Barry Schoer, Sanctuary Centers president and CEO

The Santa Barbara City Council got the first bite of the apple on a proposal to build 34 new units of affordable housing designated for people with severe mental illnesses on the 100 block of West Anapamu Street. In addition, the proposed development would include 6,500 square feet of clinic space for Sanctuary Centers, a mental-health provider that owns the property.

Currently, Sanctuary targets low-income health-care consumers at a small clinic on the site with two examination rooms ​— ​one for mental care and the other for dental. In the new digs, that number increases to six examination rooms. Sanctuary is seeking permission to build up to 60 feet in height, the maximum allowed. The apartment complex next door, by contrast, stands 35 feet and Garden Court, a senior housing facility, is 35 feet. Sanctuary is proposing to build the new structure behind an existing two-story, eight-unit apartment it now owns, meaning the new development would be set back from the street.

The only issue before the council this week was whether to grant Sanctuary a density bonus of 3,600 square feet for the proposed new clinics. Without that bonus ​— ​allowed for projects deemed by the council to be “community priority” projects ​— ​Sanctuary would have to cut its proposed new clinic space in half. Citing the pressing demand for affordable mental-health services ​— ​especially for people also struggling with addiction issues ​— ​the councilmembers approved the density bonus. Community activist Paulina Conn objected the project was too dense for the site, would block out the views and the sun, and with only nine parking spaces was severely under-parked. City Administrator Paul Casey said even with the community benefit designation, the project would still have to be reviewed by the Architectural Board of Review and Planning Commission. 


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