With no dissenting votes cast, the Santa Barbara City Planning
Commission enthusiastically approved Cottage Health System’s
proposal to build 115 new homes on the six-acre site now occupied
by the shuttered St. Francis Hospital. The commissioners voiced
strong support for Cottage’s plan to sell 70 percent of the units
to its employees at prices substantially below market rates. Some
neighborhood activists argued in favor of a smaller project with as
many units inside the existing St. Francis building as possible.
None of the commissioners present expressed any interest in
re-using the St. Francis shell, arguing the relatively low-lying
condos proposed by Cottage will be less conspicuous and more
desirable. In deference to neighborhood concerns about diesel
exhaust and dust during construction, the commissioners required
Cottage to use biodiesel fuel.

Santa Barbara’s red-hot housing market shows unmistakable signs
of cooling off, as the median price of South Coast homes declined
by 4.5 percent in the past year – going from $1.2 million to
$1,075,000 – while condo prices remained flat. According to realtor
Gary Woods, the number of properties up for sale has about doubled
in the last year, and the number of home sales has dropped by as
much as 25 percent. “A lot of people figure the market’s topping
off, so they’re trying to get out at the top,” he explained. The
good news, he said, is that mortgage rates have remained at about
six percent despite many interest rate increases over the past year
by the Federal Reserve.

Orange County developer Steve Delson hopes to demolish a 1970s
cinderblock warehouse at 116 East Yanonali Street in Santa
Barbara’s Funk Zone and build six sizable live-work lofts in its
place. About one-third of the space would be devoted to commercial
enterprises – such as a tasting room for a winery owner – and the
rest would be residential. Until last year, no residential
development was allowed in the Funk Zone because the California
Coastal Commission sought to prevent gentrification and protect the
area’s touristic function. At the instigation of the Santa Barbara
City Council, the Coastal Commission relaxed those rules to allow
for some mixed-use housing. Delson said his units would average
about 2,300 square feet and cost about $1.5 million.


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