Condo Throwdown

Architect, developer, and former City Councilmember Gil Garcia
sat at the center of a Tuesday storm over high-density
gentrification on Santa Barbara’s lower Westside. The City Council
gave final approval to plans for a seven-unit condominium project
on San Pascual Street, denying an appeal by neighbors who warned it
would create too much traffic and set a bad precedent for
overdeveloping their block, which is now mostly single-family
homes, though it is zoned for higher density.

The project replaces a house and two granny units that sheltered
several singles and families, according to neighbor Caroline Rice.
The three city councilmembers opposing the project said that,
despite the designers’ best efforts, the small, high-density condos
did not comprise workforce housing. Garcia and development partner
John Blankenship are among the few developers willing to build such
small condos, intended to be “affordable by design” as an
alternative to subsidized housing for the city’s workforce.
However, neighbors and dissenting councilmembers argued that the
low-priced end of the Santa Barbara market is no longer affordable
to the city’s workforce. “Frankly, the term ‘affordable by design’
is a bogus term,” Helene Schneider said. Councilmember Das Williams
called the project “beautiful” but noted that people buying
$750,000 condominiums were less likely to use buses or walk to
neighborhood stores. (The availability and promulgation of such
services is considered one justification for adding density to
already dense areas like the Westside.) Williams added that only
the smallest condo, at about 700 square feet, might be affordable
to middle-income professionals. The others average about 1,000
square feet. Mayor Marty Blum joined Schneider and Williams in
voting against the project. The majority of councilmembers voted to
approve because the project conformed to existing city policy;
members of the council recommended that Westside neighbors get
involved in the General Plan Update if they want to change density


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