Curb Your Mansion

by Nick Welsh

The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously for enforceable
regulations rather than permissive guidelines to limit the
“mansionization” sweeping certain neighborhoods. The vote came
despite an impressive organizing effort undertaken by architects,
real-estate agents, homeowners, and many children, who packed the
council chambers to argue in favor of guidelines, insisting that
the problem posed by a few large remodels was one of bad design
rather than square footage. They argued the proposed
regulations — floor-area ratios — were too strict and would doom
new families to live in ugly, dilapidated tract homes built in the
1950s, or to leave Santa Barbara. That argument proved unpersuasive
to council members, who increasingly find themselves forced to
resolve remodel conflicts between neighbors that are borne of the
ambiguous guidelines in the city’s existing Neighborhood
Preservation Ordinance. Councilmember Brian Barnwell warned against
“guideline creep,” noting that 85 percent of the projects approved
by the Montecito Architectural Board of Review exceed that
community’s guidelines. He disagreed with critics who complained
the regulations would infringe on property rights, saying, “It’s
not so much about my property rights as it is about our community.”
Councilmember Das Williams argued that the city’s limited housing
stock of small homes needed protection to ensure a supply of
affordable entry-level homes in the future. And Councilmember Iya
Falcone cautioned that without clear enforceable language, the
council would be enacting “a full employment for attorneys


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