Americans are taught that they are uniquely gifted problem solvers. But that doesn’t mean all problems have a solution. Take the problem of finding a market solution for Santa Barbara’s lack of work force housing.
The problem here starts with the fact that market forces have made buildable land inside the city incredibly expensive where it exists, and that is practically nowhere. The solution of going vertical has been rejected because it would ruin the city’s small-town charm as a tourist attraction and cut off a major source of the city’s income. The city has also backed away from inclusionary housing deals after the Chapala One debacle. Requiring 15 percent affordable units means permitting 85 percent offsetting luxury units.
A real solution would be for the state to back up its mandatory zoning requirements by sending taxpayer dollars to municipalities so they could actually build affordable units. But that raises the specter of state interference with the free market, not to mention the horror of higher taxes. So we are back to the unspoken idea that the AUD will produce an overabundance of small rental units that over time will get cheaper as demand remains constant and the supply increases. What the city will look like and drive like given this prospect is painful to contemplate. And pain is a problem.