This is a glossary of commonly used terms when discussing development projects, the permit and review process, and housing affordability and availability in Santa Barbara.

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Accessory Dwelling Unit: ADU for short. They are also called secondary dwelling units, in-law units and granny flats/granny units. They can be detached from the primary structure, attached or repurposed existing space. In Santa Barbara, there are regulations, including maximum unit size, separate entrances and parking. Since state legislation streamlined development of ADUs, the City of Santa Barbara has received hundreds of applications to build them.

Affordable Housing: To be considered affordable by general terms, housing should not cost more than 30 percent of an individual’s or household’s gross monthly income (before taxes and other deductions).

Area Median Income: The Area Median Income in Santa Barbara was $79,600 as of 2019. The median income divides the income distribution into two groups, with half having income above this amount and half having income below this amount.

Income chart

The Area Median Income in Santa Barbara is $79,600 and this chart depicts “affordable” rent amounts for different income groups. (City of Santa Barbara graphic)

Average Unit-Sized Density Incentive Multiunit Housing Program: AUD Incentive Program for short. A program to give developers bonus density as an incentive to build multiunit housing in Santa Barbara. The program was adopted in 2013 and did not initially require the resulting units to be rentals or affordable to any particular income bracket, although the intent was to support projects with smaller, more affordable units near commercial services and parks. The City Council has made many amendments to the program over time.

Commercial Real Estate and Development: Commercial refers to nonresidential space including office, retail, restaurant, industrial, warehouse and other uses.

Inclusionary Housing: Multiple local cities have proposed or passed inclusionary housing ordinances that promote rental housing for low-and-moderate-income households. The Santa Barbara City Council has supported one that requires developers of Average Unit-Sized Density Incentive Program projects to designate 10 percent of rental apartments for people earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the area median income. The area median income is $79,600, so a two-person household with moderate income would make $76,416, and spending 30 percent of gross monthly income on rent would be $1,910. The Goleta Planning Commission supported a proposal requiring developers of projects with five or more units to make 20 percent of the units affordable for a range of incomes, from extremely low to moderate.

Multiunit or multifamily housing: Rather than single-family homes, these developments have multiple units, such as apartments, townhouses and condominiums.

Regional Housing Needs Assessment: The state RHNA allocates housing units to each of California’s 58 counties, which then breaks it down by cities and units per income level. The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments’ report for the 2014-2022 period has a goal of building 11,030 units countywide, and 4,099 in Santa Barbara. As of 2019, most units built in the city were in the above-moderate-income range, with monthly rents around $3,000.

Santa Barbara City Council: The seven members are elected by city voters and make final decisions on planning and development policy. They also rule on appeals of development project decisions made by the Planning Commission.

Santa Barbara Planning Commission: Members are appointed by the City Council. They make policy recommendations, and review and approve/deny project proposals. There are also several design review boards to go over details of planned development, including the Architectural Board of Review and Historic Landmarks Commission.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at