Architect's rendering of the proposed rental housing project at 400 West Carrillo Street in downtown Santa Barbara. | Credit: Courtesy

Members of Santa Barbara’s fiercely protective Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) sheathed their collective fangs for a 63-unit “moderate-income” rental housing project proposed for a little-used downtown commuter lot located by the intersection of Castillo and Carrillo streets. Although the project remains very much in the preliminary and conceptual stages, the designs were sufficient to assuage any concerns by the HLC about computability for the development proposed by the Santa Barbara City Housing Authority. 

What this means, according to the Housing Authority’s Skip Szymanski, is that “we do not have to worry about getting a harsh HLC critique on our design concept or the size, bulk, and scale of the project overall. We will be able to proceed with confidence that our concept is in line with HLC.” 

The project — now estimated to cost $23 million to build — still has many miles to go before securing all necessary approvals and permits. Currently, it’s targeted for individuals making between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income. It remains uncertain, however, whether the project will pencil out financially, given rising construction costs, and the target may shift from moderate- to middle-income earners. 

Four years prior, the Housing Authority had proposed building a tiny-home village on the site, precipitating an uprising among some of the neighbors. Currently, the site is used by 12 vehicular campers enrolled in New Beginning’s Safe Parking program, for whom a new site will have to be found.

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