Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, April 13, 2007

Community Post: Housing, Not Height Is the Issue

by Lanny Ebenstein

The recent proposal to lower height maximums in El Pueblo Viejo--which should be supported--is by no means the whole picture when it comes to regulating growth and development in Santa Barbara. What should also be done is to lower height maximums in business zoning areas throughout the city, and, importantly, to reduce density.

The Santa Barbara City Council, likely to a person, would like to see thousands of more condos and other congregate residential units in business zoning areas. Is this the future that most Santa Barbarans wish to see? I don't think so.

My guess is that any serious attempt to restrain development in Santa Barbara will have to come from the people via the initiative route. The City Council is unlikely to put anything on the ballot that would restrain residential growth and development in business zoning areas--they all favor it.

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Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Thanks Lanny for offering this post! I may not always agree with you but appreciate your participation and civil demeanor.

4/13/2007 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I remember in the early 80's the people of Santa Barbara passed an advisory vote to keep the size of the city under (I think it was) 80,000 people. For years Politicians claimed to be following that even though they set policies that undermined it. Now they don't even bother pretending.

But it did used to (kind of) work. Perhaps we should again put a new measure on the ballot limiting the number of people SB should grow to.

4/13/2007 10:49 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/13/2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

FDS -- give the guy credit for using his name, hunh? True SB neighborhood -- what is that? Even if you are so close you are in the county -- you are still a neighborhood of interest so to speak no? I agree with what you are saying about the upzoning but do you have to CSP that? Let's talk about it instead.

4/14/2007 12:15 AM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

This original message by Ebenstein is not about housing density nor building heights, especially because he seems totally ignorant of the planning principle of Mixed Use development in commercial zones, and the much hotter burning issue about Mansionization in the residential neighborhoods.

The lower Chapala Street monstor box buildings are just the bitch of the month. The real action for far wider popular intereste are densification and overbulking in the 'hoods.

What's next for Lanny?
Piling on with whines about traffic calming? At least Terry Tyler bothers to show up and speak at a City Council meeting every few months.

This by-lined contribution to Blogabarbara is not about housing. Rather, it is all about Lanny-Boy trying to get in the game for another run at City Council.

He already is stirring it up with another pseudopopular issue for Council elections by districts, per a Voices piece in the Indy last week. Also, he is Lanny-Come-Lately on many other City of Santa Barbara issues, and only this week he tried an ultra-crash course on the City's water quality program through a comment letter to the City.

Lanny is becoming Bruce Rittenhouse with a bow tie. Lots of bluster talk but forever on the outside looking in.

4/14/2007 12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lanny needs to understand that this building will save our open space. He should support it like the community does, not try to place height restrictions on sensible building.

4/14/2007 5:13 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

I am very pleased with the increasing density downtown and seek a community that lives, works, and plays downtown. The height limit as it currently exists is appropriate. We should pay more attention to plazas, paseos, and our historic pedestrian routes. The automobile and its conveniences should not determine the future of the city. We must at all cost defend the urban boundary line and open spaces in our community should be constantly considered for their highest and best use. Parks must be a top priority. Cultural richness downtown must also be a top consideration.

I lived many years in Aix-en-Provence in France. It is an old medieval city with Roman roots. If we can do as well as them--the demographic and environmental comparison is a worthy one-- we will have done quite well.

Our old Spanish urban plan gives us a basis for going forward. Pay attention to that.

4/14/2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

Don Jose, your statement "open spaces in our community should be constantly considered for their highest and best use. Parks must be a top priority" sounds a little oxymoronic to me (no insult intended). Parks are not "highest & best use" otherwise developers would be falling all over themselves to create more of them.

4/14/2007 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

I intentionally used the expression "highest and best use" because normally that is the exclusive pervue of the individual property owner and the primary tool for the developer. At the very least you must agree with me that things are tilted very far in their direction.

The community can fight back with zoning and planning, but soon you have the fiasco we have felt with neighborhood protection and the gridlock combat that exists in all almost all our residential and business neighborhoods. The process is broken. We need to go back and reform the basic community documents.

It is time that the determination of the "highest and best use" move out beyond the property owner into a new legal domain and logic that includes more of the community. 'Eminent Domain' needs to rise up out of the slag heap of politcal power in this our overly individualistic capitalist community. I am not talking about a revolution against property rights--but the need to make some hard decisions about our community, its rights and needs right down at the basic level. Both the NIMBY and the developer have too much power.

New General Plan anyone?

4/14/2007 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Lanny Ebenstein (verified) said...

I've never participated in a blog before, so if I don't quite have the technique right, I hope someone would let me know. What a good opportunity to exchange views and information.

I agree that neighborhood density is a problem outside of the business districts. But the real question is how many more thousands of congregate residential units should there be in the city of SB and on the south coast in the next 20 years? I think maybe 1,500 in the city of SB. The course of the present Council is perhaps three times this amount. I'm sure readers are also aware of the recent proposal to cut parking requirements for residential uptown by 50%. These are all bad ideas, in my opinion.

In addition, consideration should be given to encouraging conversion of commercial to residential, but perhaps more of this on another occasion.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

4/14/2007 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't cut parking requirement how are you going to force people out of their cars?

If you don't build up how do you get the density to preserve open space?

4/15/2007 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have been enjoying too many Libertarian bong hits while you exchange your rhetoric with your pal from Noleta, Gary Earle from the Coalition For Selfish People, CSP.

I agree with what you are saying about the upzoning but do you have to CSP that?

Way to come to the CSP's defense, Sara. Real genuine. Is CSP a verb now? BTW: Is targeting specific private citizens with unfounded insults OK on the blog again? If so, let's get it going.

4/15/2007 9:58 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

Is there any proof that cutting parking actually does "force people out of their cars"? If you look at neighborhoods like the Westside that already have insufficient offstreet parking due to density caused by more people living there than were originally intended, it appears that there are still plenty of cars--they line the streets & have to be juggled on street-sweeping days. And maybe I'm ignorant but I also don't buy the concept that building up preserves open space. Is there anyplace similar to SB where that theory has been proven correct? (Please don't use NYC, SF or various European cities as comparisons--that's like comparing bushels of apples to an orange.)

4/15/2007 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FDS needs a slap to the face...I suspect he's not nearly as tough mano-a-mano as he is in his safe little cyberspace closet.

4/15/2007 12:41 PM  
Anonymous From the Karl ROve playbook.... said...

The ridiculous notion that cutting parking spaces "forces people out of their cars" is at best laughable, at worst a developer-spinmeister dream that will leave generations of Santa Barbarans shaking their heads at the gullibility of our current city council

4/15/2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

9:58 am -- I'm not clear why my admonition of FDS' comment is suddenly at issue....FDS should not have used names and probably deserves a virtual slap on the wrist. It's not okay to make unfounded insults but I wouldn't immediately make that connection from what he/she wrote.

Sorry FDS -- I'm deleting it based on the feedback which was fair.

4/15/2007 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

On parking: Thanks to the wisdom of the city "fathers and mothers (ahem!)," our "cathedral-like" parking garages are everywhere available for parking all over downtown and they pay for themselves (or almost!). What foresight! (I know I am being "gauche" to compliment our leaders' foresight folks--such unseemly commentary in the world we live in.)

However, the perverse few insist on curbside access and their counterpart, the business owners, to the right of storefront window visibility. It's an old American story.

European cities do have an lesson for us. (Why not look around for answers?) Some days, the inner city is forbidden to drivers and huge (I mean huge!) fines fall on those who disobey the rules.

Park in the parking lots and use public transport and your feet to get around and in our future Santa Barbara that lives, works, and plays downtown--we will all be happier.

Out there in suburb land, why should each household have so many cars? What's it all about folks? Is it personal convenience, or just selfishness, and laziness, over sustainability and a pleasant environment? Hey, it's clear you can't have it all.

4/15/2007 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Gary Earle said...

For the record regarding Streetfighter's now deleted comments, I have never met nor ever spoken with Lanny Ebenstein. However, I would certainly be open to an introduction.

It is interesting to see on this blog how many gutless wonders are able to muster enough machismo to throw out insults and unfounded comments when afforded protection by anonymity or pseudonym.

I would be willing to meet in person with said Streetfighter anytime to discuss whatever issues he/she has with the Coalition for Sensible Planning provided he/she has the courage to state his/her true identity on this blog. Do that and then give me a call. I'm in the phone book.

4/15/2007 6:30 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

It's interesting to note that a much longer version (1225 words -- more than most opinion pieces) showed up in the News-Press today. Is protecting the downtown and allowing more growth in our outer neighborhoods the new mantra for the right?

I've been told Ebenstein and Armstrong spoke about this issue on the radio the other day as well -- with Ebenstein criticizing most of the council members.

4/15/2007 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Santa Maria is talking about 70 foot structure. I thought we were the progressive ones. We need to build taller for sure. Save our land.

4/16/2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Judging from some of the misguided comments in response to the writings of Lanny, this community is doomed to overbuild itself.

Ironically, our so-called political leaders are leading us down a path of destruction through their addiction to more and more construction. Meanwhile, the oh-so-ever-ready developers are making a fortune in the process.

Look around people...with the help of our elected leaders, parts of beautiful Santa Barbara have already begun the transformation. Projects both in and out of the downtown core are taking on the look of the City of Angels. Remember when we DID'NT want to become L.A.?

The sad joke is that once we become just another over-crowded Orange County, housing will still cost too much. Most people will still be unable to afford a home. Traffic will be even more intolerable. Transit will still be underused. And, yes, the developers will still be licking their chops over that beautiful coastline to the north. (Please don't fool yourself into thinking they'll be satisfied to JUST overbuild the urban core.)

We as a community need to change course. The high-density, pro-development path is the wrong one, and will ruin Santa Barbara, Goleta, and, yes eventually Gaviota. Count on it.

4/16/2007 6:55 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

The rhetoric gets tough and everyone turns to wimps?

This is going to be a painfully long election season with such premature hypersensitivity.

The NIMBYs (and you know who you are) and the Developers both have a lot to gain personally by whether certain projects get built or not, with the rest of the community be damned.

Lanny Ebenstein is running for City council. He might as well admit it to explain his interest and shallow intent to be so suddenly conspicuous in local planning issues and policies. But at least he could come up with some original ideas instead of just repeating seemingly popular positions that actual city residents have been saying for months or years already.

I expect next week Lanny finally will realize something called the Santa Barbara General Plan Update is upcoming, and he will bless us all with his deep thoughts on what people in the city should do about it. As a tip, that process is now called "Plan Santa Barbara."

How about comments on the City budget through the Libertarian-colored glasses of Milton Friedman? Do enlighten us all.

Does Nelville Flynn also deserve "a slap in the face?" Should we all be outraged by such threats of violence?

4/17/2007 8:10 AM  
Anonymous NIMBY or not said...

Throwing around labels like "NIMBY" (a developer-invented term) does nothing to change the fact that it's normal for many people to not want their own neighborhoods made more "dense" (IMHO another developer euphemism for overcrowded). Those who prefer living in "dense" environments have plenty of "dense" cities to choose from, & most of those places already have more affordable housing than SB.

4/17/2007 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the re-broadcast of the Travis show with Lanny the other day. Talk about strange...

I tried very hard to truly listen from an unbiased perspective and make sense of what either/both of them were saying but it truly made no sense to me and came off as two bitter guys who both have huge chips on their shoulders.

I think they're both intelligent but very, very misguided.

4/17/2007 11:40 PM  
Anonymous Lanny Ebenstein (verified) said...

A few comments:

1) I do not intend to run for City Council this November.

2) As far as I know, y.t. was the first to introduce the idea of lowering the height maximum in the city. Here's what I wrote in the first ad of my campaign for mayor in 2005 (S.B Independent, 9/29/05, p. 5): "Lanny Ebenstein on Growth": "One of the issues that distinguishes my candidacy from incumbent Marty Blum is growth. Marty favors tall buildings in Santa Barbara's central downtown area ... I favor reducing height maximums for downtown businesses ... I support lowering the height maximum for new commercial buildings to 35 to 50 feet."

3) This position was noted at the time. Indeed, here's what Sara wrote in Blogabarbara (10/6/05): "Last week, Ebenstein ran an ad in the Indie saying that Marty was for higher buildings downtown than he was -- making a weak connection between the height limitation ordinance of 60 feet and the Slugger's position on the matter. Saying he was for 35 to 50 feet buildings, he somehow insinuated she wanted buildings to reach the sky."

I am glad others are coming to the view that lower height maximums in commercial areas would be desirable.

4/18/2007 9:11 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter (verified) said...

I am falling asleep already.

If we are in a contest of who first thought of building height limits, credit the original Plans and Planting Committee 85 years ago.

Maybe by 2009 the City will annex Mission Canyon?

4/18/2007 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

FYI: What made our current height limit of 60 feet, roughly four stories, happen in history, was the visible presence of the Granada building. The communities cry was: "Anything but that." That's what made it happen folks. Think about it next time you look at the Granada.

I think 60 feet or four stories is just fine. Our generation in control during the twenties was very wise in these matters.

4/19/2007 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Lanny Ebenstein (verified) said...

agree that the 1920s generation had a keen aesthetic eye. But the problem is that so much poor, tall development is being built or is in the pipeline right now that the top immediate goal is to place a new height maximum on all new development in commercial areas in the city now. Indeed, if an initial measure were subsequently revised, I would be inclined to go in the other direction--i.e., to make height maximums even lower, say two stories and 35' in El Pueblo Viejo and, in adddition to a maximum of 40' elsewhere in the city, an explicit maximum of three stories elsewhere and some limitation on the amount of three-story construction there could be on each block, among other possible measures, including with respect to density.

On another occasion, it may also be interesting to discuss conversion of hotels to housing and, more generally, encouraging conversion of commercial to residential. These are complex issues that benefit from many perspectives.

4/20/2007 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Countyh Grand Jury called to investigate district elections for the city this year. Wonder if they will issue a report.

Smelled Lanny Ebenstein's fingerprints all over that Grand Jury call. If you can't win big, then you will try to win small, eh Lanny?

4/22/2007 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Tom Roberts said...

Just came across the post regarding district elections and the comment that Lanny had something to do with the Grand Jury inquiry into the subject.

As a member of the Civil Grand Jury that worked on that investigation and report, I can assure you Lanny had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with it.

My advice, go to the Civil Grand Jury web site and read the report.

Tom Roberts
SB City Council (Ret.)

11/08/2007 3:59 PM  

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