New “Gateway to Montecito” Approved by Planning Commission

Mixed Use Condos Would Replace Union 76 Gas Station

Story poles at the 76 Station on Coast Village Road.
J'Amy Brown

A controversial mixed-use project proposed by developer John Price for 1298 Coast Village Road was approved by the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on a 3-1 vote, on Thursday, March 20. Although the proposal was heard at last week’s Commission hearing, the Commission found it necessary to continue the item until this week due to the large volume of testimony and commentary on the issue. The public was roughly divided in half regarding its support of the proposed building, which seeks to replace an older filling station with eight condo units, commercial space and underground parking.

Although they voted to approve the development, Commissioners John Jostes, Stella Larson, and Addison Thompson opted to deny a modification which would have added an external emergency stairway, stating that it was both unnecessary and too large. “There is insufficient justification to say it is necessary,” said Thompson, “I think we need to take a look at the Olive Mill side and see if we can’t pull back.” Chairman George Myers was the only commissioner in opposition to the project-finding the eastern elevation of the building to be too bulky-and Commissioners Bruce Bartlett, Charmaine Jacobs, and Harwood White recused themselves because they have ties with Price.

“We’re very disappointed that they did not pay more attention to the concerns of the Montecito community,” said Derek Westen, who represents the homeowners living adjacent to the property’s northern boundary. According to the public testimony, the property-located at the corner of Coast Village and Olive Mill Roads-is deemed by many to be the gateway of Coast Village Road. The project’s detractors-including the community group Save Coast Village Road-have charged that it would create a canyonization of the road, due to the fact that it is across the street from the three-storey Montecito Inn. Price defended his project, saying that by its current design specifications, it is ten feet below the 45-foot building height limit imposed by the City of Santa Barbara.

The project proposal is still scheduled to be heard by the City Council for a rezoning permit, and must go before the Architectural Review Board, although there is a possibility that the Planning Commission’s decision could be appealed. Price, who initially proposed the project four years ago, stated that he wishes to continue to respond to the concerns of members of the community. “I’ve always been willing to sit and talk with the community,” said Price, inviting people to e-mail him and visit his website.

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