Upper State Under Attack?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
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On July 2, the Santa Barbara City Council may unexpectedly change a zoning law that has protected the upper State Street area (USSA) for decades.

Previous public discussions about updating the city’s general plan refrained from challenging the special-district status of upper State (codified in the SD-2 zoning ordinance). Likewise, the recent notice announcing the July 2 public hearing about municipal code amendments didn’t call out SD-2 as one of those ordinances proposed to be changed.

Thus the introduction of new uptown standards for off-site parking, front setbacks, and building heights would be based on the de facto repeal of an existing ordinance without properly solicited public input and a possibly-needed environmental review.

The radical changes for the upper State Street area would result from applying the development standards of the Average Unit Size Density Incentive program (AUD). Along with other community organizations, Citizens Planning Association will urge City Council not to apply Average Unit Size Density Incentive standards in the SD-2 overlay zone for the following reasons:

• The Average Unit Size Density Incentive program would substitute one space per dwelling unit and no guest parking for the current requirement, which demands two spaces for each unit with two or more bedrooms, as well as one guest parking space per four residential units. In the upper State Street area, where no public parking structures exist, such a change would lead to serious consequences to the surrounding streets and commercial parking lots unable to accommodate a large number of additional vehicles belonging to new residents and their visitors, as well as to delivery and service personnel.

• The Average Unit Size Density Incentive program would eliminate the now required 20-foot setback in front of two- and three-story buildings, and also reduce interior and rear setback requirements, as well as certain requirements for open living space. As a result, both landscaping opportunities and opportunities for children’s outdoor recreation would be greatly diminished in an area most of which is located far from public parks. The proposed reduction of front-setback requirements would also preclude the option of adding dedicated transit lanes to Upper State Street while still providing some setback to separate the air and noise pollution of heavy traffic from the residential or mixed-use developments.

• The Average Unit Size Density Incentive program would permit four stories instead of a maximum of three. It would also drop the requirement that the total floor area of any building remain under the acceptable floor area of a two-story building. This would result in every new building’s increased potential for changing the area’s character by blocking mountain views or at least diminishing the typical uptown streetscape’s sense of openness.

Reducing the SD-2 requirements for setbacks, open space, and building height would obviously counteract the production of smaller buildings.

As for the other major goal of the Average Unit Size Density Program, the production of ownership housing which may prove affordable to the middle class workforce, it can indeed be hoped that the relatively modest AUD homes would be “affordable by design” even though the sale and resale prices would be determined on the open market. Furthermore, the experimental nature of the AUD program, sunsetting after 8 years or the construction of 250 units (whichever occurs first) would give the community a chance to determine if the program should continue because its benefits have outweighed any harm it may have caused.

For the thousands of people who live, work, shop, or have other reason to spend time in the Upper State Street Area, the question arises: Should we construct permanent buildings and face the lasting problems associated with the de facto repeal of the SD-2 standards for the sake of an experimental program which has a better chance to succeed downtown for many reasons?

If you think you know the answer and want to share it with City Council, write to them or come to the hearing which starts at 2 p.m. on July 2.

Paul Hernandi is the South County vice president of the Citizens Planning Association.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Yay taller buildings, more apartments! That part of State has always looked like Sherman Oaks forever, freaking out about it now is a few decades behind.
Instead of trying to go backwards lets make sure the planning is smarty done with units that have livable space and aren't just closets with a kitchen.
Trying to push it all downtown is stupid at best.

People in the Hollywood Hills have taller buildings in their view and they survive just fine. In addition, instead of empty air being filled, think of it as agricultural land being saved.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 11:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hong Kong and Shanghai have taller buildings, too! And as residents of the State Street area look at taller buildings, as they smell the smog from increased traffic and see their side streets filled with parked cars, they can smile at being like the Hollywood Hills and say, as Dorothy, "Toto-Brutus, I have a feeling we're not in Santa Barbara anymore."

Thanks to Mr. Hernadi for calling attention to what is threatened!

at_large (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 1:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You know what a view is? Real estate you DON'T own.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And again it's assumed everybody shares the automobile fetish!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 2:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

1) Would this change the setback requirements for existing homes and businesses? Or just new construction?
2) What's the average number of cars owned by a household with 2 or more bedrooms in Santa Barbara (or better yet, the Upper State Street area)?

I am disturbed by the possibility of these changes. I'm just trying to get an idea of just how bad things would be if these changes go through.

KV -- Not everybody needs to share the automobile fetish for parking to be a problem. Adequate parking needs to be provided based on the average number of cars per household.

sblinda (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 7:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why is it assumed change is bad?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 7:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

More apartments! Yay!

byronsnake (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You can call this anything you want, but the fact is that this is Agenda 21 "stack and pack". There are density "bonuses" and tax breaks for those willing to cram people into 500 sq. ft. "efficiency" apartments.

And all the folks who whine and complain about the Chumash not paying taxes should be up in arms about the tax money that'll be lost to this type of developement.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Between the City employees, who depend on non-stop development for their livelihood, and the California Building Industry Association, the special interests pressure on the Planning Commision and the City Council is too much for them to handle.

The sneaky tactics to avoid the public who know how "LA style development" destroys communities and public health is appalling.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So Georgy exactly how are these changes negative as opposed to just mudslinging on your part? What is your evidence? Which part of LA? Beverly Hills? Venice? Belmont Shores?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 10:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The General Plan Update process in 2007 called and said these issues already were vetted, debated, and deliberated during 25 public meetings then.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's a slow news cycle Mr. Adams.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 12:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

At least they stopped calling it Outer State!

hunkymon (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 4:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess the Hippy-Dippy concept of Zero Population Growth A.K.A. "slow growth" has been all but offically abandoned?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We can't stop people from breeding. I see building upwards as a solution to saving ag and wild lands.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 6:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Instead of devoting ALL their time to oneliners, some posters here really would be well served to do a bit of research - Stack and Pack is not about "preserving" ag land or accomodating population growth. In fact, a large part of Agenda 21 is the depopulation of rural areas and the "rewilding" of entire regions.

(And before you flap your yap at me, KV, why don't you google it?)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I advise you Google "Order 66" before you take this any further spiritwalker, for the Riddle of Lumen shall never be answered.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Soylent Green here we come.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 1:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Notice they don't remake that one. I can picture KFC and Taco Bell product placement..

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 2:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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