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Olive Street Housing Showdown

City Council Approves Two Duplexes at One Lot

Two duplexes replacing a house on Olive Street got a thumbs up from City Council. | Credit: Paul Wellman

For a fleeting moment on Tuesday, the desperate need for housing trumped Santa Barbara’s chronic case of NIMBYism when the City Council enthusiastically approved the construction of a pair of duplexes on Olive Street. Before the council was an appeal by neighbors who argued the size and scale of the project was out of sync with the rest of the area. “In simple terms, the current design of 1108 Olive Street will impose itself like a bucktooth in an otherwise pretty smile,” the neighbors — Nancy Cohen, Mark Wienke, Darlene Zehren, and Jack Zehren — wrote in their letter. They also claimed the two-story structures would cast shadows large enough to violate the city’s “solar access” code.

The council respectfully but decisively denied the appeal, thus green-lighting the proposal put forth by owner Andre Schneider and architect Kirk Gradin to demolish the property’s existing 1,366-square-foot, single-family house and build two duplexes as well as four covered parking spaces. The council called it an “exemplary model” of a development that fits within Santa Barbara’s high-density housing program, and they lauded not only the structures’ Spanish Colonial design but also their conformity to the character of the neighborhood. Councilmember Eric Friedman said he walked the area himself and noticed its many multifamily complexes.

Councilmember Randy Rowse said he appreciated Schneider and Gradin’s negotiations with other neighbors and their responsiveness to the city’s design review boards, which at first had issues with the project but grew to approve it after a handful of significant changes. Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said she was struck by an argument from Gradin that one of the appellants had himself designed a three-story luxury condo complex just down the road that is taller and larger than the duplexes. Sneddon said she was normally the first to resist residential redevelopment, but in the case of 1108 Olive Street, she was happy to give her approval. “These are beautiful buildings,” she said, “and they’ll be providing new housing.”

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