The Santa Barbara City Council today will consider adopting an ordinance to revise the membership of the Single Family Design Board, which includes changing membership criteria and quorum requirements.
The council also will receive an update from staff regarding the Single Family Design Board process improvement work effort being considered by the Land Development Team Oversight Subcommittee to streamline project design review.
The council will meet at 2 p.m. in its chambers, 735 Anacapa St.
“Given ongoing challenges to recruit new Single Family Design Board (SFDB) members and maintain a quorum for their biweekly full board meetings, staff is requesting to amend the SFDB membership to be comprised of five members (instead of seven members), to establish that three members would constitute a quorum (instead of four members), and that attendance by a member with professional qualifications in architecture is unnecessary to achieve quorum,” according to the city.
For membership qualifications, staff is proposing that the board be composed of at least one architect, up to three professionals with similar qualifications, and up to three members of the public without professional qualifications.
Further, staff is proposing to add urban planning as a category in professional qualifications based on Ordinance Committee input.
“With these changes, staff hopes to address the immediate concern of holding regularly scheduled SFDB hearings while providing the City Council ultimate flexibility when appointing SFDB board members,” staff wrote in its report to the council.
The Single Family Design Board was established by the council in 2007 as the result of a multi-year effort to update the City’s Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, which expanded the type and number of single-unit residence projects subject to discretionary design review.
Prior to 2007, single-unit residential development projects requiring design review were under the purview of the Architectural Board of Review.
The expanded discretionary review of single-unit residential projects necessitated a separate advisory body to handle the workload and focus on issues and design features of residential development.
The city of Santa Barbara often has challenges recruiting and retaining members of the City’s four design review bodies (SFDB, ABR, Historic Landmarks Commission and Sign Committee), staff said.
Whereas the membership criteria and quorum requirements of the ABR and Historic Landmarks Commission are established by City Charter, SFDB membership is established by Municipal Code and can be amended by a majority vote of the council.
“Staff recommends revising the membership criteria of the SFDB to address persistent recruitment and retention issues and challenges achieving a quorum in order to hold scheduled public meetings and minimize unnecessary delay of single-unit residential development projects,” according to the city.
Current requirements call for seven members appointed by the council, including two members who are licensed architects; a licensed landscape architect; three members with professional qualifications in fields related to architecture, including, but not limited to, building design, structural engineering, industrial design, or landscape contracting, and one appointed from the public at large.
The current ordinance establishes a quorum of the SFDB as four members, one of whom shall be a licensed architect.
The SFDB is currently down to five appointed members due to consistently low turnout in applications and resignation of members outside of the regular advisory group recruitment cycle.
To remedy past recruitment challenges, staff have occasionally requested existing SFDB members to voluntarily serve beyond their appointed term until the next advisory group recruitment process concludes and new members are appointed by council.
In recent recruitment cycles, existing and potential members expressed to staff that the countywide demand for professionals to serve on numerous design review boards leaves few licensed architects, landscape architects and other design professionals available to serve on the city’s boards.
In accordance with the current membership configuration, if SFDB begins a meeting with the minimum to achieve quorum and a member needs to recuse herself or himself from an agenda item, quorum is lost, and the project must be continued for two weeks.
This occurred as recently as Aug. 15. Subsequently, the Aug. 29 SFDB meeting was canceled in its entirety due to an unexpected illness of one member and the planned absence of another.
The requirement that one licensed architect must be present to constitute a quorum exacerbates the challenge to achieving quorum and holding scheduled meetings, staff said. Staff schedule special and additional SFDB meetings when needed to address the backlog of SFDB projects and canceled meetings, but staff said this response is not sustainable long term.
The Ordinance Committee met on Oct. 4 and discussed the implications of reconfiguring the SFDB’s membership. On Oct.11, the Ordinance Committee amended staff’s original proposal to have five members on the board with three members constituting a quorum, but no requirement that quorum shall have a particular professional licensure.
Staff’s proposal did not originally include a licensed architect as part of the SFDB membership due to recruitment challenges, but the Ordinance Committee determined the position was a critical component to the board. They decided that membership includes the requirement for one licensed architect, up to three professionals with similar qualifications, and up to three members of the public in order to maximize council’s flexibility when appointing members.
In addition, the Ordinance Committee requested that the field of urban planning be added as a professional category for board membership.
Planning Division staff are currently engaged in a larger work effort to review the types of single-unit residential projects that currently require SFDB review, with an objective to streamline the permitting process where possible and ensure that discretionary review is adding value to the project and the community.
That effort is just beginning and is expected to take about eight to 10 months to complete.
“The need to adjust the SFDB membership criteria and quorum requirements is more immediate and, therefore, being addressed ahead of other future SFDB-related code amendments,” staff said.