Proposed Milpas Development Not In Best Interest of Santa Barbara

Letter to the Santa Barbara City Architectural Board of Review
August 22, 2022

Dear ABR members:

Citizens Planning Association has worked in Santa Barbara County, with a base in Santa Barbara City, since 1960. As our Mission, “We advocate for the best standards of design and natural resource protection in order to maintain sustainable communities and protect the heritage of Santa Barbara County.” We have members throughout our city, including the Eastside. CPA has consistently stressed the importance of public participation that can only come about with project transparency, so that all affected have the opportunity to see for themselves what is proposed.

“Best standards of design” may be debatable; “protect(ing) the heritage” of our historic and much admired city is not. There’s a large amount published, a surprisingly large amount for a city of our size, most recently Sheila Lodge’s, “Santa Barbara: An Uncommonplace American Town” and a new biography of Pearl Chase, by Cherie Rae, due out this winter.

Although we appreciate the applicant’s choosing a “Non-application consultation” so that those alert to reading Commission agendas can speak, the absence of any story poles, along with the unfinished quality of the design drawings for the proposal, the absurdly-named “Milpas Gardens”, make it impossible for most residents of the area to accurately understand the scale that will dwarf almost all surrounding buildings and cast long shadows on immediate neighbors. Although not an historic district, Milpas is an historic area, inhabited back into the 19th century and before. In our opinion, this proposal is incompatible in size, mass, bulk, AND design for this area. In addition, we think it a tragedy that the eight? low-income-resident rental cottage homes on Gutierrez will be demolished with the bare minimum of inclusionary units proposed.

Focusing on the eastside, there’s the Haley-Milpas Design Manual, long promised for an update since its May, 1982, publication date. “It is only a guide … (with a) goal to preserve and encourage housing, and to assist small businesses and industry.” (pg. 8) The guidelines are still an excellent reference for area compatibility. with many, if not most of the houses pictured remaining, creating a true neighborhood. The study area runs from Ortega, then to Cota and Milpas down to the 101. The 418 E. Milpas proposal fronts in small part on Milpas and is in the Hispanic/Pueblo District (pgs. 11-20), with most of it less than a half a block outside of it.

This is a proposed development that is not in the best interests of the Milpas area nor, because of its precedent-setting qualities, of neighborhoods in Santa Barbara, in general. We rely on the ABR to “(protect) and (preserve), as nearly as practicable, the natural charm and beauty of Santa Barbara….”

Please request that the applicant install story poles, remaining in place a reasonable period of time, so that the neighborhood and Santa Barbarans may see for themselves.

Yours sincerely,

Marell Brooks, President of Citizens Planning Association

This letter is sent via Betsy Cramer, Secretary of CPA; please reply to: