Height Fight

Supporters of stricter building height limits urged the Ordinance Committee of the Santa Barbara City Council not to place any measures on the November ballot other than the one that would limit new downtown building heights to no more than 40 feet. They argued that any alternative or supplemental measures proposed by City Hall would be seen as “a political end run” designed to thwart the people’s will and sell out the city’s skyline to special interests. So far, more than 11,000 signatures have been collected in support of the 40-foot limit. The current height maximum is 60 feet. Many councilmembers-especially those who worry such a height restriction would hamper affordable housing development-have struggled to craft an alternative initiative that would allow exceptions for affordable housing projects and developments deemed to be a “community priority.” Initiative supporters with Save El Pueblo Viejo fear such language is too subjective and wide open for abuse. Affordable housing advocates showed up, too, arguing that the current initiative language was too restrictive and that an alternative was essential for the future of the city. Committee members Grant House and Das Williams argued in favor of placing a more flexible alternative before city voters; Dale Francisco opposed putting an alternative on the ballot and abstained. The entire City Council reviews the matter on March 24.

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