Here’s how to create housing without sacrificing the character of Santa Barbara: Skip the commercial space that’s slipped in with every AUD (Average-size Unit Density) project.

The AUD ordinance was created to incentivize landowners to create apartments for rent, instead of condos for purchase. Time after time, project developers propose humongous projects featuring thousands of square feet of commercial space. If that’s what it takes for projects to “pencil out,” then the ordinance is not serving city residents.

Commercial space bulks up AUD projects. Businesses have their own demands on parking and traffic. With the vacancy rate on State Street — which has plentiful parking, it is hardly defensible to include commercial space with every housing proposal. Whatever is incentivizing landlords to keep commercial space vacant on State Street may also play out in the oversized AUD+COMMERCIAL projects.

Is the city giving these landlords an automatic write-off in allowing thousands of square feet of commercial space? After all, we have no guarantees that it won’t “pencil out” for the landowners to keep the commercial space vacant and take the write-off.

We need for the city to conserve our neighborhoods and create housing — we don’t need for the city to allow businesses to infiltrate neighborhoods via the city ordinance on housing.


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