The first row of units at the Sycamore Creek Development on Punta Gorda Street goes up in Santa Barbara.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A plot of land with a beleaguered past will soon be the home of 40 new rental units on the lower Eastside, in what the project’s backers hope will be part of the solution to Santa Barbara’s affordable-housing crisis.

As rental vacancy rates hover below 1 percent, one developer has a possible solution to the shortage of rental housing with tiny houses planned for the area.

Forty units are slated for a small triangle of land bordered to the south by Highway 101, the east by Sycamore Creek, and Punta Gorda Street to the north.

About a dozen of these units have already gone up and can be seen from the highway.

Noozhawk got a tour of the site from the project’s architect, Jan Hochhauser of Hochhauser Blatter Architecture and Planning.

The units are small, about 550 square feet for a two-bedroom unit, and are factory built, then installed on top of a permanent cement slab that sits 3-to-4-feet above the ground.

The permanent foundation makes the units less like a mobile home and more like a house, and are necessary since the entire property is in a flood plain and sits near Sycamore Creek.  

The project’s developer is Santa Barbara resident Ed Clark, who purchased the property, a mobile home park, in 2011 after it fell into bankruptcy.

Hochhauser and Clark have worked on other projects with the Punta Gorda site builders, Guy Swenson Builders, including the mixed-use Oak Springs Village in Buellton and the luxury Fourth Street Condominiums in Carpinteria.

At the time of the Punta Gorda site’s purchase, it was “in total disarray,” Hochhauser said, and was plagued by drug users and derelict trailers, with police responding often to the site.

After it was sold to Clark, the city Fire Department was able to use the property for firefighting practice.

A map shows the design for the housing development. (Courtesy photo)

The site falls under state guidelines because mobile home parks are under the purview of the Housing and Urban Development Department.  

Hochhauser met with Santa Barbara’s Architectural Board of Review to brief it on the plans, but the permitting for the site falls to the state.

State guidelines are less stringent than the city, which is why a mere 7.5-foot setback from Highway 101’s sound wall to the back wall of the southernmost units will fly on the site.

The guidelines also have allowed the project to go up quickly, and the 40-unit design maximizes almost every square foot of the parcel.

Hochhauser expects to be done by December, and the units begin renting out in January.

Each unit has a small driveway for one vehicle to be parked, and the project will also have some shared communal areas for a picnic table or two. 

The access roads into the development will be lined with permeable pavers to help wick standing water away.

(Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

There are 36 two-story units and four one-story units slated for the property, and the first 10 or so are already lining the back of the site. 

As for that Highway 101 noise, extra insulation was in order, along with sound-rated windows, Hochhauser said.

While each unit has a full kitchen and washer and dryer, they make use of the space and are specially sized for the homes.

It’s a market-rate rental project, but is affordable by design, he said. The two bedroom units will be rented out at $1,500 to $1,800 a month.

“The rental market is there,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.