Housing project planned for 400 block
A project to increase high density housing in downtown Santa Barbara includes a 52-foot apartment building at 410 State St.
Because the project was deemed a Community Benefit Housing Project by the planning commission on July 16, it is allowed to increase the allowable height from 45 feet to 52 feet, according to Laura Benard, the project manager at Cearnal Collective, LLP, the company spearheading the project.
This new development involves retaining and modifying the approximately 17,150 square-foot building at 410 State St. and retaining the approximately 6,800 square-foot building at 409 Anacapa St., a voluntary lot merger to combine the three parcels, and construction of a new 84 unit, four-story Priority Housing project over the east parking lot.
The structure will include approximately 52,675 square feet of residential units (36 Studios, 24 one-bedrooms, 12 junior one-bedrooms, and 12 two-bedrooms) averaging approximately 627 square feet per unit.
Parking will be a combination of surface parking and two-stack parking lifts (for residential only), Ms. Benard told the News-Press.
This large project is currently going through the planning and zoning entitlement process.
Ms. Benard said the architects believe the added height makes it more feasible for a livable space, with higher ceilings as opposed to an eight-foot ceiling.
The project has received the approval from the planning commission for the added height, so they will continue going back to the Historic Landmarks Committee three or four times as the structure continues to evolve.
Some concern has been expressed about building structures higher than 45 feet, including at the city council meeting last week. While this project does not need the approval of city council because of its Community Benefit Housing Project status, the council discussed making amendments to the Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program, which included increasing the allowable height of buildings from 45 feet to 48 feet.
Council members Meagan Harmon and Eric Friedman both said they can see arguments on both sides regarding building height.
Council member Mike Jordan said that Community Benefit Housing defines a consideration of livability as higher ceiling heights.
“I think the 45-foot height in the downtown is historically in place for retail and office uses and the migration to housing cannot just be expected to fit within the same box,” he said. “The three foot opportunity … is just a token little, inconsequential, imperceptible change from 45 feet that hardly will be noticed downtown.”
Council member Kristen Sneddon opposed increasing the building height, saying she needs a clear goal from the AUD project regarding the height.
“Over 45 feet needs to have a community benefit, otherwise it’s higher ceilings and it’s producing luxury,” she said at the meeting. “The 45 ceiling height is enough.”
Council member Oscar Guiterrez also expressed he wants to keep the maximum height at 45 feet.
Mayor Cathy Murillo concluded the discussion saying she is fine with 48 feet.
“I don’t think it’s luxury to have a ceiling that gives you a little air and space, especially if the square footage is a little smaller,” she said.
In addition, Richard Closson, a resident of Santa Barbara for 36 years, told the News-Press he and a few long-time residents take issue with the proposed height.
“It blocks what we think are important mountain views,” he said. “When you stand at the intersection there, you look toward the mountains and there won’t be that view when that building is built. That’s a fallacy on the part of the developers.”
In addition, he said he’s concerned with the fact that the architects are only building on one of the three available parcels, and that’s what makes the building so tall.
“If (the project) were able to be spread over a little more in the three parcels, that could bring down the overall height of the building and make it more compatible with its surrounding buildings.”
Mr. Closson also mentioned that he doesn’t believe the added height is necessary for the reasons the developers say it is.
“We’re a new world city. We don’t need those tall windows and ceilings for the natural air conditioning that they needed in the 18th and 19th centuries,” he said. “There’s really no published evidence that making windows tall makes it more livable.”
He concluded by saying that he still supports revitalizing the downtown area of the city.
“Nobody is saying that the downtown should not be developed, and in many ways this is a good project.”