Did You Know, Bonnie Donovan
“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”
— George Washington Carver
Santa Barbara disputes the California cry for more housing.
The state claims more housing brings more affordability. Where in the entire state has that happened, but especially in Santa Barbara?
Average Unit Density or AUD was designed to encourage housing by allowing higher density with smaller units and providing additional incentives to build affordable housing for the average worker. That certainly has not happened.
The reality is that more housing falls under the current market value with the builder throwing in a few token moderate rate units. (Only after the developers were forced to do so). What is moderate? Of 1,200-plus units approved, maybe 30 are moderately priced.
Imagine an overbuilt Ojai, an overbuilt Carmel, an overbuilt downtown Paris? And ex-mayors will say, “We didn’t know it would be so high.” Drive around town, see the results of the unanimous votes by the Santa Barbara City Council, big buildings obstructing our views all over, with little workforce housing. “Story poles, story poles, wherefore art thou story poles.”
AUD began in 2013 and was due to expire in August 2021, but the “Scheme Team” (city staff and the city council) already voted to approve the extension of AUD, in order to wait for the report from the consultant regarding Floor to Area Ratio. When that happens, they will then trade AUD for FAR guidelines.
And if you think AUD is a boondoggle bait-and-switch, wait until you see the heights of FAR!
A simple understanding of a complicated equation for FAR is impossible. However, for comparison’ s sake, if the four-story 82 units at 711 N. Milpas St. (before their requested revisions) is considered a 1.67 FAR, imagine what a 4-FAR or more will look like.
Two of our council members are promoting 4-FAR in the Central Business District, which now includes De La Vina to Santa Barbara Street and Mission Street to Haley.
The CBD is being stretched this far.
Possibilities are huge buildings like those proposed at 630 Chapala St. (next to Paseo Nuevo) on both sides of State Street, all the way to Mission. Santa Barbara is not New York City.
Is this the Santa Barbara we want? For the sake of housing? New York City doesn’t have mountain views, an ocean front nor this kind of weather.
The focus has clearly changed. All this building was for housing so people could work and live in Santa Barbara — ecological and all, not contributing to the carbon footprint. There’s so much snake oil here, it is mind boggling.
But now the focus is providing housing for the houseless. Despite the claims, COVID-19 had very little to do with the current homeless crisis. (We addressed in this column a few weeks ago. The causes of homelessness rise out of increased substance abuse and mental illness.) Another issue of homeless in California exists because the state hosts more than 25% of the nation’s homeless population.
It isn’t just the weather that attracts them here.
Why does the city of Santa Barbara permit other areas to direct their homeless here, and why does the city embrace them as residents within 24 hours?
Why are traffic lanes being whittled from two to one (sections of Anacapa, De La Vina, Chapala, to mention just a few) and parking eradicated with all the housing being approved? Really? People who own million-dollar-plus condos drive cars!
And if the parking spots are not used, as Mr. Meaney, the architect of the 630 Chapala St. complex recently recanted from his experience, we submit the units were second homes or vacation rentals where the occupants left with their cars and luggage at the same time.
630 Chapala St. is the first AUD project presented without parking spots. (Remember, another unanimous decision by our city council was “maximum of one parking spot per unit,” which translates into: none required.)
The option for those residents with cars is to use the public parking garage at Paseo Nuevo. However, what will the residents do when they go downtown to go to the movies or the theater or to shop, eat, go to work or attend a city meeting? Where will they park if all the parking lots are already spoken for and rented to new residents of million-dollar condos in the downtown area?
Here are two more examples of city parking lots given away for new developments by more unanimous council decisions: the Cota and the Carrillo/Castillo commuter lots. One was given up for the police station, and those approximately 360 commuters will be parsed out to other downtown city-owned lots. The same goes for the 125 commuters who use the Carrillo/Castillo lot, which looks abandoned due to COVID-19. Rumor has it, that parking lot is being given to the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.
We wonder where the Westside neighbors in the Castillo/Carrillo area who used that lot at night, will park with the lack of on street spots for their cars. Approximately 485 cars are displaced by just two projects! All dressed up and nowhere to park. Barely the tip of the iceberg.
Another unanimous vote in action: The senior citizens at Vista Del Monte are being put in a precarious situation. The bike paths have been incorporated into the sidewalks, which poses a problem as people leave the driveway to get to Modoc Road.
Is this because the elderly are expected to give up their cars? Why aren’t we protecting our senior population? Why the obstacle course on State Street and now beyond? Why all the accommodations for the bicyclists?
Talk about housing; Rob Fredericks, CEO of the Santa Barbara Housing Authority, waxes about the $3 million “housing vouchers” he is in charge of dispersing. They have been given 89 of these vouchers.
Regarding the landlord incentives to participate in the program, the incentives don’t cover the costs of the mandatory lease nor relocation fees if the lease is not renewed. That alone was equal to three months’ rent. Again, brought to us, courtesy of unanimous votes by the City Council.
Voting for Santa Barbara’s next mayor and city council is imminent. Job applications were opened July 12, and the closing date to file papers is Aug. 2. If you’ve got what it takes to step up to the plate and throw your hat into the ring, Santa Barbara desperately needs wise and intelligent leadership.
To be considered, applicants need 100 valid signatures turned in with the application.
Don’t forget: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall vote is less than 2 months away: Sept 14.
We need a city council and mayor who will stop the removal of all the parking, in both street and city lots. All these changes are designed to create a different Santa Barbara — one that we will no longer recognize.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt