The high density debate is moot. Santa Barbara already has high density, and it is very poorly managed. Just look at all the cars forced to park on the streets, chopped-up Victorians, and crummy rentals in garages and backyards. As far as the often-expressed claim that there are plenty of places to live (“Just look at Craigslist”), appearances can be deceiving. While there may be 200 Santa Barbara listings every couple days, they are most often the same re-posted listings, over and over and over again. Fully 95% can be eliminated for one of the following reasons:

1. No off-street parking. Rents are too high to make tenants play the street-sweeper game every week. And no one can take a plane trip, because of the 72-hour parking rule. Ridiculous. Lack of off-street parking, while not definitive, also tips off a likely illegal rental.

2. No on-site laundry. Santa Barbara wants to see a reduction of cars without practical (as opposed to lip service) community support for such reduction. Laundromats have been closing, or are questionable places to be. Clean, well-managed, reasonably-priced, within-reasonable-walking-distance laundromats are quite rare. Every landlord should provide at least one shared washer and dryer. Coin slots at landlord’s discretion.

3. Utterly dark. Landlords say tenants should be happy to pay high rents because of Santa Barbara’s sunny weather, yet most rentals are unbelievably dark even on the nicest days. Tenants are not getting what they are paying for.

4. Structural flaws. Poor building materials and lack of insulation mean that Santa Barbara rentals are often subject to uncomfortable extremes of hot and cold, sometimes on the same day.

5. Poor maintenance.

6. Nasty landlord or property manager. Even great tenants who notify a landlord of maintenance or other issues are soon labeled undesirable complainers. If tenants had the ability to actually make landlords compete, these unacceptable situations would be reduced. But people need a place to live and are compelled to pay what the market will bear (which is not the same thing as fair market value).

7. Scam listings. An attractive rental at a fair price often turns out to a be a pay-per-click affiliate scam.

There may be plenty of rooms for rent in people’s homes, but that is a dicey proposition for both landlord and tenant.

This town desperately needs some serious housing competition.

I’m not sure developers can provide that, though.


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