NEW BUILDING SIZE REGULATIONS - ONLINE WORKSHOP - CLOSED

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The City's Online Workshop for New Residential Building Size Standards has closed. There will be more opportunities for you to share your opinions on this topic in the future. Please join our email list here for updates on the project and future hearing dates.


For a quick explanation on regulating by building size, click here and watch an informative video on Floor-to-lot Area Ratio here.

This Online Workshop has closed.

We are excited to announce the City's new community outreach portal. This Online Workshop expands opportunities for community engagement, allowing you to share your thoughts and collaborate with other community members and City decision-makers about the future of multi-unit (apartments and condominiums) housing opportunities in our community.

We’re creating new standards to regulate building size for apartments and condominiums, and facilitate the construction of new housing in Santa Barbara and we need your input! These new building size standards aim to promote better community design, sensitivity to historic resources, more clarity in community expectations, and the opportunity for additional smaller units. Information provided from this Online Workshop will be shared with City Council and will help guide changes to the standards for apartments and condominiums.

This Online Workshop will be open from February 19th - March 3rd. Please register, at the upper right-hand side of the page, to participate and take part in one or all of the following activities.

We especially want your input on the appropriate residential building sizes for apartments and condominiums.

Below is information about building size standards and existing buildings.

  • Explore the Background on current apartment and condominium standards and why we are creating new standards.
  • Learn about Floor-to-lot Area Ratios or FAR and how this tool can be used to regulate apartment and condominium building sizes and create more housing and appropriately sized buildings in our community.
  • Get familiar with different building sizes in the City by exploring A Map with pictures of buildings (residential and commercial) and their sizes to give you an idea of what is on the ground today.

You’re encouraged to share your experiences and housing preferences.

Want to share your general thoughts on the project? Tell us what you think.

This Online Workshop has closed.

We are excited to announce the City's new community outreach portal. This Online Workshop expands opportunities for community engagement, allowing you to share your thoughts and collaborate with other community members and City decision-makers about the future of multi-unit (apartments and condominiums) housing opportunities in our community.

We’re creating new standards to regulate building size for apartments and condominiums, and facilitate the construction of new housing in Santa Barbara and we need your input! These new building size standards aim to promote better community design, sensitivity to historic resources, more clarity in community expectations, and the opportunity for additional smaller units. Information provided from this Online Workshop will be shared with City Council and will help guide changes to the standards for apartments and condominiums.

This Online Workshop will be open from February 19th - March 3rd. Please register, at the upper right-hand side of the page, to participate and take part in one or all of the following activities.

We especially want your input on the appropriate residential building sizes for apartments and condominiums.

Below is information about building size standards and existing buildings.

  • Explore the Background on current apartment and condominium standards and why we are creating new standards.
  • Learn about Floor-to-lot Area Ratios or FAR and how this tool can be used to regulate apartment and condominium building sizes and create more housing and appropriately sized buildings in our community.
  • Get familiar with different building sizes in the City by exploring A Map with pictures of buildings (residential and commercial) and their sizes to give you an idea of what is on the ground today.

You’re encouraged to share your experiences and housing preferences.

Want to share your general thoughts on the project? Tell us what you think.

The City's Online Workshop for New Residential Building Size Standards has closed. There will be more opportunities for you to share your opinions on this topic in the future. Please join our email list here for updates on the project and future hearing dates.


For a quick explanation on regulating by building size, click here and watch an informative video on Floor-to-lot Area Ratio here.

  • The City’s Commitment to Making Housing a Top Priority

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    Picture of affordable housing projectSanta Barbara has a long-standing commitment to providing housing to our community. In 2011, the Santa Barbara City Council adopted a new General Plan with a twenty-year blueprint for growth in Santa Barbara. This blueprint included a “Vision for a Sustainable Santa Barbara,” with the following directives for growth and housing:

    • Manage growth within our limited resources to retain the desirable aspects of the physical city without sacrificing its economic vibrancy and demographic diversity.
    • Allow as much housing as possible within resource limits to provide an array of lifestyle options for a demographically and economically diverse resident population.

    In 2013, the Santa Barbara City Council adopted the Average Unit-Size Density Incentive (AUD) Program on an 8-year trial basis, to see whether increased densities and certain incentives would encourage private developers to build new, smaller, more affordable housing in the portions of the City best able to accommodate additional housing. The AUD Program has been monitored closely over time and continually refined to better fulfill its purpose. While the Program was successful in producing new rental housing, the move to regulate building size is part of the City's current efforts to refine development standards based on what we have learned for the AUD Program. For more information on previous adjustments to the 8-year trial Program click here.

  • Permitting Apartments and Condominiums

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    Like all construction in Santa Barbara, apartment and condominium projects are required to follow the Santa Barbara Municipal Code, which defines the review process for a project and what specific rules apply. Before construction can begin, a project must receive both planning approval and a building permit.

    The Santa Barbara Municipal Code includes specifications and limits for a variety of things that apply to development projects. The Zoning Ordinance includes standards such as the maximum number of housing units that can be built on a lot, the maximum building height, the minimum distance that buildings need to be spaced from property lines (i.e., setbacks), the amount of parking required for a project, and the amount of a lot that must have open sky above (i.e., open yard). The Building Code includes technical details and construction rules related to the building permit. Together, these rules promote safe and desirable living conditions for residents and the community.

    Most housing projects are reviewed in a public hearing with one of the City’s Design Review Boards. The Design Review Boards primarily focus on the exterior aesthetic qualities of a project’s design, and how compatible the project is with the surrounding area. The Design Review Boards are not allowed to change the objective requirements in the Santa Barbara Municipal Code (like how many parking spaces are required for a project), nor reduce the number of housing units that are included in a project. Any project that involves a historic resource or is located in a historic district is reviewed by the Historic Landmarks Commission. All other apartment and condominium projects are reviewed by the Architectural Board of Review.

    Many apartment and condominium projects are also reviewed in a public hearing with the Planning Commission, which, like the Design Review Boards, is served by local volunteers. The role of the Planning Commission varies, based on the size and type of project. The Planning Commission primarily focuses on broad planning issues, like whether the project meets the City’s General Plan goals and policies, if dividing lots into smaller sections or combining them to create larger lots is appropriate, if exceptions to the rules are justified, and if specific permit conditions need to be included with a project. Certain smaller and more minor projects may go to the Staff Hearing Officer, which is a City staff-led public hearing with a similar role to the Planning Commission, but provides more streamlined review for smaller, less complex projects. Adding new building size regulations does not change how apartments and condominiums are approved and permitted.

  • Why Regulate Building Size

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    The City is interested in shifting toward regulating building sizes to get the right-sized buildings in the right places and facilitate more housing units by removing density limits and providing a more predictable project review process with clearer standards. The City does not currently have size limits for apartment and condominium buildings, other than required setback distance from property lines (in some areas) and maximum height limits.
    The final size of a building is ultimately determined by the City's Design Review Boards, which evaluate projects for compatibility with the surrounding development and compliance with adopted design guidelines. This is often a challenging task when larger projects, otherwise allowed by zoning, are proposed near existing, smaller buildings, and may be the first of its kind on the block. Recent changes to state law now prohibit Design Review Boards from reducing the number of housing units in a project, limiting the ability to reduce building height or increase setbacks beyond what is proposed by a developer.
    To provide clear, objective standards for new apartment and condominium projects, the City is developing size limits for buildings that are relative to the size of the property, using floor-to-lot area ratio (FAR) maximums. FAR is a measurement of the total area of all floors of all buildings on a lot (excluding basement areas), divided by the size of a lot. Maximum allowed FARs will be unique to different parts of the community, to be sensitive to surrounding neighborhoods and historic resources.

    A move toward FAR limits will create a more predictable outcome for both developers and our community and removes density A move toward FAR limits will create a more predictable outcome for both developers and our community and removes density (the number of housing units allowed to be built on a lot, usually described as “dwelling units per acre”) as the controlling factor for how many units are proposed in a project. This would encourage the construction of needed housing and is expected to result in more units being proposed within each new building. To see an animated illustration of FAR click here.


  • Floor-to-lot Area Ratio Video

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