Council Caps High-Density Housing

Votes to Put Brakes on Successful and Controversial City Program

Artist's rendering of the 23-unit apartment complex approved for 800 Santa Barbara Street.

The city’s highly successful but equally controversial high-density housing program was scaled back this Tuesday by the City Council, which voted 5-2 to cap the number of Average Unit-Size Density (AUD) units approved each year to 125, require units with three or more bedrooms to provide two parking spaces instead of one, ban AUD apartments from being converted to vacation rentals, and exclude mobile-home parks from the program’s zoning map.

Councilmember Bendy White voiced the concern echoed by many of AUD’s critics: that the program isn’t providing the affordable workforce housing it was meant to. The first development completed under the program ​— ​the 89-unit Marc on upper State Street ​— ​has billed itself as “luxury apartments” with two-bedroom units going for $3,500 a month, well above the city average. “We need tools to bring affordability into this project, yet keep [new developments] economically feasible and compatible with the neighborhoods they are going in,” said White.

In addition to the Marc, 62 more units are under construction and another 223 have received discretionary approval; 477 units are pending review. Meanwhile, at its August 9 meeting, the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission approved a three-story, 23-unit AUD apartment complex with underground parking at the corner of Santa Barbara and De la Guerra streets, next door to Anacapa School. Comments made by Anacapa School headmaster Gordon Sichi, who complained the project was too big for the site, suggested the campus may soon appeal the approval to the City Council.


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