The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved objectives for a joint development agreement for affordable housing in the Carrillo Commuter Lot.
The council unanimously approved all project objectives after a presentation by Robert Dayton, manager of transportation planning and parking.
The objectives include: prioritizing the project for moderate-income households (80 to 120 percent of area median income); maximizing housing density by providing smaller units; provide little to no parking for the housing units while being sensitive to the adjacent neighborhood; retaining ownership of the property so that revenues can be revisited for additional downtown priorities; creating a buffer for Mission Creek and retaining a portion of the buffer for parking and preservation of existing mature trees; engaging the neighborhood for project design’ feedback and residential parking permit availability; prioritizing housing for public employees and New Beginnings clients; and incorporating design standards to address air quality for development near Highway 101.
The objectives will guide efforts by city staff and Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara to draft a development agreement for the project.
The Housing Authority met with the council May 7 and asked to pursue an affordable housing development in the lot, on the northwest corner of Carrillo and Castillo streets, which the city acquired after the previous owner, the city Redevelopment Agency, dissolved in 2011. The city’s General Plan policies are supportive of the council taking action to use the lot for downtown housing, as the project fits into the plan’s directive to “encourage affordable housing projects by expediting and facilitating Downtown housing construction that includes provisions prioritizing Downtown workers to the extent legally possible,” according to city staff.
The lot has 140 parking spaces and generates approximately $72,960 in gross revenue annually. The lot is also home to New Beginnings’ overnight parking program, which houses 12 family units in cars and RVs overnight, as well as two during the day.
An important element of the project will be parking. By limiting parking, the city could maximize the number of housing units and minimize costs, while still providing some parking for downtown commuters or tenants, according to the staff report.
“This objective speaks to, again, the people … that will live in this space. They will not only be living downtown, but they will have their employment downtown, they will have their social engagement downtown. We’d like to have people that do not have automobiles and can embrace that lifestyle,” said Mr. Dayton.
Councilman Randy Rowse suggested that the dual objectives of having little or no parking and of being sensitive to the adjacent neighborhood were in conflict, pointing out that the neighborhood already has dense parking and questioned what would happen if a resident’s job moved from Downtown.
Mr. Dayton pointed to past housing projects that have been successful without providing parking to tenants, like the El Carillo development, but said that it is up to the council to weigh the pros and cons of including parking, which may take away from unit density.
“It comes down to priorities and what you want,” Mr. Dayton said.
In regards to the parking issue, Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority, affirmed that the lot is in an excellent location for public transportation.
“It is along the major transportation corridor there of Carrillo and Castillo and right up from the transportation center to do the transfer of line, so that makes sense, perfect sense, for siting housing along a transportation corridor,” said Mr. Fredericks.
Councilman Eric Freidman raised the issue of long-term objectives for who the tenants would be.
“If we want to retain our younger workforce as they age we need to have two- and three-bedroom units, so I would be willing to have slightly fewer units if we could focus more on the two or three bedrooms to allow families to come in and grow,” Mr. Freidman said.
Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon asked staff whether there are ways the city can maximize the density of the project.
“That’s definitely a possibility. If we can get more density allowed through the entitlement process and the approvals, that could help adding the larger units,” said Mr. Fredericks.
The public voiced support for the project, and even prompted the council to include nonprofit employees as prioritized tenants
The council added language to consider expanding the zone for qualified tenants beyond the Downtown Business District to include teachers, firefighters and other public employees who would not qualify for housing.
City staff will now create a draft agreement with the Housing Authority defined by the approved objectives, which will likely include some type of funding commitment for the project, and return to the City Council for approval.
“I would really just like to shoot the moon on this project,” Ms. Sneddon said. “I mean, we have two commuter lots, one of them is most likely spoken for. This is our other one, and we’ve talked about this for a long time, this type of project. You will not hear me say this very often, but just maximize the density at this site.”