CPA Questions City Process on 711 Milpas

916 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

June 29, 2020

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers:

Citizens Planning Association is in its 60th year of participating in land use planning in Santa Barbara County and its cities, especially our city. As architectural historian David Gebhard said, “(T)he unique quality of (Santa Barbara’s) manmade environment rests upon a cultivated community concern and consensus … (that) ultimately is outside of government itself.”

The 711 N. Milpas project proposal went through a detailed and public process before being approved, on appeal by the developers, by the city council last year, on March 26. Item 16 on tomorrow’s 6/30 City Council meeting says there is a new redesign proposal, a new total of 82 units in a substantially changed architectural style. The building height limit has increased from the 45′ AUD ordinance to 52 feet.

This sidesteps completely public participation, our prized “community concern and consensus”, by producing few architectural details, no rent-restricted covenants, and no design graphics. Simply stating that the revised project addresses community concerns does not actually do so.

We welcome a nearly 20% “moderate income” affordable and an additional 22 on-site parking places. We would welcome a redesign to a Spanish Colonial Revival Style, but we are deeply concerned about the process. This seems to have no similarities to the Fess Parker Waterfront Hotel that received a 5-year time extension development agreement in 2016.

Usually, in Santa Barbara, “capital-A” rental housing means Housing Authority housing, with all the oversight that excellent agency provides, along with other non-profit housing developers, for housing for low- and very low-income households. This is a for-profit development and 16 “moderate-income affordable units” would not seem to fit the HA parameters. But with the lack of details, we don’t know what is intended.

We are especially concerned by and oppose the 52′ height. Where are the story poles so that we all, especially, the Milpas and lower Riviera neighborhoods, can see what is intended? This would be a very bad precedent for subsequent rental housing.

There is no reason for the “trade-off” when we cannot see what’s being traded. Two recent Spanish-style AUD developments, both of maximum density of 63 du/acre, came in under 45′: 610 E. Cota at 43′ 2″ in height; 734 Anacapa at 40′ in height.

The City should not run roughshod over our design processes and the public’s right to know.

As our City Attorney Ariel Calonne wrote so eloquently, quoting the preamble to California’s Open Government law, “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.” *

We ask that the redesign of this project follow the time-tested procedures that have made Santa Barbara the jewel that it is.

Yours truly,

Mary Ellen Brooks, President of Citizens Planning Association