Height Fight Vote in 2009

In November 2009, Santa Barbara voters will decide whether the maximum building height limit-now 60 feet-should be reduced to 40 feet. Supporters-angered by the large structures popping up on Chapala Street-turned in more than enough signatures to qualify the proposed limit for the November 2009 ballot. The measure will pit developers, architects, and affordable housing advocates against a coalition of slow growthers and neighborhood preservationists who worry that the city’s historic character is being overwhelmed by big buildings. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara City Council will deliberate next week on a proposed interim big building ordinance. The council could develop a superior, more nuanced alternative that would compete at the ballot box with the aforementioned height limit ordinance. Some councilmembers have suggested other maximum height limits. Others argue that developers should be allowed to build above 40 feet only if they provide more affordable units than the current law requires. And yet others hope that any new measure would limit the size of individual units, thus allowing the city to promote development of structures that are “affordable by design.” The height battle would coincide with a mayoral showdown expected between councilmembers Helene Schneider and Iya Falcone, both Democrats. Former councilmember Dan Secord, a Republican, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.

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