A mixed-use residential development proposed for 825 De la Vina Street offering vertical-lift parking narrowly survived a neighbor’s appeal to the City Council. Automotive traditionalists with Safe Streets Santa Barbara embraced the appeal, arguing that the tandem vertical parking lifts assigned to each of the seven proposed units were so cumbersome and impractical that residents of the development would soon be parking on city streets.
Such arguments found a receptive ear in Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss, who commented of the parking lifts, “It’s just darn inconvenient,” and recommended the project be sent back to the drawing board. Councilmember Michael Self, who emerged out of Safe Streets, took exception with Planning Commission John Jostes’s remark that such lifts were used successfully in such places as Orange County and New York City. “Are we accepting the best of the worst?” she asked. “Do we go to the bottom of the barrel and pick the bad apples?”
Safe Streets Santa Barbara has consistently opposed traffic innovations that accommodate higher-density developments. Councilmember Grant House argued that by allowing vertical parking lifts, the developer could build lower-slung homes — three stories but only 32 feet tall — because less space was consumed by parking. “Parking pushes everything up,” he said, praising the proposal as both “innovative” and “lovely.” Councilmember Bendy White said he was willing to regard the project as an experiment to see how the lifts worked out. That experience, he said, could guide the city’s response to future proposals relying on vertical parking. Mayor Helene Schneider noted approvingly how the project had been endorsed unanimously by both the Architectural Board of Review and the Planning Commission. The units were small enough to be quasi-affordable by design, and no zoning modifications were requested. “In Santa Barbara ‘mods’ has become a four-letter word,” she said.