BIG LOT: A four-story mixed-use building is slated for this De la Vina lot. | Credit: Nick Welsh

Despite vocal objections from about 30 downtown neighbors, the Santa Barbara City Council gave the green light to a proposal for a four-story mixed-use housing development on the 800 block of De la Vina Street now occupied by an urban parking lot. The neighbors complained that the proposed development ​— ​21 apartments, 23 parking spaces, and 32 bike parking spots ​— ​was outsized and would loom over the surrounding neighborhood, a stylistic hodge-podge of one-and two-story structures.

More specifically, the appellants were asking the council to overturn the final approval issued by the Architectural Board of Review on March 22. Legally, however, the council could rule only whether the final approval issued in March conformed substantially to the initial approval issued at the end of January. On that score, clearly it did. With their hands thus tied, a majority of councilmembers voted to uphold approval for a project that promises to deliver what most of them say they want ​— ​more rental housing. 

Of the 21 units, two will be rented out at below-market rates. Project representatives ​— ​and city staff ​— ​said the proposal conforms to city zoning guidelines, which they noted would allow up to 36 units on the site. Likewise, the council was told that at 47 feet high, the proposed development was about the same height as the commercial office building next door. In fact, councilmembers were told they were legally precluded from considering such issues as size, bulk, scale. Some councilmembers expressed sympathy for the concerns of the neighbors, but with these restrictions, they voted 5-2 in favor of the proposed development.

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