What is the Purpose of the Santa Barbara Architectural Board?

Downtown SB is becoming a ghetto, so who cares if someone puts up a metal building in your West-Side slum... but why do we have a Board of Architects who can make money off the Board's decisions?

If you want to build a metal building granny flat expansion next to your neighbors' cottage, and the Board rejects it, just hire Clay Aurell, a young architect who serves on the ABR, and he will get it through for you... for a fee... and Councilmembers like Das Williams, Grant House and Bendy White will be sure to push it through without that pesky "public opinion" getting in the way.

This email was received on 2010 October 25:

Last Tuesday, October 19th, in what I believe was one of its worst decisions in quite some time, City Council voted to deny an appeal of an Architectural Board of Review (ABR) approval of a radically incompatible home design in a traditionalist Westside neighborhood. I think the council failed to grapple with the most important underlying issue, and should reconsider this decision.

Last year the applicant, a homeowner at 903 West Mission Street (corner of Mission and Gillespie), came to the ABR with a plan for a second-story addition, an "accessory dwelling unit" (granny flat). The neighborhood consists mostly of bungalows on small lots in period architectural styles (mainly English Cottage, Mission Revival, and Craftsman). The applicant's Ventura-based architect presented to the ABR a modernist design with metal cladding and a metal roof. This design was turned down because of stylistic incompatibility with the neighborhood and a failure to meet the minimum open space requirements in the zoning ordinance.

The applicant then hired Clay Aurell, a young architect who serves on the ABR. He came back in May of this year with an improved design, but still a modernist, metal clad building that failed to meet open space requirements. This design was approved by a 3-1 vote (Clay and a landscape architect also hired by the applicant and also serving on the ABR had to recuse themselves). The only opposing vote was by Gary Mosel, who had consistently opposed the intrusion of an alien design aesthetic in a traditional Santa Barbara neighborhood- in this he was following ABR guidelines.

A next-door neighbor appealed this decision. Forty of her neighbors signed a petition supporting the appeal.

Last Tuesday, October 19th, City Council heard this appeal. During his presentation Clay Aurell approvingly showed the council pictures of other modernist homes in Santa Barbara, as if they established a precedent. He failed to point out- and some councilmembers may not have known- that many of these homes aroused great controversy, and were in fact the impetus for the creation of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (NPO) and the Single Family Design Board (SFDB) in 2007.

If this house had been on the other side of Mission Street, in the single family zone, the design would have gone before the SFDB and almost certainly would have been rejected. As this case shows, the council needs to consider extending the NPO and the SFDB's purview to R-2 zones of mostly small, single-family homes such as this Westside neighborhood.

In the meantime, this bad decision needs to be reversed.

Four city councilmembers- Das Williams, Grant House, Bendy White, and Frank Hotchkiss (Mayor Schneider was absent)- voted to deny the appeal. Even though the appeal lasted three hours, the relevance of neighborhood preservation to Santa Barbara neighborhoods beyond the single-family zones was not discussed. I believe the Westside has the same rights to neighborhood preservation that other neighborhoods do. This vital topic was not considered, and it needs to be.

Please email or call councilmembers Williams, House, White, Hotchkiss, and Schneider today to ask- politely- that they take a second look. Or better yet, go to the Council Meeting on October 26, and ask them why the Board members can be hired to pass items at the Board?

Das Williams 564-5325 daswilliams@santabarbaraca.gov

Grant House 564-5319 ghouse@santabarbaraca.gov

Bendy White 564-5321 hwhite@santabarbaraca.gov

Frank Hotchkiss 564-5318 fhotchkiss@santabarbaraca.gov

Helene Schneider 564-5323 hschneider@santabarbaraca.gov

PS: The appellant has prepared a 9-minute video showing highlights of the appeal hearing:


To view the appeal hearing in all its gory details, go to the site below, scroll down to the October 19th meeting, and click on the "Video" link:


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