In a showdown pitting sustainability against neighborhood compatibility, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission voted 4-0 in favor of compatibility when it came to David Lack’s plans to build a 30-foot-tall, ¼ber-green, mixed-use development at 617 Bradbury Street, adjoining Santa Barbara’s historic Brinkerhoff District.
Although the issue before the commissioners was whether to approve a technical modification involving open space, the commissioners were moved by the outpouring of neighbors and activist groups who argued the proposed building would dwarf nearby structures in the Brinkerhoff District. Terms like “blockbuster,” “The Green Giant,” and “Chapalacization” were tossed about by Lack’s critics. “In transition zones, you have to put in a smaller structure more sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood,” said commissioner John Jostes. “That’s in the General Plan.” Neighbors built a model simulating the proposed structure in relation to the adjoining properties. “That just killed it,” Jostes said.
Lack and city staff were stunned by the results, and Lack said he plans to appeal the matter to the City Council, where he expressed confidence that “cooler heads will prevail.” Lack noted that his plans conformed to all existing zoning rules and regulations, and that no setbacks were required. (His plan calls for lot-line-to-lot-line development.) He said he initially intended to build a 40-foot structure but scaled it back in deference to community concerns about tall buildings. Lack admitted city inspectors found 101 code violations with the property when he first bought it, not to mention 18 cars-including one van used as a meth lab-that had been allowed to rent space. Lack said he intended to make the structure a showcase for green construction techniques and that he planned to live in one of the condos.