Library Plaza to be named after late philanthropist Michael Towbes
The Santa Barbara City Council heard an update on the upcoming Regional Housing Needs Allocation on Tuesday, which determined that Santa Barbara County’s regional housing need for the next eight-year planning period, from 2023 to 2031, is 24,856 units.
The region’s previous eight-year period determination was 11,030 units, and this year, a state bill changed the method of calculating the housing need. The RHNA, as a result of Senate Bill 828, now considers overcrowding and cost burden, and changes how the vacancy rate is factored.
The RHNA determined that the city of Santa Barbara needs an additional 8,001 units, exceeding that of every other city in the county. Santa Maria received the second highest allocation determination at 5,418 units.
“I guess, from my perspective, we’ve seen this coming for at least the last four years … I think we’ve already made tremendous moves to try to accommodate these numbers in anticipating what the numbers would be and they’re even higher than what we anticipated,” said Council member Kristen Sneddon, referencing “filling the donut hole” (the Central Business District), passing new regulations facilitating accessory dwelling units and changing the average-unit size density incentive program. She said that she would like to appeal the number if there is a “will for that.”
“We’re being pushed to put this type of housing in high fire areas (and) in areas that have infrastructure issues, and not just water availability but sewage and water main (issues),” Ms. Sneddon said. “It’s not just an unlimited resource to be able to just build up and out in all of these locations.”
Council member Meagan Harmon said the determination was an “eye-popping number,” but “not an arbitrary number.”
“There’s so much conversation in the ether about this question of ‘how big can or should Santa Barbara get,’ and in a lot of ways, I look at this information and, to me, that conversation about population size becomes a total red herring because these numbers show that people are already here now and here today, we’re already dealing with unsafe overcrowding issues,” she said. “We’re already dealing with significant cost burden issues and I think it’s extremely important for us to recognize that and have an understanding of it.”
In other business, the council unanimously voted to approve the naming opportunities presented by staff for the new Library Plaza, which included naming the entire plaza the Michael Towbes Library Plaza. The recognition will be made on the planter located on Anapamu Street near the main entry to the plaza.
“I’m really touched and just moved by what Michael Towbes has done for our community and this level of support the community has shown for him, because when we talk about investing in our community, I don’t think there’s a better investment in building a community with a library, and to be able to honor somebody whose life legacy is building a better Santa Barbara,” Council member Eric Friedman. “We’re getting this great synergy of the library and Mr. Towbes’ legacy of building a better Santa Barbara and it will be here for future generations, so I’m fully supportive of all that’s coming forward of the naming opportunities for Mr. Towbes.”
The remaining 15 naming opportunities are meant for donors of $10,000 and above.
Along with unanimously passing a resolution condemning racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the council also voted unanimously to apply for a $40,000 certified local government grant for an African American/black historic context statement, which would offer a comprehensive historical background of the community and identify historic buildings that may be eligible for designation as historic resources.
“Our intention has always been to preserve Santa Barbara’s black history, but also to make space for the history we’re creating right now. This is definitely one of those things,” Simone Ruskamp, one of the founders of Healing Justice SB who pushed for the statement, said during public comment. “I am really, really excited about the potential for this grant.”
The city’s architectural historian will partner with qualified historic preservation consultants and their community liaisons, along with representatives of the African American/black community, to create the statement. If awarded the grant funds, the project will take approximately 12 months and be completed by Sept. 30, 2022.
“I’m really looking forward to having more celebration of that history and really giving space for that to be a broader part of our historic preservation,” added Ms. Sneddon. “I think that a lot of times, when we talk about historic preservation, we think of only one particular type of history, and we have such an interwoven tapestry of complex history, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about it and this grant will give the resources to be able to really celebrate and put that in context for all of us.”