Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Council approves condos on San Andres Street


By a contentious 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council approved a four-unit condominium project on San Andres Street near Bohnett Park.
Those opposed took issue with a modification along the property line facing the park allowing the proposed building to extend three feet further than allowed by zoning laws.

“Right next to a park, we should be demanding the maximum setbacks,” Councilmember Das Williams said. “We have been trying, in the more dense, urban areas of the city … to mitigate the density that is occurring with more park space.”
City leaders who voted in favor said the modification is necessary to allow the city-required space for vehicles to maneuver into garages on the narrow, 60-foot wide lot.
“The issue of the modification here, for me, is not so grand,” Councilmember Grant House said. “…That, to me, seems to be a reasonable request.”
The proposed development, at 1236 San Andres St., calls for the demolition of two single-family homes to make way for four condo units, each with two-car garages. Most of the livable space would be on the second floor with the garages tucked underneath.
The building, as currently proposed, is 23 feet tall and covers approximately 5,780 square feet, with units ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,300 square feet.
A local resident, Paula Westbury, who spent five of her childhood years in one of the homes on the property, appealed the vote of approval by the Planning Commission in January, sending the project to the City Council.
“It’s rather disconcerting to see the way the condos are honored by the city,” Westbury told the council. “…This is a building that should never ever go up.”
Her appeal cited several concerns including destruction of historic and archeological resources, and inappropriate size, bulk, scale and architecture for the surrounding neighborhood.
“This house has a yard,” she said. “Now it’s almost antique to have a yard.”
Kirk Gradin, an architect representing the developer, said that further reducing the footprint to meet setback requirements would force the building to grow to three stories, increasing the visual impacts and the selling price of the units.
“The owner was trying to keep the price of the condos at entry-level, which he considers around $600,000 or $700,000,” Gradin said.
He also emphasized that the development plan for the neighboring park calls for shrubbery and trees along the property line, decreasing the impact of the setback encroachment.
“The users of the park are not going to be disturbed by our development,” he said.
Staff also reported that no resources of historic or archeological significance exist on the site. Many of the councilmembers seemed in agreement that the architecture would fit well with the neighborhood and dismissed suggestions that the development would harm historic resources.
“The appeal doesn’t have merits on most of the issues,” Williams said, “but on the issue of front and side yard setbacks, I think it does.”
Councilmember Dale Francisco backed Williams, arguing that the council needs to set a general policy to be stricter on granting modifications.
“The reason for those zoning laws is to balance the rights of the property owner and the rights of the citizens at large,” he said. “The setback is there for a reason.”
Councilmember Iya Falcone, while agreeing that the city should be maximizing open space, said the project, although not perfect, would serve a segment of the community due to its smaller, relatively more affordable units. However, she offered a warning for future developments that might request modifications.
“I think we’re going to see less and less willingness to do modifications in the future,” she said. “If you can’t fit your project into the space within the zoning, well, then you have a problem.”
Williams also briefly discussed requesting the developer meet projected changes to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that could potentially require affordable units or in-lieu fees for smaller projects.
“The city should not be granting a modification unless we get something more,” he said. “…I’m not going to facilitate a market-rate development for no additional benefit.”
But others found the prospect of holding developers to requirements that may or may not be part of future changes to city building requirements to be inappropriate.
“To hold people to something that is still very much up in the air — I just can’t go there,” Falcone said. “I don’t think it’s a fair way to play ball.”
Ultimately Falcone joined councilmembers Grant House and Roger Horton in voting down the appeal, thus approving the project. Councilmember Helene Schneider recused herself due to her residence’s proximity to the project in question and Mayor Marty Blum was absent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Das Wiiliams and Dale Francisco are right. Why should we allow modifications to a setback. Santa Barbara is in true danger of loosing its quality of open space. The community should not allow City Council members to cave in to the desires of the developers so easily.