Citizens of Santa Barbara have voted overwhelmingly to support a new beachfront development that will bring a 360-room hotel and conference center to the Cabrillo Boulevard beach area. The vote confirms the voters' continuing respect for the city's sensible growth restrictions, while at the same time recognizing a good compromise worked out painstakingly by community planners and rival community groups.
None of this would have been possible, in all likelihood, had Santa Barbara not downgraded its zoning in 1975--in effect halving the growth potential. Under the old zoning the city could have grown to a population of 120,000 or more. Under the new plan the present population of 74,000 cannot realistically exceed 85,000.
Water and traffic are the controlling elements. New developments within the city are limited to water consumption of two acre-feet per year per acre, and must not overload the city's roadways--now near capacity at some critical points. This new project had to be cut and redesigned to conform. In the final plan the entire frontage on Cabrillo Boulevard will be dedicated as parkland, making up one-third of the 32-acre site. Among the innovations is a plan to use recycled city water for the parkland, hotel landscaping and hotel toilets--conservation in action.
The land-use compromise makes sense obviously to most residents because it was supported by more than 70% of the voters. The project will be separated from the beach by Cabrillo Boulevard. The site runs almost 3,000 feet between Milpas and Santa Barbara streets, in an area already occupied by numerous hotels and motels.
Santa Barbara has once again earned respect for paying attention to the quality of life, for striking a reasonable compromise on the issue of growth.