New Vision for Old Vons Lot

Mixed-Use Condo Project at Chapala and Victoria Streets Okayed by City Planning Commission

A mixed-use condo project is being proposed for this old Vons lot.
Paul Wellman

There’s a new vision for the old Vons supermarket lot at the corner of Chapala and Victoria streets in downtown Santa Barbara, and it got the official stamp of approval from the city’s Planning Commission last week. The project, which sits adjacent to the historic Arlington Theatre, will consist of 37 residential condos, a market, and commercial retail space, altogether occupying about 100,000 square feet of space.

The new complex received mostly glowing remarks from the city Planning Commission, which gave the go-ahead on Thursday. Commissioner John Jostes said the project will “give vibrancy to this part of town,” while Commissioner Deborah Schwartz said she was “pleased” this project was coming to Santa Barbara. But Commissioner Charmaine Jacobs, who was one of the two dissenting votes, said the square footage was just too big to be next to the Arlington.

Project planner Allison DeBusk said the project would not significantly impact any nearby historic resources, though the view of the Arlington remained a concern for some commissioners. “The project is appropriate for the downtown, is compatible with adjacent development — including the Arlington — and consistent with the General Plan,” DeBusk said. The project also encompasses many sustainability features that will be part of the city’s new General Plan, which is currently being updated.

At its greatest height, the building will be 44-feet tall, and include an underground garage with 78 parking spots. Architect Brian Cearnal pointed out that the height was planned to keep the Arlington in sight from Victoria Street.

The Vons mural on Victoria Street.
Paul Wellman

Of the condos, 32 will be market-rate and five will be designated as “inclusionary,” or affordable, housing. There will be 29 one-bedroom condos, three two-bedrooms, and five studios. The residential portion of the project also includes a lobby, a club room, and two guest rooms for visitors. The mural depicting the history of Santa Barbara, which currently exists on the Victoria Street side of the Vons building, will be relocated to a wall along Chapala Street.

“I believe in creating vibrant sustainable urban spaces that add character and value to local neighborhoods and the community as a whole,” said Marge Cafarelli of Urban Developments, the company behind the project.

The Planning Commission sent the project back to staff for some fine tuning, but once final approval is given, construction is expected to take 18 months.


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