House
A glass porch railing was installed by a previous owner at this contemporary-style home on Santa Barbara’s Riviera. The new owners challenged a ruling by the Single-Family Design Review Board that required them to replace it with cable, even though a city inspector had mistakenly signed off on the glass. (Vanguard Planning photo)

In a rare move, the Santa Barbara City Council overturned a decision of one of its design review boards and allowed a Riveria homeowner to keep a glass porch railing.

Jarrett Gorin, principal at Vanguard Planning and a frequent council critic as a fierce property rights advocate for his clients, won the council’s favor this time — unanimously.

Gorin presented multiple photographs of the two-story house from various locations throughout the city to show that the glass railing was barely visible or not visible at all.

“It’s not a prominent feature of any public views,” he said. “You can’t even see this house from most places, and there is not a city ordinance or guidelines that prohibit glass railings.”

Gorin also presented results from a reflection study that indicated the only reflection from the glass was on the backyard below the contemporary-style house.

“There are not glare issues from this particular railing,” he said.

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon was persuaded.

“My goodness, what a beautiful home you have, and I think it adds to the whole appearance of the neighborhood,” she said. “I think it is consistent with modern aesthetics. It fades into the background. It doesn’t stand out against nature.”

Leigh and Mark Brinkman purchased the 2,346-square-foot house at 917 Paseo Ferrelo in 2015. The residence is set into the hillside between North Milpas Street and Alameda Padre Serra east of the Santa Barbara Bowl.

The previous owner had installed the glass railing, even though he only had secured approval for a cable railing in 2011. In a mistake acknowledged by the city, the building inspector signed off on the glass. Records indicate that the homeowner also did not pay for a city-required zoning information report when the house was sold to the Brinkmans.

After the sale, however, someone filed a complaint with the city about unpermitted work. When the Brinkmans applied for an as-built permit in 2018, the Single-Family Design Review Board objected and informed them that the glass railing had to be replaced with cable.

Jarrett Gorin

Certified planner Jarrett Gorin, principal at Vanguard Planning, convinced the Santa Barbara City Council to overturn the Single-Family Design Review Board’s decision to require his client to replace an existing glass porch railing with a cable one. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Board member Brian Miller said at Tuesday’s council meeting that he didn’t personally care what type of railing was used, but he questioned whether allowing something that wasn’t supposed to be installed in the first place chips away at Santa Barbara’s charm and character, or disrespects the board’s decisions.

“Is it OK to approve something that was initially not approved,” Miller asked the council. “The board felt due to its high visibility and location on the Riviera that a glass railing is not acceptable.

“Should we allow this rather simple glass railing … slide through the cracks? How many more cracks in the future are we going to let through?”

The City Council disagreed, voting 7-0 to allow the glass railing to stand. Several neighbors also emailed the council in support of the Brinkmans.

“I don’t think there’s some big community issure here,” Gorin told the council.

Mayor Cathy Murillo credited Gorin with making a compelling case.

“The new homeowners should not be held accountable for any irregularities that they didn’t cause,” she said.

One council member questioned the safety of the glass.

“Is there the potential of the glare somehow starting a fire,” Councilman Oscar Gutierrez asked. “Is it powerful enough to do that?”

The city’s chief building official, Andrew Stuffler, assurred him that was not the case.

“I don’t believe this guard rail is capable of igniting a fire,” he noted.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.