A proposal to build 60 apartments on a parking lot site next to Highway 101 sailed through the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday.
The city’s Housing Authority wants to build the units for mostly moderate-income households.
A studio, for example, would have a maximum rent of $1,600 and only be available for individuals making $75,684 or less. A one-bedroom unit would rent for $1,900 with an income limit of $97,308. A two-bedroom unit would rent for $2,200 with a maximum income of $108,120.
While the Housing Authority primarily focuses on projects geared toward low-income residents, this project aims to serve working professionals with higher incomes, but those who still cannot afford to live in Santa Barbara. For example, a two-bedroom apartment would rent at a market rate of between $3,200 and $3,900, according to Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority.
“We’ve seen a great need in addressing the missing middle,” Fredericks said. “The city needs more housing across all income levels.”
The project is proposed for the Carrillo and Castillo commuter lot, the same site that the Housing Authority in 2019 proposed building tiny homes for homeless residents, an idea that was widely panned by the neighbors and then became a moot point at the site after the state and federal funding fell through.
The current version of the proposal, however, is much less controversial. Although the project still must undergo design approval, and win ultimate approval from the City Council, the early community support is a stark difference to the previous proposal, when lines of residents filled the Louise Lowry Davis Center to protest the tiny homes.
The space is currently used primarily as a parking lot. It provides 140 parking spaces for downtown area commuters.
In 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carrillo Lot had an average of 152 subscribers each paying $40 monthly permit fees. The parking fees generate about $72,960 in gross revenue each year, a number that city officials said is underwhelming.
The Carrillo Lot is also home to New Beginnings’ overnight parking program, which houses 12 family units in cars and RVs overnight, as well as two family units during the day.
The project will require the removal of dozens of tipuana and jacaranda trees at the site. The parking currently has a heavy tree canopy that brings shade to the lot. Only the trees facing Mission Creek and Highway 101 and the homes on Castillo Street will be preserved.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said she supports the project, adding that she was especially impressed with the Housing Authority’s work because building housing for moderate-income households does not bring the same access to grant money as 100% low-income housing projects.
“It’s just such an example of creativity and ingenuity,” Harmon said.
She said the city should create some sort of equity investment fund so that it can purchase land or help fund projects that create similar housing developments.
“Building missing middle housing, even when the land is donated, is an incredble challenge,” Harmon said. “We don’t have access to grants. We don’t have access to federal funding in the same way we might for other types of affordable housing.”
Officials said the units would be targeted for people who work in the field of nursing, law enforcement and other first responders.
Councilman Eric Friedman estimated that about 100 people would live on the site, so housing them also would bring environmental benefits.
“Those are individuals that are no longer on the road, at least some of them,” Friedman said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.