The ultra-wealthy, ultra-liberal community of Santa Barbara, just north of Los Angeles, (known locally as “Snotty Barbara”) has found the impact of its own regulations and restrictions on development sufficiently dramatic that it has decided it needs to build affordable housing for people making up to $160,000 per year. Not only firemen and policemen can’t afford to live in Santa Barbara. The town fathers are starting to worry about the lack of availability of housing for doctors and lawyers.
The City Council is considering whether to use the property to build affordable housing, a condominium complex called Los Portales for families earning up to $160,000 a year.
Now, “it’s hard to get sympathy for people making $160,000 a year if you’re down in Texas or something,” said Bill Watkins, head of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project.
Any household with that kind of money is in the nosebleed section of American earners, and “most of the country would think, ‘You’re going to subsidize that person’s house? You’re kidding me.’ ”
But in this city — where the median home price is around $1.2 million — that person needs help. And the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is about to become the rare public housing agency to assist the well-heeled along with the poor, to build shelter for those whose business cards come in designer leather cases and include words like “doctor,” “lawyer,” “director.”
The tallest building here is the eight-story Granada Theatre, built in 1924.
It could never be replicated today, in part because the City Charter strictly limits buildings to 60 feet, about four stories.
And even four stories is a hard sell.