An artist’s rendering of the proposed 82-unit rental apartment project for 711 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed 82-unit rental apartment project for 711 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara. (Contributed photo)

A majority of the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday agreed to a development agreement term sheet for the proposed 82-unit rental apartment project on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon voting in opposition.

The City Council, in an unconvential move, has agreed to create a development agreement with 711 N. Milpas St. property owners Alan Bleecker and Ed St. George.

The owners already had approval to build the project, but they came back to the city in June to ask for a development agreement that would include 16 apartments offered at below-market rates. They also agreed to change the architecture from contemporary to something more compatible with the neighborhood.

In exchange, parts of the building will reach 52 feet, instead of the previously approved 45 feet.

“We were able to come up with a process that provides opportunities for public review and city design review, but at the same time it gives us some certainty and limits the potential for multiple and pointless appeals,” said Jarrett Gorin, principal for Vanguard Planning, who is representing the ownership of the project. “That’s been a major factor that has delayed housing construction in the city.”

A development agreement would enable the city and the developers to agree on actions and conditions while helping the city obtain certain concessions. Ultimately, it provides an assurance that the project won’t be rejected at the end because the city and the developers would have already agreed on the terms of development. However, the project still will have to go to the Architectural Board of Review and Planning Commission for input and review. 

The term sheet also calls for 110 parking spaces, including 104 residential and six commercial.

“This development agreement actually shows the community that we’re taking actions and we are really targeting the housing crisis that we have here in the city,” Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, who grew up on the Eastside, said adding residents along Milpas Street will add to the local economy.

“I just really want to thank the city staff for their time and their commitment with this development agreement, as well as the owners of this property to really bring affordable housing to Santa Barbara and to my district,” she said.

In an effort to create more rental apartments, the city in 2013 approved the Average Unit-size Density incentive program, which allows developers to stack apartments on small pieces of land if they build rentals. However, the units are market-rate, raising questions about whether the new housing is meeting the needs of the community’s working-class families or just serving as a financial boon to developers to build expensive small rental apartments for young millennial workers.

In response to those concerns, the developers decided to incorporate below-market-rate housing.

Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said the project is “pretty exciting.”

“It could prove to be a model going forward for how we can balance the concerns of our developers with our need to respect our design review process,” Harmon said.

Sneddon voted in June to pursue the term sheet, but on Tuesday night opposed the idea. She said she was looking for “extraordinary benefits,” including some of the units going to teachers and first responders.

“I am not seeing, for myself, the extraordinary benefits that I would have hoped, but with great respect to all members involved, I will not be supporting it,” Sneddon said. “I don’t feel that the trade-off of adding 66 market-rate units offsets the 16 affordable units.”

Developer St. George heaped praise on City Administrator Paul Casey, senior planner Renee Brooke and City Attorney Ariel Calonne.

“They have just been really great,” said St. George, who has feuded with Casey publicly over problems with the Community Development Department. “Alan and I could not have asked for better cooperation. They were amazing. Credit is due, where credit is owed. I would like to send out a big COVID hug to all three of them.”

Civilian Review System Moves Ahead

Members of the Community Oversight Formation Commission will receive $50 a meeting, and the panel could include at least one member of the “criminal justice” community, the City Council decided Tuesday. 

The City Council voted 7-0 that the commission will be made up of 13 members “whose life experience, education, professional skills and community standing will garner the confidence and trust of the community.”

The Community Oversight Formation Commission members should have a demonstrated interest in community affairs, social justice, criminal justice and equal rights issues.

They do not have to be a U.S. citizen. This commission will not serve as the oversight board, if one gets formed, but will make recommendations on the types of oversight by examining the many different models for civilian review boards. 

Applications are due to the city by Sept. 30. The council expects that the commission will meet between four and 20 hours a month, and it would take a year before the group makes recommendations to the City Council.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at 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