An architect’s persuasive presentation on Tuesday helped convince the Santa Barbara City Council to approve a duplex and studio project on Olive Street.
The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Jason Dominguez opposed.
Property owner Andrew Schneider plans to demolish his existing 1,366-square-foot, single-family home to build three two-bedroom units, one studio apartment and four covered parking spaces.
The project was approved by the Architectural Board of Review in July, but was appealed by neighbors Nancy Cohen, Mark Wienke, Darlene Zehren and Jack Zehren.
Architect Kirk Gradin won over the council for his client with a rapid-fire slideshow of other large and tall buildings in the neighborhood — including the house owned by one of the appellants.
“This is an exemplary model of what should be approved,” said Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon. “It’s a beautiful building and it is providing housing.”
Although it is only four units, the project is a flashpoint for the larger community debate over affordable housing in the community.
Property owners are increasingly converting single-family homes into high-density rental-housing projects. Activists say the community needs more rental housing, but some longtime homeowners say too much housing is hurting Santa Barbara’s small town charm.
The appellants alleged that the ABR unfairly approved the project, asserting that it is too large for the neighborhood, violates the city’s solar ordinance, and was inaccurately noticed.
“We feel it will significantly harm the livability of the neighborhood,” said Jack Zehren, who is also an architect.
The duplexes would be 24 feet tall, about five feet taller than what the opponents say the solar ordinance allows.
The city’s Solar Access Height Limitation Ordinance is intended to prevent buildings from casting a significant shadow on nearby structures. They said the design resembles a “rectangular block” up against the street, which they say “is totally inconsistent with neighboring residences, and it will appear out of scale with the neighborhood.”
Gradin, however, showed photos of homes on the block and nearby that were bigger than what was being proposed.
“I don’t know how you can say we are out of character with the neighborhood,” said Gradin, who at one point showed photos of one of the appellant’s home next door, which was taller than what his client had proposed.”
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon agreed.
”It is truly exemplary of neighborhood compatibility,” Harmon said. “I am very excited about this.”
Councilman Randy Rowse empathized with the appellants.
”If I were in the appellants’ position, I probably wouldn’t want an AUD next to me either, but the code allows it,” Rowse said.
Dominguez too praised Gradin’s presentation, but voted no because he thought the building was too close to the street.
”I am going to vote against it because I wish it were set back a little more,” Dominguez said.