Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

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Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Six-story buildings inevitably will come to dominate Santa Barbara's iconic skyline, City Council member Oscar Gutierrez said Wednesday, because "stylistic choices" must give way to the "need of the people" for more housing.

The combination of homelessness, a shortage of "affordable housing" and political pressure from state government will require more density and construction of taller buildings that are all but certain to change "the feel and the atmosphere" of the city, Gutierrez said in an interview with Newsmakers.

The comments come as City Hall is studying a controversial new design scheme, known as "Floor Area Ratio" (FAR), to spur production of rental housing, in which building size would replace the number of units as the key criteria in approval of multi-unit developments. Among other changes, critics say, such a change could open the door for a spate of higher buildings that conflict with Santa Barbara's painstakingly curated architectural aesthetic.

"Unfortunately, I feel like that’s going to be inevitable, I think it’s just going to happen over the years," Gutierrez said. "I think that the need of the people (is) going to outweigh, you know, stylistic choices.

"Obviously, we have a homeless crisis, we have a housing crisis and we’re going to have to build homes for these people and I’ve been pro-housing since the start," he added.

Gutierrez cited the growing push from Sacramento to quash local control over zoning, density and design issues in communities around the state, which housing advocates argue have been crucial in creating a shortage of units, as a critical factor.

Several weeks ago, the council agreed to hire a consultant to study options for affordable housing locations before reaching a decision on the FAR proposal, a move in which Gutierrez played a key role.

"We can only slow it down, but we can’t stop it, so people need to kind of realize that," he said. "I grew up here, and the one thing I appreciate whenever I come home is the skyline, you know, is how I can see the mountains, I can see the hills.

"It will change the feel and the atmosphere having taller buildings, but again, I understand the purpose and the need for it," he added. "And know that eventually it’s just going to happen...I just know the legislation from the state and the federal government is going to come down on us even more as time passes, and we’re going to have to give up more and more to be able to abide by it."

In the interview, the last of our series of conversations with all seven members of council, Gutierrez also discussed his:

  • support for new traffic initiatives encouraging more bicycle ridership;
  • view that the State Street closure to traffic should be expanded by at least one block;
  • advocacy of Mayor Cathy Murillo's re-election;
  • sponsorship of a proposal to require grocery store owners to pay their employees more for working during the pandemic;
  • recovery from Covid and his take on the debate over equity of the vaccine roll-out;

Plus: the latest NFL good fortune of his former San Marcos High School football teammate Alex Mack, among other issues.

Watch our conversation with Oscar Gutierrez via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here.

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caretaker Apr 22, 2021 10:38 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

The housing wealth of NIMBYs is rapidly increasing based on housing scarcity. In other words all of the homeowners who complain about increasing supply in the only safe and efficient neighborhoods available (not dispersed in the wildland interface) benefit economically by using zoning to deny affordable housing to the essential workers that provide the necessary services that those same homeowners require. The more NIMBYs restrict development the more they watch the value of their homes increase on Zillow while more working people are forced to live in their vehicles.

Your wealth may in part be due to more and more working families forced into homelessness. Building up and infilling is a rational response to housing policies that in effect throw people away like they are trash.

a-1619163316 Apr 23, 2021 12:35 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Building up and infilling is not the answer. A city with many geographical and resource restraints must have sensible thoughtful planning. Continuing to build up solves nothing. Plus there are always loopholes developers seem to find. There is no housing crisis. But the fallacy of it is big business. Go visit Santa Monica and see the future this city council has in mind. Overbuilt, congested, and still no affordable housing. If we infill open space and build six story buildings we create concrete canyons and unhealthy ways of living. SB needs to stop believing everyone can be housed and they all will ride bikes. Never going to happen.

EricL Apr 22, 2021 10:36 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Classic bait and switch. The city OKs high rise apartments. The apartments are bought by the upper middle class and wealthy. The ocean and mountain views are spoiled for everyone except wealthy ones at the top. The homeless continue to live by the freeway; the working poor get stacked in pod apartments. The developers and real estate agents continue to live in gated Montecito mansions or other exotic locals where they don't have to give a damn.

Politicians like this should get the boot.

You know what would work? Rapid mass transit into California's interior. Working people could afford homes there and commute to jobs/shopping/beach excursions on the coast.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 22, 2021 10:36 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

It must be hard for people who hold onto the Judaeo-christian fallacy that the earth is theirs for the taking and that their continued abuse of its finite and balanced resources to satisfy their own selfish desires is a detriment to their God they claim to honor. The fact that the Earth and all of its life are God's gift to us humans seems lost on those people who follow the ill guided teachings of charlatans. No Oscar, you do not have a RIGHT to destroy what is not yours any more than you have a right to propagate unchecked. Perhaps if you recognized that your purpose on Earth is to foster all life, not destroy it for your own desires. Oscar represents this fallacy perfectly. He and many others not only believe that they have a right to take from you and the rest of God's creations in order to promote their own selfish desires, but that their desires outweigh all other life on earth... Stop having babies. Stop forcing others to care for your choices and your failures. Be a good human and tend to the most vital gift we have as humans. Mother Nature… We dont need more buildings, we need less people, better people. On this day we should all stop and remember that the earth is not gifted to us by our forefathers, we are borrowing it from future generations. It is simply not ours to destroy.

PitMix Apr 22, 2021 10:31 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Housing will never be cheap in SB unless non-profits use their money to create it. Building homes and apartments commercially results in very expensive units- that is the cost of the land, materials, and labor these days. So no one has to worry about people getting handouts and becoming a welfare state.
In the Basque Country, people have accepted living in apartments in urban areas in return for keeping their countryside mostly undeveloped. That is the future unless we choose the alternate path of developing the Goleta and Gaviota Coast with single family homes.

letmego Apr 23, 2021 09:07 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

I'm not sure access is restricted, it's just not available, necessarily, out of your back door. I recently visited a large European city (pre-COVID). It has a lot of what you'd expect. Apartments with large shared internal courtyards. Public parks. Public transportation. Bikeable. Plenty of availability for open space. Interesting, friends from there visited us in the summer and went to the beach. They couldn't believe how EMPTY the beach was, comparatively, to European beaches.

a-1619112519 Apr 22, 2021 10:28 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

People who just hang out and get free things are by and large the uber rich and those that inherited their wealth. There are many generations of people living this way and contributing nothing of their own. So if your son's friends have that going so be it. But the poor do not live such fine lives. Sleeping in the rough or in cars, getting showers at a transitionary trailer, finding food in public places with lines and crowds, no medical care, no dental care, no retirement, ad nauseum. Give these tropes a rest.

CoastWatch Apr 22, 2021 10:27 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

...and the water will come from where? There is a FINITE amount of Real Estate in Santa Barbara- A simple lay of the land geography lesson shows the Mountains on one side and the Ocean on the other... Not everyone is ENTITLED to housing in such a limited geographically challenged area. I'd like to live in Pacific Palisades or Malibu- Should I DEMAND affordable housing there? I am quite frankly sick of the "entitlement society" that has taken over.

Shame Apr 22, 2021 09:54 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Along with all the other handouts I’m afraid we are creating a generation who will become dependent on the government and not want to work. Who wouldn’t want to have a cheep or free place to live while most of the town struggles to make it, my son said to me the other day why do I have to work my friends just hang out and get free things. We must think this out responsibility.

Hado_Ken_57 Apr 25, 2021 07:41 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

It's so stupid cause they built all that housing down by UCSB and over by whole foods too but its so expensive not many can afford to live there. So these mega buildings Oscar wants to put in are gonna be the same way probably. Meanwhile there are plenty of empty buildings they can use on state street or elsewhere to house people.

Council Member ... Apr 23, 2021 03:25 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

LOL! I represent the WESTSIDE ZEROHAWK. Meagan represents the downtown area and she wanted to vote for more than 3 stories. It seems as most of the people on this site have fallen for Jerrys misleading clickbait headlines without actually watching the interview or seeing how I've voted on this issue in the past. I voted against going higher than 3 stories in the downtown area. Jerry even started the conversation by addressing that. Feel free to reach out to me if you like to discuss this further. [email protected]

Council Member ... Apr 23, 2021 03:23 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

It seems as most of the people on this site have fallen for Jerrys misleading clickbait headlines without actually watching the interview or seeing how I've voted on this issue in the past. I voted against going higher than 3 stories in the downtown area. Jerry even started the conversation by addressing that. Feel free to reach out to me if you like to discuss this further. [email protected]

a-1619109054 Apr 22, 2021 09:30 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

This councilmember is of the "Scott Weiner" party. The latter, a California state rep from San Francisco who advocates adding increased density to middle class neighbors and squeezing people into every nook and cranny, came to SB a few years advocating to planning staffs locally how we should look forward to downtown looking like Barcelona. Stacked multi generational housing in Spain resonates to the local few who own downtown who want the 6 stories without worrying about the necessary infrastructure. This is just a ploy to take buildings that are now unrentable and balloon them in the hope that it values will be enhanced enough to unload on an out of town investor. And where's the water, sewer systems, roads and parking for this megalopolis? Vote Gutierrez and Murillo OUT before they destroy the City.

LoveMySB Apr 22, 2021 09:15 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

What a bunch of BS. We have two empty buildings (Macy's & Norstrom's) that could have been turned into efficiency units for people working in the downtown area (bars & restaurant workers) but instead they are going to turn Macy's into office space. Why do we need more office space? Has this clueless city council taken a look around town to see how many commercial spaces are empty & up for lease? With the pandemic, more companies found out that they could have their employee's work from home and this may not change even if we get past the pandemic. Which means potentially more commercial space could be empty. By not having to pay the high expensive rents, companies could lower their overhead to do business by keeping their employee's working from home. This city council is so out of touch and we need a new Mayor.

letmego Apr 22, 2021 09:50 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Yup. Instead of cramming 80 people into a space meant for 40, I expect many companies will just set up offices that people can come into only occasionally. Sure, you might no longer have your own private desk anymore - you may be splitting time with 1 or 2 other people. I'm not a huge fan of companies that ELIMINATE personal space at work, but sharing is the wave of the future.

RHS Apr 22, 2021 09:06 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

If this is the view of a local council member one wonders why he even bothers to serve as part of city democracy. Local resistance to pandering state politicians should occur as a necessary quality of life issue. We cannot just pave more, build more, consume more, pollute more, congest more. This is Earth Day. We need to protect the environment from consumption freaks and people who can't understand that there are already too many people. I will never again vote for this man.

ZeroHawk Apr 22, 2021 04:12 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

RHS, very well said. I personally do not like Oscar and feel he has no place in the city council. he is judgmental, rude and brash, has no decent etiquette on how to speak to people and resorts to tantrums and yelling. He and several others on the council are an embarrassment to the city and have done way more damage than good. These people are ruining our city. Fact.

a-1619127138 Apr 22, 2021 02:32 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Pit: Overpopulation? Increasing density to provide profits to investors in the name of "low cost housing". Santa Barbara has been renowned throughout the world for its' beauty, living within available resources (water being a big one, but not the only one), and maintaining the struggle to provide adequate infrastructure, physical and human, to support the town. Baloney on the State's whims. They are elected and can be unelected.

a-1619127124 Apr 22, 2021 02:32 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Overpopulation? Increasing density to provide profits to investors in the name of "low cost housing". Santa Barbara has been renowned throughout the world for its' beauty, living within available resources (water being a big one, but not the only one), and maintaining the struggle to provide adequate infrastructure, physical and human, to support the town. Baloney on the State's whims. They are elected and can be unelected.

RHS Apr 22, 2021 10:48 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Pitmix, we live in a democracy. People can and should 'push back' and create a better place. It appears that some folks, mostly real estate investors I think, support politicians that cater to this sort of argument. Taking our own town as an example, Santa Barbara would have gone the way of Ventura and most of Orange County if people here had not resisted the push to tract homes. They did this by using whatever strategy legally available. Stopping the water connections was a good tactic. The fact that pro-growth politicians are currently in ascendance in Sacto does not mean they will always be and if we let them just push for more housing forever we will not be able to undo the damage later. We need to resist, not submit weakly.

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