City of Santa Barbara Building Heights Initiative, Measure B (November 2009)
If Measure B is approved, it will require that buildings in the historic downtown area of Santa Barbara not exceed 40 feet, and that other buildings in commercial areas not exceed 45 feet. The current height limit allowed by the city charter is 60 feet.
11,500 signatures were collected to qualify Measure B for the ballot by "Save El Pueblo Viejo". Three new mixed-use developments on lower Chapala Street led to the initiative. Bill Mahan, who is a leader of the movement to get Measure B passed, said that he and other slow-growth advocates are worried about "the canyonization" of Chapala Street. They express their concern that the town's historical flavor is threatened.
Architect Brian Hofer filed a lawsuit in late July against the five people who signed the "Argument in Favor of Measure B" for the official voter guide. The lawsuit challenges their repetitive use of the word "high rise" to describe what they think Measure B would prohibit. According to Hofer, California building codes give a precise legal meaning to "high rise", and that precise legal meaning is a building that is over 75 feet in height. Since the Santa Barbara City Charter already prohibits any building height over 60 feet, Hofer says that the ballot language is therefore misleading.
Mayoral candidate Dale Francisco supports Measure B.
A "No on Measure B" coalition has formed, led by Debbie Cox Bultan. The "No on B" coalition supports the lawsuit, saying, "We are pleased that a local expert with unsurpassed qualifications has stepped up and challenged the misrepresentations used by the proponents of Measure B. The community debate about our future is not and has never been about so-called ‘high-rise’ development. This detracts from the real conversation that should be happening about how we can best preserve our community character, protect our environment and provide housing for working families."
The Community Environmental Council, the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation and PUEBLO are opposed to the initiative.
Arguments made against Measure B include:
- 35% of Santa Barbara’s historic buildings are taller than 40 feet, according to Mickey Flacks. Flacks is the SB4All co-chairwoman and an affordable housing advocate. She said, “This is not a town of two-story, flat-roofed buildings."
- Architect Joe Andrulaitis said that many of Santa Barbara's architecturally significant buildings wouldn't conform to the new requirement and future great buildings would not get built if Measure B passes.
- Buildings that wouldn't conform to the proposed height limit include many theaters, hotels, churches, and government buildings including the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Arlington Theatre and Trinity Episcopal Church.
- Architect Detty Peikert said Measure B would contribute to urban sprawl.
- Dave Davis of the Community Environmental Council said that Santa Barbara's carbon footprint will increase if Measure B passes.
- Michael Holliday, an architect and Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce member, said that if Measure B passes, hundreds of millions of dollars would be lost in property values.
- City of Santa Barbara elections website
- County of Santa Barbara elections website
- "No on Measure B" Facebook page
- Website of "Save El Pueblo Viejo"
- Noozhawk, "Architect Sues Proponents of Measure to Lower City’s Building Heights", July 28, 2009
- Santa Barbara Independent, "B is for Building Height", August 1, 2009
- Argument in Favor of Measure B
- Santa Barbara Independent, "How Now, Bow-Wow", August 20, 2009
- Noozhawk, "Opponents Form United Front Against Santa Barbara’s Building-Height Initiative", August 18, 2009