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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jimbo11 Apr 25, 2021 02:09 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Do people realize that there are only a handful of properties That could possibly become six story buildings? It doesn’t make economic sense in probably 95% of downtown. There is SB earthquake rubble under just about EVERY property downtown and you can’t build unless you have decent density for economies of scale.
Also the Nordstrom and Macy’s we’re both investigated and deemed unsuitable for residential conversion. Why do people keep bringing this up?

Basicinfo805 Apr 23, 2021 09:36 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Oscar, I think you've heard (read) what most of us here and probably around town think - this idea sucks. Your vision sucks. We don't want that. It's not inevitable. It's not even realistic. It's terrible. I don't mean to be rude, but it's probably time for you to think a little more about what you're saying. I'm glad you put it out in public though. It's good to be honest and forthcoming, because now we all know where your mind is at.

MarcelK Apr 25, 2021 09:14 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

As Oscar has pointed out a few times (and some people are complaining about it), that headline does not represent what Oscar thinks or wants. (It's funny how, when people say "I don't mean to be rude, but", they are making it clear that they are being rude. If you really don't mean to do that, then you wouldn't do it.)

a-1619222599 Apr 23, 2021 05:03 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

City Council, Mayor and Oscar seem to be lazy and unimaginative. If the current SB skyline, views and architecture are the first priority then everything else fits into that. An 800sq ft. apartment is more than adequate for two people if there is a balcony or small back yard. A 350 sq ft. studio is more than adequate for a homeless person, student or single person just getting started for nice living plus there has to be supportive services for the homeless. Let's be imaginative so we don't lose the quality of life and the saving of our trees for the cooling of our climate. Get birth control. Stop producing more than two people to replace yourselves. The planet needs fewer people not more. Put bicycles on Anacapa and Chapala. State St. (road and sidewalk) is a disaster and getting worse.

a-1619212768 Apr 23, 2021 02:19 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Oscar simply does not have the temperament to be a good politician, at least a progressive one. That's evidenced by his responses here and on social media. As a politician, you have to know at least half the people are not going to like you or your policies or your ideas. Having thin skin and getting defensive and starting bullying arguments will just make the other half respect you less. It's immature.

SBLetsGetAlong Apr 23, 2021 10:06 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Per the City Council the 6 story tall buildings will not be required to provide parking.
Per City Council the reason is that the car is the number 1 green house gas source for global warming.
When asked about electric cars SVD allowing the State to make such mandates they replied that people need to ride bicycles more.
I say it’s a money thing.
If a building downtown is required to build 50 parking places That parking will be underground. Cost is $2,000,000 to build the 50 parking spots.
The City says they’ll take a $500,000 fee to waive parking requirements.
And that $5000,000 “fee” is for what? It is not earned.
It’s not about the car, electric or otherwise. City wants money.
So the people who live downtown will have to park in the street or in the public parking g structures causing more congestion on our streets.
6 story buildings are a lot of people.

SBLetsGetAlong Apr 23, 2021 09:45 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

“Obviously, we have a homeless crisis, we have a housing crisis”
So do they think they are going to put the 900+ homeless in a new downtown high rise?
Seriously? The City is spending g $4,700,000 to buy West Beach property to house 15-25 homeless.
At those numbers the City is prepared to spend $164 million to house the other 875 JK rises in downtown accommodations?

Don’t say 6 story tall buildings are to help house the homeless in SB.

a-1619201429 Apr 23, 2021 11:10 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Achoo, you are right. Here's the thinking process at the Democratic Central Committee:
1. Housing is good. If you build more, prices will come down and we can afford it. Don't worry about affordable - excess market rate housing will drive down the price so that housing eventually becomes affordable.
2. If we spur housing creation, and sign Project Labor Agreements that mandate union building jobs, the construction workers will earn more, while we get more housing. This is good. Since unions own most of the City Council, the PLA wasn't hard to get in return for all those campaign contributions.
3. Real estate speculation and developers and investors out-pricing families? Keeping prices way high, even with more density? Um, so we must need to follow step 1 and 2 again, maybe double-down on it, until the trickle-down effect finally kicks in and we can all afford housing.
4. Keep electing people that support these policies. Walk for them, write them checks. Eventually it's going to work! We'll all get cheaper housing!

That's the plan the DCC is working off of, and that's why Santa Paula Pipefitters and LA electrical workers write checks to Cathy, Oscar, Meagan, etc.

Ahchooo Apr 23, 2021 10:24 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

The 6 story buildings aren’t necessarily for the homeless, but for the many people wanting to buy or rent a place, but unable to find any on the market. Such people are presumably commuting, or living in shared situations and wanting something better. But I don’t see how any new housing will be affordable. Oscar seems to follow the idea that if we have more supply, the demand will be met. I don’t see that happening. The new units will still be too pricey. There is unending demand; even a low market rate will be too high for most people.

theaaaron Apr 23, 2021 09:12 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

I'd say that building more homes won't solve the homeless problem. I suspect few if any of the currently homeless will EVER be able to afford ANY home in Santa Barbara other than a fully subsidized low cost home. What might improve is the ability for employed folks who are priced out of the market to find a small starter home IF enough of those get built. I would hate to see the proliferation of 6 story structures in SB, although I reside in Noleta and thus am insulated from this problem.

Sawbilly Apr 23, 2021 04:42 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

You could double the amount of housing in Santa Barbara and it’d affect housing prices hardly at all. They’d still be sky-high, because SB is such a unique and desirable place. Some developers would get rich, though, and the quality of life in town would decline, thanks to increased pressure on services. More traffic, yay. More demand for scarce water, yay. Less convenience and charm, yay.

Loser idea all around.

a-1619200470 Apr 23, 2021 10:54 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Oscar
You proudly proclaim in this article that "I’ve been pro-housing since the start". This in spite of Santa Barbara's efforts over the years to live within our means which (used to) translate into having a nice city in which to live for most all classes (drug addled vagrants not included). That has changed dramatically in recent years as the city council, with your help, has pushed for pack and stack design schemes such as "Floor Area Ratio" (FAR), etc.
In these instances the city council and you especially are actively working against the will of the people of Santa Barbara. You can't be replaced soon enough.

letmego Apr 23, 2021 09:13 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

For sure though, that's a result of COVID. Similar things are happening in Manhattan. Our housing prices are skyrocketing because of the ability to work from anywhere - so the big city folk can keep their high priced jobs and live in paradise. What does that do to the people who already live here? There are no easy answers.

I'm a bit surprised at people who are shocked at Oscar and how he doesn't listen to his constituents. I mean, you only have to read a FEW comment threads on Edhat to know that the people who own housing here don't want more housing, and the people who CANNOT AFFORD housing here (rent or own), want more housing. It seems to be about 50/50 as far as I can tell.

Council Member ... Apr 23, 2021 03:10 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Hi Liberty,
I'd be glad to introduce myself to you. It seems as most of the people on this site has fallen for Jerrys misleading clickbait headlines without actually watching the interview or seeing how I've voted on this issue. 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]

x01660 Apr 22, 2021 09:01 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

I posted this comment back in 2018:

https://www.edhat.com/comment/reply/16605/49891

In that comment, a part of what I said was: "You can't eat your cake and retain it, and neither can the NIMBYs in SB; if you want a quiet neighborhood with quaint bridges, say goodbye to tourist bucks."

I stand by what I said....

Y'all wanted the money and the jobs and the name on the map. Welcome to the itinerant conditions that came with the fulfillment of that wish.

Mesarats Apr 22, 2021 07:35 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

I would like to see the data showing that increasing rentable units results in increasing affordability for the demographics for who already live here. Does anyone think developers are going to build for the homeless, foreign born undocumented workforce who do the work locals will not do?
Tearing down old stock units to convert to higher density new rentals has only resulted in displacement of working class people and increased migration of higher income who replace those who are priced out of the area.

Also are they factoring in the projected “granny” units now allowed in any single family dwelling per CA state law.

Crystalandmaui Apr 22, 2021 12:42 PM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Really! Oh no, so you think people come to Santa Barbara to vacation and spend money to shop and stay in pricey hotels, to have to worry about being robbed or harassed or eat the food amongst stink?
I agree there are more homeless and less jobs that pay for you to live in Santa Barbara, so you need to live where it’s affordable. Yes there are a lot of empty buildings. Empty hospitals would probably make a good start.
I’m not sure why people say let’s have them on state street? That’s crazy and I’m sure the people who have businesses there wouldn’t appreciate it.
Let’s really think, don’t destroy other’s peoples life’s who worked so hard to get where they are.

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

Every issue is linked to others. The overriding issue right now is how we are going to address climate change. If we don't fix that, housing density will become irrelevant. And it is not clear to me that that we can fix it if the goal of the whole world is to have a US lifestyle with single family homes, SUVs, and jet vacations. Address over-population, put jobs near housing, and develop green housing as much as possible. That way my nephews and nieces might have a future to look forward to.

Council Member ... Apr 23, 2021 03:15 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

Hi AHCHOOO,
It seems as most of the people on this site has fallen for Jerrys misleading clickbait headlines without actually watching the interview or seeing how I've voted on this issue. 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]

Ahchooo Apr 22, 2021 11:52 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

VOR, you are right that the department stores won’t easily be converted to housing. Where does Oscar think we are going to put the six-story buildings? On current open space and parking lots? Or will smaller buildings be demolished? Why not first demolish the big ones that nobody is using? More importantly, none of it will be affordable unless it is subsidized. How much should local taxpayers contribute to subsidized housing? How will increased taxes affect the people who are already housed but not rich? Has the city council figured any of this out? Surely they don’t think that we will get enough cheaper housing simply by building more units at cost. Hasn’t worked here yet, won’t work going forward. Unless the land purchase and construction is subsidized.

a-1619114659 Apr 22, 2021 11:04 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

This was a very disturbing interview. He's not even going to try to nominally stand against forces of real estate speculation and profiteering. He seems to be sold on Wiener's YIMBY / Big Tech-financed view that if you build exponentially, some trickle-down effect will occur that makes things more affordable. The construction trade unions backed Oscar and Cathy (is she still the mayor) heavily. They benefit with the city's PLA passage, led by Cathy and Oscar. So who do these two serve? People that seek to profit off building and real estate developers. Who are they shafting? Us. The need for affordable housing is huge. The options are few, but repurposing dead buildings (Sears, Macy's, Nordstrom, that enormous hunk of space Raytheon abandoned in Goleta, failing motels) is a good place to get that affordable housing. It's Earth Day. Let people work from home as much as possible, keep cars off the road, and make better use of the resources we have. Manhattanizing downtown - what a fabulous gift to profiteers and foreign real estate investors. The poorer among us will be boxed into the freeway areas. I guess I better stake out my railroad tracks spot now.

fitz Apr 22, 2021 10:56 AM
Oscar: Demand for Housing in City Means the Transformation of SB Skyline is Inevitable

I agree with gray 2136 also. Also, t here is plenty of housing available if you head away from the coast. I am sure there are more affordable houses/apts. in Modesto, Bakersfield, Santa Maria, etc. Housing is more affordable in Texas and Indiana and Detroit. You can get a 3 story home in some of the rust belt cities for under $100,000. I have a family member in Indianapolis, about to invest in his first home.......he's looking for under $150,000. Oscar's view is short-sighted and detrimental to the future of SB. He needs to be voted out.

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