Milpas Street Housing, Hotel Project Hammered by Santa Barbara Architectural Review Board | Local News

Bigger isn’t always better.

The Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review on Monday night hammered the proposed 90-unit housing and hotel project at 418 Milpas St.

The panel said it was too big and not appropriate for the Milpas Street neighborhood.

“I still have significant concerns with it being compatible with the texture of the neighborhood,” said board member Richard Six. “It is just so out of place. It is too large and too high. I can see it reduced by half before it is acceptable.”

Longtime Santa Barbara resident Bob Ludwick, who now lives in Oregon, has proposed a 90-unit, four-story residential and hotel project between East Gutierrez and East Haley streets.

It’s the largest residential and commercial project on Milpas Street since the City of Santa Barbara implemented its average unit-sized density incentive program in 2013.

The mix of housing would include 34 studio units, 44 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units. The project sets aside 15 of the units to be rented at below market rates.

A small, 4,561-square-foot bed-and-breakfast hotel and retail space are also proposed for the property.

Plans include 52 parking spaces for residents and 14 more for the hotel. It’s the second version of the project proposed at the site. An earlier version included a rooftop pool.

The project is also proposed under state Senate Bill 330, which requires cities and counties to slash the time it takes to process permits for housing that meets the local government’s existing rules. The law also caps the number of public hearings on a housing project proposal at five.

About eight residents who live in senior-designated apartments at the site would be displaced by the project, although Ludwick said he would help all tenants and that he has always accepted Section 8 vouchers.


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Tenants of senior-designated apartments would be displaced by a new housing and hotel development on Milpas Street. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Architectural Review Board members and several members of the public blasted the project at Monday’s meeting, partially blaming the architect and the city of Santa Barbara for allowing such large housing developments next to one- and two-story residential units.

“If they don’t care, I would just say to the owner, sell the property to somebody who does,” said lifelong Santa Barbara resident Sebastian Aldana. “The mass, bulk, size and scale is out of character with the neighborhood.”

Santa Barbara is currently experiencing a housing crisis and is facing pressure from the state of California to find new spots to build 8,0001 new housing units by 2031.

The city has outlined areas of the city where high-density housing can be built. It’s not in San Roque, Samarkand or the Mesa neighborhoods, or other more affluent parts of town; instead it’s in areas that already have the highest housing density, including on the Eastside, the Milpas Street corridor, the Westside, and downtown neighborhoods, near jobs and transit corridors.

Some speakers at the meeting thought the city made a mistake including Milpas Street as part of its high-density housing plan.

“That size is inappropriate for the Milpas corridor,” Six said. “I still believe that, no matter what standing the laws are no matter what the pressure from the state is.”

Board member Lauren Anderson said she can’t support the size of the project either and said the “architectural style hasn’t been fully developed.”

“It might benefit you to study breaking the building up into multiple buildings,” Anderson said.

Board member Dennis Whelan said he supports housing, but not in this form.

“Not that we don’t need housing,” Whelan said. “I do think this is a good neighborhood for reasonable housing. This just doesn’t seem to fit in nicely with the neighborhood.”

Project architect Jan Hochhauser defended the project, pointing to the character of Ludwick, who he said wants to build apartments and housing because there’s a great community need.

“The city wants to encourage housing,” Hochhauser said. “Milpas Street is considered a viable and strong future corridor to deliver housing. The table is set, whether people like it or not, that’s part of the program that is going to help generate housing.”

— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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