Renters Not Welcome

Beachfront Development Given the Green Light

Despite city housing policy calling for the preservation of existent rental stock and increased density, Santa Barbara’s planning commissioners voted to greenlight a West Beach condo development last Thursday, shedding few tears over 13 rental units to be razed to make way for five upscale condominiums near the corner of West Yanonali and Bath streets. Squeezed into a converted 1940s motel and a two-story Craftsman-style dwelling next door, 11 of the 13 doomed rentals measured below current legal square-foot minimums; the current tenants jockey for seven total parking spaces. While some commissioners expressed regret over the net loss of downtown rentals, one commissioner described the units as “probably termite and flea-ridden,” a characterization some residents resented. Developer Steve Berkus offered to pay two months rent to help displaced tenants relocate — among them a nurse, a semi-retired grandmother, an office worker, and several students. Mike Roth, an administrative employee of Big Dogs Clothing, said he pays $825 monthly for the 180-square-foot studio he’s called home for five years. Roth, who has no car, said the rental was ideal for him because it’s within easy walking distance of his work, stores, and Amtrak. Seeking to highlight the positives, commissioners noted the development would result in reduced overall daily car trips because fewer people will inhabit the site and lauded Berkus’s architecturally attractive and environmentally correct “green building” design.

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