wife, Grace, decided to move their family to Santa Barbara. It is truly an extended, multigenerational home.”

The planning commission approved a coastal development permit for the house on a 6-0 vote Nov. 6, but recommended that the Single-Family Design Review Board again consider ways to make the house smaller.

The house exceeds floor-area-ratio guidelines for the size of the lot. The floor-area-ratio measures the size of a house compared to the overall lot size, for a particular neighborhood. The ratios are just guidelines for lots as large as the Parks’, however.

Cearnal wants to place the house at the rear of the property, on a manmade hill that would require about 4,000 square yards of fill. The hill would lift the house to give it an ocean view.

Although the single-family design ratios are just guidelines, some of the commissioners felt they should still be respected.

“Every time you go over that 100 percent ... and design it in at over 100 percent, you feed this accumulated (floor-area-ratio) creep to the point that any additions following later to other houses and rebuilds, it is always going to edge its way upward,” commissioner June Pujo said.

“The continuum will creep higher and higher.”

Commissioner Sheila Lodge said the land ultimately will look much better than it currently appears, but she noted she shares some of Pujo’s concerns.

“I would prefer to see the house just a little bit smaller,” Lodge said. “Mr. Cearnal has done a good job fitting it into that upper corner, but it still seems rather large to me.”

Cearnal pushed back.

“We have worked so hard with the Parks to get a house that works for them, and by no means is opulent or excessive in terms of this area,” he said. “I just don’t want to get into an arbitrary trimming of the square footage. We are so close. We meet the intent.”

Several of the neighbors immediately next to the Parks’ property have no objections to the size of the proposed house. Some other nearby residents wrote letters in opposition to the project, and at least one neighbor spoke at the meeting in opposition to the house size.

“I think you get the lot you buy,” said Patricia Foley, who lives in the Braemar Ranch neighborhood two blocks to the west of the Parks’ property. “You don't get to build a hill on a lot and put a house on top. That isn’t fair to our neighborhood.”

She said the proposal just gentrifies the neighborhood.

“Please save our bucolic neighborhood,” she said.

But other neighbors said the house was just fine.

“We don’t have any objections to the size of the home,” said Taka Nomura, a nearby resident. “It is a good-sized home for a family of his size. I don’t think it will ruin the appearance of the neighborhood.”

The project will return to the Single-Family Design Review Board, which has already reviewed the plans three times.

Commissioner Addison Thompson said he supports the project, but not because physicians will live there.

“With all due respect to Mr. Cearnal and Dr. Park, it really doesn’t matter who is applying for the permit to build the house,” Thompson said. “We understand that that entered into the decisions that were made on the design. We have seen many projects come in here based upon ‘this is going to be the family homestead,’ and by the time it’s built it has changed ownership two or three times.”

Thompson said the approval should be based on what’s best for the neighborhood.

“It’s going to be there long after all of us are gone, so with due respect we can’t be considering who is going to be living there,” he said.

Park spoke with Noozhawk after the meeting. He said he doesn’t understand the objections.

“While we respect the desire of our distant neighbors to preserve the rural character of their neighborhood as it was 20-plus years ago, we are a bit puzzled over their comments referring to our proposed home as out of place in terms of style and size,” he said.

“The homes currently surrounding our lot have an appealing variety of architectural styles, and a FAR analysis of the neighborhood shows our proposed home to be well below the average size.”

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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