Santa Barbara City Council Backs Changes to High-Density Housing Policies
By Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina | January 16, 2019
The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to strengthen its ordinance that encourages the building and preservation of affordable housing.
The changes were made to the city’s controversial average unit-sized density incentive program.
The city will now require two on-site parking spaces for AUD Program units with three or more bedrooms in projects located outside of the Central Business District (CBD), with exceptions for 100-percent affordable and senior housing projects.
The city also will prohibit AUD Program units from future conversion to hotel or vacation-rental use; and remove AUD Program parking incentives from existing mobile home park properties, to discourage landowners from converting parks to housing.
Right now, projects within the AUD zone only have to build one off-street parking space for one- and two-bedroom units.
The city’s average unit-sized density incentive program was approved in 2013, and allows developers to stack multiple apartments on smaller pieces of land in exchange for building rental units.
The units have no price restrictions, so property owners are renting them out at the what the market will bear, which in Santa Barbara is out of reach for many people.
The first project build under the program, the Marc at 3885 State St., advertises one-bedroom apartments for $3,200 a month, and two-bedroom units for up to $3,700.
Most of Tuesday’s discussion centered on ways to permanently remove mobile homes from the AUD program so that landlords won’t ever turn the homes into high-density AUD projects.
Sharon Rose, executive director of the Mobile Homeowners Project, spoke on behalf of Flamingo Park residents, who want stronger protections on their mobile homes.
“We don’t feel confident that our housing is secure,” Rose said. “Mobile home parks nationwide are being targeted for redevelopment.”
Many of the people who live in the downtown parks have been their since the 1960s, she noted, and these mobile homes are examples of true affordable housing in the community.
“When families moved into them, they did not know or have any idea that parks could ever be redeveloped,” Rose said. “When you move into a neighborhood and you have a stick-built house, that is never on your mind and it was the same for us.”
The council plans to consider whether to remove mobile home parks from the AUD zone at a meeting later in the spring.
“I don’t think there is any disagreement that we want to protect mobile homes as a real valuable housing resource in our community,” said City Administrator Paul Casey.
The AUD program is set to expire in July 2021. Many opponents of the AUD program say that since the rents are not capped, developers are simply buying plots of land, evicting tenants, and building high-density housing projects that are rented for the market rate.
“I am not a fan of the AUD overlays at all,” said Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon.
Deane Sargent and PMC Financial Services have been helping mobile home park resident groups and cooperatives to organize and find financing to buy their parks for over 20 years.