By Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina | Published on 02.21.2016 8:30 p.m
An 89-unit affordable housing project for seniors, proposed for a site next to a South Hope Avenue car dealership and alongside Arroyo Burro Creek, won approval last week from the Santa Barbara Planning Commission.
But the project proposal, from the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, sparked a fierce debate over two of the community’s most prized collective values: housing and the environment.
Much of the debate during the nearly six-hour meeting centered on whether the mostly three-story project should be moved to at least 50 feet from the top of the creek bank along the 1.76-acre parcel. As proposed, the project at 251 S. Hope Ave. reaches a distance of 42 feet at its farthest.
“This is not the first affordable or migrating-out-of-foster-home or senior income housing project I have seen where it is put on a challenging site and we are literally forced to make decisions on very serious competing goals,” commissioner Michael Jordan said.
“There will be other people up here who will tell you that if it comes to people in an urban setting versus the creeks that the people will take priority, and I will contend that it is a reasonable stance. But eventually the erosion of the … watershed protections will affect the people, too.”
The commission voted 4-1 to allow the project to move forward, with Jordan in dissent. He said he is “weary” of seeing housing projects proposed on constrained sites with the implication that the commission has no choice but to approve them to satisfy the greater need for affordable housing.