by Nick Welsh

Affordable-housing advocate Mickey Flacks and Santa Barbara Community Action Network (SBCAN) filed an appeal to block the Santa Barbara city Planning Commission’s recent approval of a proposal to tear down a 10-unit apartment complex at 85 N. La Cumbre Rd. and replace it with eight upscale condos and one below-market unit. “We’re not out to protect the existing tenants per se, so much as we’re trying to protect the existing housing stock,” Flacks said. “These are modest rentals that go for about $1,000 a month. In their place, we’re getting expensive, high-end condos. Is that what this city wants to do?” The owners have put the property on the market for $3.5 million. Flacks argued that the proposal violates city housing policies designed to protect moderate- and low-income housing stock. Noting that the La Cumbre units were located on R-3 zoned land — the only zoning that allows for large multi-family rental housing — Flacks asked, “If the R-3 zone is going to be transformed into condo-mania, what zone district will serve for the construction of new rental apartments?”

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the proposal on June 1. Commissioners expressed concern over the loss of moderately priced rentals, but said the owners were within their rights to redevelop their properties. Commissioner Bendy White described the existing apartment building as “55-year-old crass spec crap” that desperately needed to be replaced. And he asked where Flacks and SBCAN had been in the past when private developers replaced multi-family properties on R-3 zoned land with “2,000- and 3,000-square-foot one-bedroom condos. “That’s where we could use some help,” he said. He won’t be waiting anymore.

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