The fight over an experimental new high-density housing development at 1818 Castillo Street was resolved this week in favor of the developer by Santa Barbara’s Architectural Board of Review (ABR), but the ashes of that conflict still smolder. The ABR gave its seal of approval to a seven-unit, three-story project that even its most ardent critics concede is vastly improved. But they also contend the project remains so deficient in parking spaces — nine spaces for 19 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms — that people living there will be forced to cannibalize limited on-street parking in the surrounding area.
The Castillo Street development is part of a limited planning experiment — known as Average Unit Density, or AUD — to see if developers will build smaller, hence more affordable, housing if the city’s requirement for two parking spaces per unit is cut in half and greater building densities are allowed. Leading the charge against the project this summer was former city councilmember Brian Barnwell, who lives nearby. Barnwell praised the subsequent changes made to the plans but said the AUD program remains problematic in the extreme. Before approving similar projects, Barnwell said City Hall needs to require developers to provide studies showing impacts to on-street parking in the surrounding four blocks. Likewise, he said, garages should be prohibited from AUD developments altogether because they’ll be converted to rental units or storage.
While some members of the ABR balked at such requirements, they did struggle with another 17-unit, three-story AUD development catering to the housing needs of low-income military veterans slated for the 800 block of East Carrillo Street. They fretted that the proposed structure would loom out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and that its parking-starved residents would rest their cars on nearby streets. The developer — the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara — countered that it could impose car-ownership limits on residents as it has done successfully in other affordable-housing projects. Despite such assurances, the ABR concluded further review was required.