New housing plans in Santa Barbara to destroy ‘Funk Zone’

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN


A rendering of the SOMOFunk plan. Courtesy of the architectural firm, Cearnal Collective.

Ella Todd, Staff Writer

This summer, a new plan to develop the most vibrant and characteristic block of the Funk Zone was brought to the Architectural Board of Review. 

The project, “SOMOFunk” would demolish current buildings and add 155 residential units to the block cornered by East Yanonali Street, Santa Barbara Street, East Mason Street, and Gray Avenue. Many community members know and love this block as the home of the Dart Coffee garden, various art studios and galleries, locally-owned shops, historic landmarks, and a gathering space for markets and events. 

The proposed development for this block would completely extinguish the creative space built there. On Monday, July 25, the ABR voted 5-1 to move forward with the plan. The next step in the eight step process is a review by the city’s planning commission.

“‘Funkzilla’ will devour the existing neighborhood and change it forever. The project as presented is too large and completely out of scale for the area,” organization Keep The Funk wrote. “Proposed project is almost three times the maximum residential density; which is in addition to over 18,800 square feet of commercial uses.”

‘Keep The Funk’ is dedicated to making sure that “outside developers are playing by the same rules as everyone else,” referencing the plans for buildings that are too large and too tall for the small-scale nature of the area. Santa Barbara is in dire need of affordable housing, and this project is a “solution” for that problem.

However, this comes as a huge detriment to the existing community and there are already concerns about how affordable this housing would really be. Any housing this close to the waterfront can drastically increase in value, a reality that many students and low-income members of our community have to deal with when trying to find a place to live.

In addition, the location of this complex is outside of walking distance to any schools or grocery stores, and will drastically worsen the already problematic parking situation making it unrealistic and poorly executed. 

According to the SOMOFunk proposal, there will be designated spots for sculptures throughout the monstrous development, but this will be nothing more than a manufactured representation of artists that were priced out of creative spaces they’ve been cultivating for years. SOMOFunk would be lucky to fool a tourist into thinking the block had any character left.

If this project is successful, it will open the doors to turning Santa Barbara into a city devoid of any character or local charm. Just hundreds of apartment complexes that look the same and strip our city of everything that makes it unique. Art and artists are vital to our community, and anyone who has gathered in the Dart Garden with coffee and friends knows how special it is. As community members, we must work to appreciate these spaces and protect them to the best of our ability.

Correction: Oct. 19, 2022

An earlier version of this story didn’t include the space in between paragraphs five and six, as well as six and seven. It also didn’t include a quotation mark at the start of paragraph four. Paragraph four is a quote and should start with a quotation mark. The Channels regrets the error.