David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

Architecture Creates Attitude

There Go the Neighborhoods

Sunday, June 23, 2013
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I was walking along the Santa Barbara Street side of the Courthouse. There were people taking down a large sound stage on the far side of the Sunken Gardens. I talked to the owner, who said he had been doing this for 20-plus years and they had just had a weekend for an insurance company of about 600 people, who came to town for a convention. He said that they probably spent about a million dollars.

I noticed that we had about six or so cruise ships in town this year. We gratefully had the Navy invade us not too long ago.

I am told, by where I go for Sunday services, that people travel to Santa Barbara to get married.

Frequently, I talk to people at Stearns Wharf, on the trolley, and on State Street, asking them where they are from. A frequent response is, “Up from L.A. for the day.” I ask, “Why are you here?” “To get away from it all,” they say.

The economic engine of Santa Barbara is the hospitality industry. People come here not only for what it is, but what it is not. We have strict regulations about signs, balloons, building heights, and more to preserve the ambiance of Santa Barbara to continue to attract tourists.

We have a problem. There is little affordable housing. The proposed Municipal Code Amendments for Implementation of the Average Unit Size Density Incentive Program, due for City Council ratification in July, attempts to remedy that by creating more and smaller units and increasing the density and hoping that the market will keep the prices down.

I hear great acclamation for this but see no evidence or other models that says it works. We are depending upon a wing and a prayer.

This ordinance proposal threatens the hospitality industry by increasing the density of already crowded neighborhoods and making it look like Los Angeles, so instead of a place to get away from it all, it becomes a place to get away from.

A project currently before the Architectural Board of Review claims to conform to the yet-to-be-passed ordinance. This project is for the vacant lot on Haley, next door to Catholic Charities and across the street from the bus barn. It is a four-story building in a one-story neighborhood, which will crowd out parking for the merchants, make a therapeutically inappropriate venue of concrete and noise for the dual-diagnosed new renters, change the ambiance of the neighborhood from relaxed to nervous, and set a precedent for what is to follow in all areas. Architecture creates attitude.

Is there another solution that provides for affordable housing and not one more new nail driven for constructing new buildings?

Yes. Santa Barbara has a cottage industry of property owners renting their extra bedrooms and other units in violation of zoning regulations. It is called “hoteling.” Instead of ignoring this, legalize it and tax it like we do with drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Go to the utility companies and voter registration roles, and walk the streets one house at a time to see how many cars are parked, and then tax them at the Tax on Transients rate. This would supply an income for the city to buy current houses and buildings to rent at worker rates. Buy high. Rent low. The city sets the rental rates, and not the capricious open market. Families can have houses instead of cramped apartments.

It takes no political courage to push poor people around and crowd them into poor neighborhoods, especially when others profit by building cheap matchstick, tinderbox, thin-walled, noisy, too-crowded, user-hostile apartment buildings.

It takes political courage to face property owners and turn their illegal behavior into quasi-legal, nonconforming use and taxing them.

Is this new density-incentive ordinance the Black Plague that will decimate our fair town? No. But, it is the measles that will pockmark our landscape for the next 50 years.

Santa Barbara is a convention destination.

Santa Barbara is a cruise-ship destination.

Santa Barbara is a people destination.

Deny stuffing a crocodile into a goldfish bowl in our neighborhoods.

Deny cramming poor people into inhumane dog-kennel-sized apartments.

Deny the Los Angelization of Santa Barbara.

Put this proposal on the ballot, and let the people manifest their own destiny.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

'political courage' does not seem to exist currently. Check back every 2-4 years or so for availability.

spacey (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 5:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why should tax payers or private developers subsidize less expensive housing locally when it's plentiful just down the road in Ventura and Oxnard?

Santa Barbara will never be LA.

Lars (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 9:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We also have a problem of the tourism industry suffocating all other industries and to a degree interfering with Free Speech.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 10:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Erecting one four-story building on one block doesn't make Santa Barbara like Los Angeles. The proposed solution is innovative, but get a grip.

byronsnake (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 7:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Burke, 2007 called and said we had this public debate already during 25 public meetings on the General Plan Update.

But when you get out and start counting cars as an indicator of allegedly illegal lodging units, lettuce all know.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 7:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Where's the data to back up the notion that there are enough rented bedrooms in the city to generate funds for such a housing program? And how would one even begin to identify these homes? From a practical viewpoint, Burke's idea doesn't seem feasible.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 8:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Recently architects had a contest to design the best high density building down town? They all had the same problem. Providing the needed space for cars was impossible when they increased density while keeping cost down. So choosing hi density means choosing streets filled to the brim with cars.
And yes, lower income folks have just as many cars as middle income ones, they're just a little older.

JHL (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Again people assume that others share their automobile fetish

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I live on the lower east side and I do not have an automobile fetish; quite the contrary, with one old Toyota. My neighbors, however, have quite a few, old to new, mostly SUV-types, some of which move only on street sweeping days; others not at all — those are parked in the driveways so they don't have to move. I've learned to appreciate that others do not share my lack of car-love.

But as for Mr. Burke's opinion of the proposed Haley/Salsipuedes four-story, single carred (such a word?) proposal, it will be an eyesore and jam the surrounding streets with parked cars. That last won't be a problem at night, but most certainly will be so during the day for the businesses along Haley. Next to constructing a Wal-Mart in that area, lack of parking will doom small businesses.

at_large (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 10:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a owner of 1 and 2 bedroom 600-800 sq feet apartments downtown I can tell you that people do have cars.
I rent to people that work at Cottage, and walk to work. Yet they have cars.
I rent to people that live downtown and work in Goleta and Ventura and they have cars.
I rent to students and they have cars.
On average 1 car to every adult. Some do not have cars, but others have more than 1.
That is life in Santa Barbara as we know it today.
The idea that people will live and work downtown and not have cars is nice but it is not true.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

17% of city housing is already dedicated low-income "affordable".

This is already far too much and no more should be added under any further novel descriptions of more "affordable" housing. Plenty already exists; and the demand for a cheap, subsidized opportunity to live in this town is endless.

This present dedication of 17% of our housing stock to low-income has permanently distorted this city's economic base and it can no longer afford to convert more space, tax payer base, or voting demographics to a permanently protected and exempt economic class.

No to this scheme to keep adding more permanent low-income units, which is permanently subtracting from the overall economic well-being of this community as a whole.

Time for the city to get out of the housing business and back to repairing the city infrastructure it has neglected for too long when it got caught up in social engineering for future non-residents. Time instead to concentrate time, money and political will to basic services dedicated to full load tax paying residents already living here.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 11:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Time for the city to get out of the aristocracy business.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 12:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Take a look at the concentrated condos between Alamar and Constance area on State Street - lines of cars on every surrounding street because residents use the garages of their small units for storage, and park their cars on the streets. This is what happens when "experts" try to social engineer behavior.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

foo's unending gibberish: this statement is pure tea bagger: "Time for the city to get out of the housing business and back to repairing the city infrastructure" go live with the 17%.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 12:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV: the only thing close to an "aristocracy" within the city limits of SB is the ready lineage of Democratic party cookie-cutter candidates. Special interest unions seem to have a life of their own and will not die a natural death. Is this what you mean?

We nearly had a Schwartz (Naomi and Deborah) legacy, but I can't think of any inherited entitlement by blood and birth that qualifies. Chumash were into this, as they supported a ruling class by birth.

Who is on your list to ban as our own SB aristocracy, KV?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Deborah Swartz had every single possible advantage, yet her spectacular electoral failure proves your Democratic party lineage idea ["cookie-cutter candidates"] is pure foo-lishness, as always, but good for a laugh. The Chumash comment reeks of ignorance, hostility, and inanity. bye foo

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 2:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DD: Before you go, please visit the SB Natural History Museum for an excellent display on Chumash culture. Particularly the diorama setting out the various social classes found in traditional Chumash society.

Quite vivid representation: hereditary ruling class; worker class and an honest to God slacker class.

I'll be sure to pass on your comment this SB Natural History Museum display reeks of "ignorance, hostility and inanity". I was under the false impression it was a joint display project with the local Band of Santa Ynez Valley Indians, but you are right, what do I know.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Affordable housing in City is SB is 12%, not 17%, foo! Try to get some facts straight in your boring and predictable tirades: .
Lars: so many of our safety workers and teachers and others working in SB live pretty far away, you must know this. Therefore, they create pollution, waste energy, and when we have a real emergency the fire and police and other emergency personnel will be too far away to help. We need more affordable housing, and it ain't 12%. Your remark feels like Marie Antoinette's: let 'em cake [live in Oxnard].

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 3:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've visited the Museum many times, and will check out the diorama you refer to, foo. I doubt they use the term "slackers"!
From the Santa Ynez Band website, they write about their ancestors, "The Chumash society became tiered and ranged from manual laborers to the skilled crafters, to the chiefs, and to the shaman priests. Women could serve equally as chiefs and priests." So you say the Museum diorama calls the manual laborers "slackers"! Typical foo BS.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 5:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have one problem with Burke's letter: "It takes political courage to face property owners and turn their illegal behavior into quasi-legal, nonconforming use and taxing them."

When you consider the ridiculously inflated cost of living in Santa Barbara and the property taxes, is it any wonder they rent out rooms illegally? I saw plenty of evidence of this when I lived in Mission Canyon. I remember how Glen Albyn Drive was so stacked with vehicles a fire truck could not possibly get through.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo: Would you like to tell us all WHERE in the diaroma it calls them slackers?

Is it in the Chumash Hall?...Is it the Ray Strong diaroma in the Bird Hall area?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

12g a year in property taxes for a modest tractish home on the Mesa, seems kinda nuts.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In the Chumash Hall, there is a section about "Chumash Society". It mentioned how vagabonds and others who contributed little to their society held the lowest rank, but it doesn't distiguish them as a prominant class.

Also, it mentions that most of the elite cast positions were open to both men and women--a considerable more enlightened view of things than the gender-obssesed Conquistadores who took over.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

On the left right hand wall where they have the full display room - they describe the sub-class that does not produce and just hangs out on the edges of the Chumash society. Slacker is short-hand for the description used in the diorama. No they did not use the term slacker, but made the perfect description for the term as it is used today. They made little models of them laying about and looking a little dopey.

Don't know if this was a temporary exhibit but it was there a few months ago. I learned a lot about the Chumash slowing going from exhibit to exhibit. They were war like too defending their "property rights" from other tribes.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As for "the Chumash slacker class", unless they can produce one of Madonna's pap smear they're poseurs.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A typical day for the average Chumash slacker:

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)


The sound man was a slacker too ... let the mic get into the shot @0:58s.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice catch EB. They've now inserted an ad since interest was detected, apologies to all I strive to avoid ad soaked links.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Last General Plan city staffer who handles this admitted it was 14% of all city units were dedicated "low-income" in one way or another. Many more units built and added since then. 17% sticks.

You got to know how they count them - only city housing, or also federal Section 8 and county low-income housing within city limits too.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Spaniards are the ones who brought the tradition community property rights to the western states; which did not exist in the rest of the Anglo heritage eastern and EU middle western US.

The Spaniards may have inherited this community property rights position from their period under Muslim domination, which does create more property and personal rights for women than people's one-dimensional version of sharia law today.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Seeing the work of young architects in this town I would say, attitude create architecture. That is not a compliment.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Young architects in this town are suppressed by the white plaster/red tile industry.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Young architects did not do their homework if they came to Santa Barbara intending to inflict their will on established community standards. One feels little sympathy for their tortured artistic souls if they chose to come here. They should have gone to Oxnard. Same weather, same beach, but more open and flexible sensibilities for their chosen form of artistic expression.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 5:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why should we all live under the tyranny of a dead woman's movie set idea of Santa Barbara?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 7:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hoteling has nothing to do with renting bedrooms in private homes. It's a business term that means furnishing temporary office space - a business that has workstations that are unassigned and up for grabs. Renting a room in a home in R-1 zoning is legal. Family members and up to 3 non-related people is legal R-1 property use. A boarding house is defined by city code 28.04.130 as 5 or more unrelated people in a residence with meal service, and boarding homes aren't a residential use. Renting a room in a private home isn't even a business, according to the IRS, unless the landlord furnishes bed linens and changes them (it's tax code - it doesn't have to make sense), otherwise it's considered passive income, and
this is completely off-topic, because zoning is one topic that the IRS really doesn't care about.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

foofighter: Defending property rights isn't warlike - it's defense.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 9:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Santa Barbara brought you here, KV. Something about it must have worked.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 2:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No Mr. Foo, if Volok is from here, then the storke brought him here and if not, the nice weather probably brought him here.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 5:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Anyone who has seriously searched for an apartment to rent or a house to buy in Santa Barbara knows full well that there is an inordinate number of illegal rentals. Also “affordable” and “low income” are NOT synonyms. This town has a serious shortage of affordable housing. Anybody with a full-time job should be able to afford a nice quality one-bedroom. I happen to live in a one bedroom whose rent is $1160/month. Such rent given landlords' insistence that tenants make three time the rent implies a 20/hour job. However $1160 is on the low side of rentals in SB. The typical rental, even ones in terrible condition will require more than $25/hour jobs. Do some research, and compare the income of typical tenants in most towns. SB's average is significantly higher because of all the professionals who must rent because they cannot afford to buy.

And this accurate comment should get everyone's attention,” so many of our safety workers and teachers and others working in SB live pretty far away, you must know this. Therefore, they create pollution, waste energy, and when we have a real emergency the fire and police and other emergency personnel will be too far away to help.”

Santa Barbara had a great opportunity to get some downtown affordable (not necessarily low income) housing with the project on W Victoria. Why they approved a plan to build more over-priced condos is beyond me. That was a huge lost opportunity.

lucas (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bravo Lucas.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 3:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What people don't understand or don't want to believe is that Santa Barbara is a resort town with beautiful weather that has substantial geographic restraints that prevent it's expansion. If you want to build up and make it into another San Francisco, you could do that. But I would ask one question. How has San Francisco's increased density increased the supply of affordable housing?

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 4:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Because too many people had to escape resort towns to keep their sanity, thus creating a housing crush in a community that values intellect over intoxication.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In addition Santa Barbara has no geographic constraints that differ from any other coastal area. Not every coastal area's establishing patriarchy decided they would be a "tourist resort" or "health spa" town and have allowed themselves to be tyrannized by it for well over a century now.
In many ways SB is a Potemkin's Village, and in fact Anacapa means illusion or mirage in Chumash.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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