Agencies eye middle-income housing development on the city-owned land at Carrillo and Castillo streets

Santa Barbara and the city Housing Authority are proposing a middle-income housing project for the Carrillo and Castillo streets commuter lot.

(Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
By Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina | May 9, 2019 | 9:09 p.m.

The city of Santa Barbara and the Housing Authority are working together to build housing at the commuter lot on the corner of Carrillo and Castillo streets.
The idea is in the brainstorming stage, but the City Council this week gave its conceptual support to the proposal.

“It’s clear there’s a housing crisis,” Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said. “I couldn’t support this conversation more.”

The proposed site is the same place where the city suggested 40 tiny residences for formerly homeless residents. The project enraged neighbors on Castillo Street, and the idea fizzled when the city only received $2 million in state grant money to fund the project.

Now the city and Housing Authority propose building homes there for middle-income workers. The city already owns the land, so it’s an attractive piece of property for the proposal.

“In Santa Barbara, we have a severe imbalance in jobs and housing,” said Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority. “It is very difficult in Santa Barbara. People are giving up necessities to pay the rent.”

The Carrillo commuter lot has about 140 parking spaces, and about 150 people have permits, which cost $40 per month. Permit sales generate about $72,960 in revenue each year.

Rob Dayton, the city’s transportation planning and parking manager, said permits are typically oversold. For example, the Cota commuter lot has 221 spaces and about 400 permits sold. Dayton said the Carrillo lot is underperforming because it is several blocks from State Street.

The Carrillo lot is also home to New Beginning’s overnight parking program, which houses 12 family units in cars and RVs, and two during the day.
With the council’s support, city staff and the Housing Authority will now work on a proposal and then return to the council for a vote.

Councilman Eric Friedman supports the talks if they focus on middle-income earners. “We don’t need more market rate housing,” Friedman said. Friedman also joked that housing at the site would serve a double purpose. “I think it’s great for people to be able to walk home from Mel’s (Lounge),” said Friedman, referring to the bar on the 200 block of West Carrillo Street.

During public comment, community activist Anna Marie Gott said she supports affordable housing, but questioned whether the Carrillo commuter lot is the right site since the neighborhood is already congested with parking.

— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at