Dueling Height Wars After All

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Roger Horton experienced a change of heart regarding whether the City Council should provide voters an alternative to the new building height limit proposed by Save El Pueblo Viejo next November. The group seeks to lower the maximum building height in Old Town Santa Barbara to 40 feet and 45 feet citywide. Horton was part of the 4-3 majority who voted last week against crafting a measure to compete with Save El Pueblo Viejo’s measure. Because he was part of the prevailing side, Horton can bring the issue back for reconsideration. “Can we take a shot at this and come up with something better?” Horton asked. “I’m hoping we can.”

Horton initially opposed the idea, arguing that he hoped an alternative could be hammered out during the deliberations to revise the city’s general plan. City planners assured Horton after last week’s council meeting that there was no way they could produce a meaningful alternative to the Save El Pueblo Viejo height restriction anytime in 2009, however. Furthermore, Horton sits on the board of an affordable housing nonprofit, and, after last week’s vote, many workforce housing advocates questioned Horton’s commitment to expanding affordable housing opportunities within city limits. Under a proposed alternative to Save El Pueblo Viejo’s height limit, City Hall would enact similar new restrictions, but allow exceptions in cases of affordable housing. Many members of Save El Pueblo Viejo have asked the council not to put an alternative measure before the voters, but others have quietly indicated the council could craft a more thorough, better thought-out initiative.

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