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  • Writer's picturePrinceton North

New State Housing Law Strips Parking Requirement From Santa Barbara, Local Control

A new bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom could revolutionize housing projects in Santa Barbara by taking planning decisions out of the hands of local officials.

Assembly Bill 2097 removes minimum parking requirements for housing and commercial projects within a half-mile of transit stops. The bill's language states that the law will prohibit a public agency from imposing any minimum automobile parking requirement on any residential, commercial or other development project.

Developers often contend that the cost of building parking spaces for residents devastates their financial bottom line to the point where it makes developments impossible.

City and county officials are evaluating what the new law means for Santa Barbara, including the Funk Zone, downtown and Eastside where developers have targeted major housing projects.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments is creating a map of "major transit stops," but the new law also applies to train stations.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

"We’re also trying to understand it, including where it applies," said Dan Gullett, a planner with the City of Santa Barbara. "We’re looking closely at it and coordinating with Coastal Commission staff, since Coastal Commission oversees our land use regulations in the Coastal Zone, ncluding the Funk Zone.

"We are also hoping for some of the grayness of the legislation to be cleared up by the California Department of Housing and Community Development."

Even projects already approved could be affected.

"Potentially, existing residential and commercial developments and pending projects could be altered to eliminate parking," Gullett said.

Lauren Bianchi Klemman, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said the agency is preparing an interactive map for public agencies to use as a resource. Planners are still evaluating how the new law will affect projects in Santa Barbara.

"We will be presenting this information next week to SBCAG’s technical planning advisory committee," Bianchi-Klemman said.

State law describes public transit as "a major transit stop" as a site containing existing rail or bus rapid transit station; a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service; and the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak commute periods.

Santa Barbara County has six locations that qualify as a major transit stop, according to SBCAG. They include the region's five rail stations, the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District's Transit Center, and three routes that meet the 15-minute frequency requirements.

Proximity to transit does not guarantee that developments will be exempt from parking requirements, according to SBCAG.

Developer Ed St. George, who has several projects in Santa Barbara, said he backs the new law.

"Not that I’m a fan of Gov. Newsom, but he really has hired some smart people to help solve some real issues cities can’t seem to understand," St. George said. "2097 is designed to encourage development to areas that already have public transportation it will help alleviate traffic congestion. It’s purely common sense."

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