Santa Barbara City Council decided to temporarily halt any new hotels while the city tackles the housing element process, in which the city will have to show a specific plan on how it will meet the state allocation of 8,000 new housing units by 2031.
The urgency ordinance will prevent any new projects, though there are currently 21 hotel projects either recently approved or pending approval in various stages of review — from pre-application to receiving building permits — that would be excluded from the interim ordinance.
“This isn’t a ban on new hotels,” said Councilmember Eric Friedman. “This is a temporary moratorium while we’re going forward with the housing element update.”
The city is on course to have a preliminary draft of the housing element by the fall, and it will receive feedback from the state before a final draft at the end of the year. The hotel ordinance, Friedman said, would help show the community that city leaders are focused on addressing the city’s housing shortage.
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“We need to send a message to our community that we are listening, and that housing — in particular affordable housing — is the top priority,” he said.
Mayor Randy Rowse was against the moratorium, saying it was a “knee-jerk” response to the city’s housing needs. “I think we’re going about this the wrong way,” Rowse said. “I will not be supporting this effort.”
Rowse and Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez voted against the ordinance, but the council voted 5-2 to direct staff to return with a final-draft ordinance on June 28, effectively banning any new hotel developments for up to 22 months.
City Planner Renee Brooke presented the ordinance to City Council and said allowing additional hotel development to continue could make it more difficult for the city to meet the regional housing need allocation. The emergency ordinance removes the danger of housing being converted to hotels or increased land values that make new housing “infeasible.”
Council will return on June 28, where they will vote on a final draft for the urgency ordinance.