No Dueling Height Wars

In a 4-3 vote, members of the Santa Barbara City Council opted not to craft an alternative, less restrictive building-height-limit proposal at its November 18 meeting. Had things gone differently, such a measure would have appeared on the ballot in November 2009 and would have competed with a similar one that aims to restrict new buildings to 40 feet within El Pueblo Viejo and to 45 feet outside El Pueblo Viejo. The current height maximum for either is 60 feet. Some councilmembers were uncertain how much rental housing would be required before they’d consider encroachments on the new height limits, or whether the new housing would be “affordable” to people of moderate or upper-middle incomes. Some of the larger buildings springing up on Chapala Street sparked concern that Santa Barbara’s downtown was losing its distinctive character; Save El Pueblo Viejo went into action, proposing the new stricter height limits and qualifying more than enough valid signatures to place its proposal on the November 2009 ballot. Recent surveys paid for by City Hall indicate that without an alternative, the Save El Pueblo Viejo proposal would pass overwhelmingly. While some councilmembers support that plan, others worry that new limits could make it harder to build affordable housing and have cast about for an alternative.

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