An Architectural Board of Review (ABR) discussion quickly turned to debate when broader concerns of community and culture came to light. Alan Bleeker’s proposal to build a mixed-use development at his Capitol Hardware lot on Milpas Street ended up being rejected by the ABR on November 19.
Originally proposed under the City of Santa Barbara’s Average Unit-size Density (AUD) Incentive Program, which allows developers to build more apartments in a smaller area to create more affordable housing, the rental complex of 76 apartments with an attached commercial space first received design approval in 2016. On Monday, as ABR members reviewed architectural changes since then, questions arose whether the new design was compatible with the original. Also, board members found that the building’s industrial design and use of metal detailing were not consistent with other traditional buildings on Milpas Street.
Detlev (Detty) Peikert, an architect on the development, argued the building would be a refreshing addition to the historical area. His intention was to create something that young professional inhabitants would find appealing, rather than another Spanish colonial building.
In the eyes of the community, however, the project did not conform with the neighborhood. Steve Doty, from the Pearl Chase Society, expressed deep concerns, stating the development didn’t belong in Santa Barbara. Another community member said, “Placing this Legoland project near buildings such as the D’Alfonso building and the historic Santa Barbara Junior High is a sin.”
ABR member Howard Wittausch claimed, “The bottom line is there are still numerous details that are not really of this area, not indigenous to Santa Barbara, not Milpas, not neighborhood compatible. … The idea that this building would somehow be a refresher to the millennials, that plays into my feelings that they should go into the Funk Zone” Wittausch said. “I have an obligation to the community, not to the applicant.”
Boardmember Richard Six argued in favor of approval. He believed that picking out incompatible design details was unproductive. “I deeply share the community’s concern for this project” he said, “but I must abide by the process and the guidelines that spell out that this is in its final design.”
The ABR’s decision came down to a 3-2 vote, with members Bob Cunningham, David Watkins, and Wittausch voting to deny the project on the grounds that the project did not conform to plans made at the design’s preliminary approval two years ago. Cunningham iterated that the project did not reflect the character or uniqueness of Milpas.
“I don’t agree with that” said ABR Chair Amy Fitzgerald-Tripp, who, with Richard Six, lost the vote. Six said the decision should be based on reflection of the original design, not matters of community. Another board member apologized to the applicants, closing the lengthy debate.