Down on B

As someone who cherishes Santa Barbara’s heritage (I often lead downtown architectural walking tours), I strongly oppose Proposition B. It is a well-meaning but simplistic and misguided response to concerns over the esthetic quality of a few recent downtown projects. The proposal does nothing to address basic issues of architectural design; indeed, it is a meat-axe approach to issues that deserve careful case-by-case review.

The proposal further complicates the goal of promoting mixed-use projects within the city’s core-combining commercial and residential uses (especially affordable units). Finally, the long-term curse of lower height limits is that they will promote sprawl. Exhibit A locally is upper State Street—a jumble of low-lying structures (attractive or not) that expand problems of traffic control, parking, and overall congestion, with none of the municipal parking facilities that help make our downtown a congenial place for commerce and recreation.

Our downtown, after all, boasts several taller structures of historical or aesthetic worth-for example, the Courthouse and Arlington towers, the Granada and El Paseo office buildings. No one suggests demolishing these structures, or even failing to rebuild them if disaster were to strike. On the other hand, many of our ugliest buildings sit comfortably below current or proposed height limits.

Some cite recent Chapala Street projects as a reason to lower height limits. But the problem with those buildings is not their height; it’s their bulk and design features. And fears of “canyonization” and “high-rise” buildings are too far-fetched to be taken seriously.

Proposition B is a clumsy response to the challenges of urban design. It does not protect our heritage. Instead, it will fossilize that heritage.-Roger H. Davidson

Many thanks and much appreciation to the Indyfor calling Measure B what it is: bad for Santa Barbara.

The Wrong Solution for the wrong problem at the wrong time and a measure that barely rises to the level of placebo politics pretty much sums up the essence of this reactionary initiative. Your thought provoking and insightful article gives one of the most fair and balanced overviews penned to date, and supports the notion of why virtually every local environmental and affordable housing group opposes this shortsighted measure.-Michael Holliday

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