Housing experts came together via Zoom on Friday to discuss statewide housing issues and how jurisdictions are pivoting from old ways of regulating design to using objective design standards for multi-unit residential development.
The discussion was part of the Coastal Housing Coalition’s annual Santa Barbara Housing Conference, and included keynote speaker Dan Walters, a California-based journalist who has written more than 9,000 columns about the state and its politics, a workshop and a panel with Q&A.
The workshop, titled “Objective Design Standards,” featured panelists Rosie Dyste, project planner for Santa Barbara; Alex Pujo, an architect for AIA; Dan Weber, another architect for Anacapa Architecture; and Jami Williams, principal of RRM Design. The discussion was moderated by Detty Peikert, AIA and principal at RRM Design.
Then the hosts of the “Gimme Shelter” podcast, which discusses big news every two weeks in housing policy, hosted panelists Monique Limón, the California State Assembly member representing the 37th district, which includes more than half of Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara City Council member Meagan Harmon, who works on the City/County Affordable Housing Task Group and Home for Good.
The hosts of “Gimme Shelter,” Liam Dillon, a Los Angeles Times staff writer covering housing affordability and neighborhood change, and Matt Levin, a data and housing reporter for CalMatters, asked how past housing policy has produced social inequalities, how COVID-19 has impacted California’s housing goals and how local agencies have responded to the state legislature’s housing directives.
“We’ve fallen short year after year for decades, and now we have this big housing crisis,” Ms. Limón said. “It’s not just a building issue. It’s an issue of economic need because we know at least half of California renters are paying 30% or more of their wages for housing.”
She stated she believes it’s important to remember that “it didn’t just come up in the last five years” and that neither market-based housing nor affordable housing alone solves the issue, but a combination of the two can.
She also addressed single-family housing only zoning, saying it has a history of segregation and it needs to be dealt with.
Ms. Harmon echoed Ms. Limón’s remarks, and added that Santa Barbara specifically has to keep high fire zones in mind and that the city has a “really, incredibly wide gap between the very rich and the rest of us.”
“We’ve got a near zero vacancy rate, intense competition for units and soaring costs,” Ms. Harmon said. “When you have all three of those factors come together, you have a recipe for disaster.”
The panelists explored these issues and discussed potential solutions, such as balancing market-rate housing with affordable housing units, learning the kinds of developments that are truly responsive to the needs in the community and the different actions necessary for local, state and federal levels.
To learn more about the Coastal Housing Coalition and its efforts to achieve solutions to the region’s housing crisis, visit www.coastalhousingcoalition.org.