The Average Unit Density Incentive Program (AUD), technically a City ordinance, was established in 2013 to encourage the development of smaller, more-affordable workforce housing. The ordinance allows developers the opportunity to build large apartment houses with a lot of small apartments onto a lot with major breaks on parking spaces and planning fees.
The AUD ordinance was intended to be an experiment that ran eight years, or created 250 units, which ever came first. However, the floodgates have opened and local residents are largely unaware of the height, bulk and scale of projects slated for their neighborhoods and our historic areas.
As of February 2nd of this year:
67 projects are in review
18 of the projects propose four-story structures over 45 feet tall
1,238 Units are in the pipeline! Remember the goal was 250.
From a preservation angle, the construction of large apartment buildings poses a threat to Santa Barbara’s historic buildings and sites by overshadowing them with their height and bulk. The flood of applications to City Planning for multi-story apartment buildings as the result of incentives provided by the AUD program is putting historic structures and the look of Santa Barbara in jeopardy.
Capitol Hardware at 711 North Milpas St. will transform into four-story, 73 unit apartment complex under the AUD program. There is a three-story, 50 unit complex slated for 835 E. Canon Perdido, right next to the McConnel’s building and the iconic cow on Milpas. At 219 E. Haley Street, plans are in the works to build a four-story, mixed use development with 36 units.
A three-story, 19 unit complex will eventually be built around the Louise Ygnacio Residence, an Italianate house constructed in 1875, at 214 E. De La Guerra Street. The cottage (pictured left) is scheduled to become a designated City Landmark this year. The site at the newly demolished Craviotto Brothers Iron Works on the corner of Anacapa Street and Ortega Street will become home to a three-story, Spanish-style housing development with 30 units.
And then there is the BIG question, will the program provide reasonably priced workforce housing? The first completed AUD project on upper State Street called the Marc, is listing two bedroom rentals at $3,000 per month.
All over Santa Barbara, AUD projects seem to get approval with little consideration of their impact to neighborhoods and historical resources. The Board of the Pearl Chase Society, whose mission is the preservation of Santa Barbara’s historic structures and sites, respectfully requests that acceptance of new AUD projects by the Planning Department be halted pending evaluation of the Program.
The cumulative impact of multi-story apartment houses to Santa Barbara’s historic structures and neighborhoods has not been fully evaluated. A moratorium would allow time for evaluation especially as to whether the resulting apartments actually will provide housing for the city’s workforce. Also, the Society recommends that any revised AUD ordinance allow project denial to any project that compromises a historic resource or is incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood even if the project otherwise conforms to the ordinance and to zoning.