ANALYSIS: Tiny Neighborhoods Under Attack by Developers

Schematic shows massive scope of Garden-Anapamu mixed-use proposal.

A trend is under way in Santa Barbara that is leading up to the destruction of small, vulnerable neighborhoods by over-sized projects that take away the communities’ character.

The most recent example came before the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on July 19 where several dozen people expressed opposition to a 52-unit mixed-use complex that starts at the corner of Anapamu and Garden streets and wraps around to a small court of homes on Figueroa Street.

The property is owned by attorney and real estate investor Tomas Costelo, who owns many properties around town owes bankrupt La Casa de la Raza some $800,000. Castelo paid off La Casa’s bank loan and threatened to foreclose on the property.

The planning commission seemed to balk at the Anapamu-Garden streets plan to demolish two of the court homes, but took no action pending another Aug. 9 hearing on the proposal, which appears to be aimed at the many parking issues brought on by the project.

Also, a 41-unit hotel and apartment development proposal on the corner of Milpas and Gutierrez streets, complex drew some 70 opponents at the July 18 city Historic Lands Commission meeting.

The four-story, 65,000-square-foot building would include 27 apartments and 84 hotel rooms.  If built, the complex would displace some 10 residents, including a 91-year-old woman.

Both the Anapamu-Garden street project and the Milpas-Gutierrez plan were proposed  under the city’s average unit-sized density incentive. It lets developers build apartments on small lots so the city could boost its “work-force” housing inventory.

Another example of the city allowing developers to ruin neighborhoods can be seen in the number of vacation rentals sprouting up. In the vicinity of tiny, one-block-long Ruth Avenue, for instance, four vacation rentals are in the works.

The project that is farthest along in development is what used to be a family home and then a senior home at 416 Ruth Ave. The owner, David Sullins, possesses at least 10 other properties around Santa Barbara, including several student-housing facilities and the Peppers Estate mansion in Montecito.

How much more money does he want to make with vacation rentals?

Lastly, Bond Avenue on the Eastside is faced with the same problem that has shrouded it for almost three years: the smelly, noisy Fish Market warehouse.

Without approval by any municipal legislative agency, the warehouse showed up a few years ago without the consent of local residents or businesses who have complained about the odors and industrial noise.

Bond Avenue folks, who have been trying to get the matter on the City Council agenda, are scheduled to meet with the mayor and city attorney next week.

(Full disclosure: The blogger has lived in three of the neighborhoods mentioned in this writing.)


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