So Dense

In his August 8 news article on campaign fund-raising, Nick Welsh, who usually gets things right, characterized those supporting Lesley Wiscomb, such as Dale Francisco and myself, as “vehemently opposed to schemes to promote the development of smaller, cheaper housing by allowing higher densities.” This time Nick was wrong.

The initial proposals would have been a broad-brush raising of densities with the assumption that this increase would make it possible for developers to build market-rate housing affordable to workforce households.

Dale Francisco and I were highly skeptical that this would be the result. We saw land prices increasing, thereby increasing the price of the units. We saw more luxury condos being built, the kind of housing almost everyone agrees is not what Santa Barbara needs.

From the beginning of the General Plan process we did support higher densities for rental projects. We thought these could provide affordable housing for moderate-income households.

In July 2011, architects held a design charrette in which they worked to prove that they could design attractive buildings, in a style and scale suited to Santa Barbara, with high density that would be affordable to buy and to rent.

They proved that they could not build affordable for-sale units with the increased densities. The charrette did prove that higher density could result in rental units affordable to workforce households.

Subsequently the experimental Average Unit-Size Density (AUD) program was developed with incentives for building rental housing. It allows increased density for smaller units. Both Dale and I supported the AUD ordinance. So does Lesley Wiscomb.

Dale and I are supporting Lesley Wiscomb because we all agree that new development should be carefully managed to assure that it provides the kind of housing Santa Barbara needs in projects that are compatible with the community.

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