B from Both Sides

Which View of the Past to Guide Us?

With the fall election upon us, I find myself reminiscing about Fiesta. Sitting in the Sunken Gardens of the Courthouse on those warm summer evenings enjoying the events in this great living room of our city, but perplexed by the current directions of local politics and this peculiar obsession with building heights. The Courthouse and the Sunken Gardens are the magnificent product of a city that aspired for and built great things. Not just another civic monument or formal town square, the Courthouse is a unique creation that reassembled those parts in an entirely new way to capture the creative energy of the emerging Spanish Colonial Architectural style into a mature masterpiece. Executed on a grand scale, this was not the achievement of a small rural town, but the seat of a regional center of commerce, government, and culture that was boldly building for the future. Yet, it still retains an abundance of charm, and a masterful sense of scale. In the early years of the past century, many cities across America sought to recreate historically inspired urban visions. In Santa Barbara this enthusiasm crossed paths with our Mission heritage to create a utopian vision for the future grounded on a romantic interpretation of the past. It was a movement that began with whimsical houses, but by the 1920s expanded to large scale urban designs. George Washington Smith, Lutah Maria Riggs, and the Allied Architectural Association of Los Angeles drew up a series of visionary renderings, four of which can still be seen in the David Gebhard meeting room at 630 Garden Street. These drawings envisioned a vibrant European flavored streetscape. Buildings of various heights and sizes would form a cohesive cityscape through the use of pedestrian arcades and a consistent architectural style. These drawings would also serve as an inspiration to the Board of Architectural Review established in 1925 after the earthquake. The board was disbanded after nine months, but it reviewed 2,000 designs for buildings! This prolific period of building turned a tragedy into opportunity, translating a theoretical vision into Santa Barbara’s distinct architectural and urban character. After World War II much of the local development shifted to outlying areas, and even the architecture of downtown acquired an awkward blend of modernism. In recent decades, the design review boards have pushed for a stricter adherence to the Spanish Colonial Revival Style and local architects have responded by refining their skills. Rising property values have in turn inspired a return to mixed use urban projects, and with it the urban vision illustrated by the Allied Architectural Association. Recalling my experience at Fiesta, I¹m so grateful that our community had a group of people with the creativity and dedication to make a place like the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, yet so despondent that we are currently guided by a group of individuals who reject these principles in order to preserve a more recent vision of the past. What is the cause for this shift of public sentiment? I suspect it has something to do with the frame of reference that people perceive their environment through. In the 1920s our town was much smaller and automobiles were still relatively new. Residents were personally more connected with downtown and an urban lifestyle. In current day Santa Barbara, we have a decentralized city where the majority live and work outside of the downtown area. Their daily experiences give them an entirely different frame of reference from the residents of the 1920s. As a result, we physically have a moderately dense downtown surrounded with low density suburbs, and an ambiguous area in between. To many this split urban personality provides greater convenience and opportunity, but to another highly vocal segment of the population its imperative that the values and priorities of the suburbs be superimposed on the center of our city regardless of our past heritage, or the requirements of our future. Santa Barbara is more than just a nice place between the mountains and the sea. It’s the product of all its people, its past, its myths, their activities, and the architectural setting. With this in mind I urge you to see Santa Barbara in its larger context when contemplating Measure B. I’ll be casting my vote under NO.-Kevin Dumain, AIA

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The Cottage Hospital Ploy

Once again the No on Measure B coalition and former Cottage Hospital board members have attempted to mislead the public by claiming that Measure B will prevent construction of buildings on the hospital property. This is not a fact. Measure B will have no effect on the hospital’s current plans or on the C-O medical office zone in which it is located.

The C-O zones are located around the Cottage Hospital and the St. Francis. The zone does not, and never has, allowed a 60-foot and four-stories maximum for buildings. The limit has always been 45 feet and three stories, as set forth in the city’s zoning ordinance. The proposed City Charter amendment would not change this. Opponents of Measure B have said that the hospital would be “subject to the proposed 45-foot height limit.” It already is. This would be the status quo.

The Cottage Hospital has received special relief form the City since the 1960s that allows it to construct buildings that are taller than the ordinance allows. Properties owned by others in the C-O zone would remain subject to the ordinance’s and the Charter’s maximums of three stories and 45 feet. The neighborhood is not within El Pueblo Viejo landmark district, so the prop0osed 40-foot limit for that district would not apply. The C-O height limits would not be altered under Measure B. Vote Yes on Measure B.-Mary Louise Days

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Developers Disease

Developers Disease, they don’t even sneeze
meetings every day, shaking hands they spread decay
rezone the land is all they need, inside job rely on greed
when you awaken from your sleep, walls around you sixty feet

Developers Disease, bring you to your knees
get ready for some pain, here they come again.
make it all look nice, now you can’t afford the price
you must pay to see the view, they’ve taken it from you.

Developers Disease, cutting down the trees
depriving you and me of the sights we see
living lives of luxury, condos by the sea
auction starts at three; it’s enough to make you scream!

Developers Disease, it will make you wheeze
knock you out of breath, asking price is just a tease.
Can’t afford the price you must move out overnight
no time to wait and see, the door is locked they took the key.

Developers Disease, busier than bees.
Dot the i’s and cross the t’s, the city’s making lots of fees.
It’s always fatal once they seize, and for your safety quickly flee.
Wear a hard hat if you please, no time to stop and hug a tree.

-Daniel Swann


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