In a joint session on Monday evening, the Goleta Planning Commission and its Design Review Board met to discuss the issue of building intensity in the community, and fielded public commentary. One of the methods of regulating building intensity given the most attention was floor area ratio, which is defined by the Planning Commission as “the gross floor area permitted on a site divided by the total net area of the site.” In determining what is the best use of floor air ratio, finding comparable communities that have used it and looking at adjacent buildings is a must, said Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner Cecilia Brown, who sat in on the meeting. Petaluma, a small agrarian town in Sonoma County which recently adopted a general plan, was considered as a suitable comparison.
Various facets of floor area ratio and building intensity were brought up by members of the public. Developer Peter Kettingrequested a clearer definition of gross floor area-whether or not that number includes storage rooms and other utility areas. Others voiced concern that building lots to their maximum allowable potential would affect the face of the community. “We’re just thinking about now. I don’t think we’ve considered what this place would look like if every property were built out to what’s allowed,” said Karen Lovelace, a resident of El Encanto Heights.
Building heights were also reviewed, and some area residents said that they thought 30 feet was excessive for a single family home. While Andrew Bermant, of the Bermant Development Company, said that nine foot-ceilings are a feature attractive to home buyers, Commissioner Ed Easton questioned the use of that particular architectural element from an energy efficiency standpoint. Bermant, however, replied that by using modern, energy efficient materials and building processes, greater efficiency could be achieved than was possible on older homes with lower ceiling heights. Easton countered by noting that if the ceiling heights were lower in the new, energy efficient homes, that much fewer resources would be consumed due to the lower interior volume. It was a technical point that Bermant could not find fault with.
For his part, Bermant disagreed with the floor area ratio approach to regulating building intensity, saying that dealing with projects on a case-by-case basis is favorable, and that the current limitations pertaining to building height, landscaping, and building footprint are sufficient methods of control. “There are architectural techniques that you as a Design Review Board can use to help guide us,” he said.
Monday’s discussion, along with comments from the public, will be reviewed by City staff to guide their research prior to the next meeting, which is scheduled to be held on Monday, September 15 at 6 p.m.