Letters to the Editor: Community member shares thoughts on student housing

Channels Opinion Page | Letters to the Editor

Richard Closson

Staff Writer Jared Daniels may have given great thought to his piece, “How rezoning State Street can offer more housing for students,” but it doesn’t entirely show. Yes, there are plenty of reasons for increasing housing in downtown Santa Barbara, but to accommodate students is low on most people’s lists. How about building more student housing on the City College campus? That would be much more convenient for students and probably under the general control of the college.

Of course, I’m offering a specious suggestion, uninformed about the difficulties that must be hiding in the details. But it seems to me that Daniels’ suggestions are no more informed. Downtown Santa Barbara may need affordable housing, but likely more for those who work in the district, than for transient students who will travel out of the district to attend classes. True, it will always be more attractive to live close to eateries and entertainment, but that doesn’t mean student housing is appropriate for a city’s commercial Main Street, tourist focus, and landmarked historic district.

Daniels makes it sound so easy. Just rezone a longtime commercial district to residential. Done and dusted. Property owners may want a say in that. Construction codes are substantially different for residential and office or retail spaces. Retrofitting is not always easy, or feasible, or even possible. The 12.9% retail vacancy rate quoted by Daniels is something owners have decided to live with rather than reduce rental rates. That’s their choice. It is something that concerns the City Council but, like rezoning, is not necessarily something they can unilaterally change. Suggesting that “rezoning State Street is an ideal solution for younger demographics,” e.g., The Channels readership, does not make it ideal for everyone.