La Cumbre Plaza Development Requires a Specific Plan

We are deeply concerned by Supervisor Williams’s comment regarding our design review committees “running amok.” We assume a longtime elected representative of the people of Santa Barbara would have better understanding of and appreciation for the purpose of our boards and commissions, and their dedication to the preservation of our unique architectural heritage. That heritage is cherished by the people of Santa Barbara, and they want it protected.

As professional architects, landscape architects, and planners practicing for many years in Santa Barbara, we have appeared many times before the design review boards, and we have served as design review board members. We have sat on both sides of the table.

There are clear and thoughtfully crafted ordinances and guidelines for the boards and for applicants to follow. When applicants respect and respond to the city ordinances and guidelines, their projects move smoothly and quickly to approval. When an applicant listens to the board’s comments and then does not respond to them, the approval process is delayed. Findings of project neighborhood compatibility must be made. Since there is apparent disagreement with some of our elected leaders regarding the roles of our design review boards, our city design review community could use this as an opportunity to listen to critics and work to find common ground with our community leaders around planning the future development of La Cumbre Plaza.

The State of California requires every community to implement a General Plan, which serves as a guideline for development and infrastructure. A Specific Plan is an additional planning tool that focuses on a neighborhood scale, which we believe is essential for planning the future development of La Cumbre Plaza.

It is disappointing that SBCAG did not approve funding for a La Cumbre Plaza specific plan even though it was rated highly among all the applications. The 31-acre site is in three parcels. It would be irresponsible for the city to allow development of part of the property without a plan in place for the entire site that considers all the ramifications of all three projects, including traffic congestion and impacts on our water services.

This letter is not intended as a critique of the currently proposed projects, but as a request to take the time to consider the potential impacts of the site’s development. The build-out of the site will affect hundreds of properties and thousands of residents in adjacent neighborhoods. There must be consideration of all the development proposed as a whole.

A specific plan is absolutely essential for development of such magnitude.

Signed,
Bob Cunningham, ASLA, landscape architect; Steve Hausz, architect
Cassandra Ensberg, FAIA LEED AP; Tom Jacobs, AIA
Donald G. Sharpe, architect; Dennis Thompson, FAIA LEED AP; Leslie Colasse, architect
Howard Wittausch, AIAE / ASCE
Fred L. Sweeney, AIA, founding president of the Santa Barbara Architectural Foundation
Don Olson, former City Housing Development Supervisor, City Planner & Special Projects Manager

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