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Milpas Gardens housing project goes back to architects drawing board

Milpas Gardens proposal goes back to drawing board for downsizing

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Most people agree California communities including Santa Barbara are in the midst of a housing crisis, but they don't always back the housing projects proposed.

The Milpas Gardens proposal fits that mold.

The proposal called for a four-story building that would include 90 rental apartments with studios and one and two-bedroom units and a bed-and-breakfast-style hotel and retail space on property near the corner of Milpas and East Guttierez.

Members of the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review listened to critics in the neighborhood share concerns about their views, parking, and the loss of eight cottages where seniors currently live.

Britta Bartels, who owns property next door that includes a couple of rental units, notified neighbors about the public meeting on Monday night.

She was relieved to hear board members called it too big.

Board members called it too much housing at this location.

Neighbors hope they will continue to push back.

"We were very upset about this four-story hotel apartment complex that was supposed to be taking away all our sunlight and just monstrous to the neighborhood," said Bartels.

Sebastian Aldana said he is especially worried about the seniors who will be displaced when something is built in their place. He is an Eastside representative for the Neighborhood Advisory Council and works for the nonprofit Terrace Foundation which works to feed low-income residents.

But the state is pushing for more housing

Jan Hochhauser of Hochhauser Blatter Associates Architecture & Planning in Santa Barbara seems to take the process in stride.

He has built a lot of projects in Santa Barbara and said he is not giving up on finding a plan that will win approval.

"We're going to come back and demonstrate change and responsiveness and actually show what the impacts are from more than the vantage points we did last night." said Hochhauser, "We intend to work with it and go back to the community and try to address the board, the ABR's concerns and end up with a good project."

The state is pushing cities and counties to build more housing.

Santa Barbara's Average Unit-size Density or AUD program is predicated on the smaller the average unit size the greater density. That program and the state laws to speed up permitting put proposals like this in the spotlight.

Hochhauser said the average unit size would have been 670 square feet with 25 percent of the units rent restrained as affordable units.

"I think there is a lot of fear out there, I don't think it is going to impact the community some of the neighbors were concerned and we will demonstrate responsiveness and zero in on some of the detailing to show that this will be a real asset for the community."

Changes could mean 60 larger units instead of 90 small ones.

The property owner Bob Ludwick has said he would help those displaced find new homes.

At this rate, It could take several years to start building in the area.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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