In an exceptional display of unanimity, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 to send a proposed new fourplex slated for the intersection of Micheltorena and Olive streets back to the drawing board, finding its proposed size, scale, and sharp “monolithic” design edges incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Residents of the Bungalow Haven neighborhood packed the council chambers to voice their concern, complaining that the project developer failed to make meaningful changes in response to their issues.
The proposed new structure would replace a one-story, 1,743-square-foot duplex with a two-story fourplex occupying 7,500 square feet. Going beyond just the size of the project, the neighbors objected that the height of a proposed new wraparound sandstone wall — about six feet tall — sent a bad message to the surrounding neighborhood and was more in keeping with the medical office buildings farther up Micheltorena Street than the craftsman cottages and bungalows. Of the four structures at the intersection of Micheltorena and Olive, they charged, it would stand out like a sore thumb.
Councilmember Kristen Sneddon led the charge to uphold the neighbors’ appeal, stating, “It’s just very monolithic” and adding the project “stepped up when it should have been stepping down.” Tuesday’s vote marks the first time the current council has rejected any housing project approved by the Architectural Board of Review or any development seeking to avail itself of the density bonuses offered by the city’s Average Unit-Size Density program. Strikingly, the neighbors did not fight the project on the grounds of density but on the issue of neighborhood incompatibility.