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City of Santa Barbara updating ordinances for SB9 & SB10

On the first of January, 2022, California Senate Bill 9 will take effect, allowing many homeowners the option to add duplexes and split their lots without extensive review by local planning commissions. Santa Barbara city staff recently recommended the adoption of local measures to comply with the state mandates of SB9 and SB10. This follows closely on the heels of actions taken by the Santa Barbara City Council to adopt local ordinances which complied with California ADU law. 

Salinas California ADU Construction

With the passage of SB9, homeowners in the City of Santa Barbara will be able to split their lots and create new single family homes, so long as they meet the minimum requirements of the law. This has the potential to double the just over 12,000 Single Residential Zoned parcels and potentially allow for up to 72,000 new units (assuming all lots can split, and that each lot that splits adds a single family home with an ADU and a JADU, including multifamily units). As of the end of October 2021, 116 ADU applications were pending, 28 of which received building permits.

New development potential in Santa Barbara from SB9 and SB10

Potential Development from New Laws in Santa Barbara. from City Planning Department Report

But this level of development is unlikely with many homeowners not in a position to immediately jump on a lot division and construct the maximum number of units allowed under state law. Limitations on the number of available builders, access to capital, the rising price of materials, and the limitations of the building and planning department to process applications will all factor into how much new development takes place in the city. 

What’s more, SB9 and SB10 also contain provisions for high fire risk areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and historical districts. In Santa Barbara, 14% of the eligible lots are located in the Coastal Zone, 42% in High Fire Hazard Areas, 26% in Foothill or Extreme Foothill High

Fire Hazard Areas, and 34% in high slope areas. This may further limit some of the expected new development.

Santa Barbara Planning Deparment Land Use Hazard Location Map

Map from Santa Barbara City Planning Department

At a minimum the size of any new development will be restricted based on the size and location of the parcel on which it’s built, with the smallest parcels in high risk areas limited to an 800 square foot floor area. The placement of new residences will still need to meet standards placed to protect sensitive coastal and freshwater riparian habitats. 

But some residents, especially those that live in high fire risk areas with poor egress and limited evacuation routes, are worried that any additional development will increase the risk to residents during a fire evacuation.

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission’s recommendation on the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments were forwarded to City Council for review at the end of October, and will be considered at the November 16th Board Meeting. The City Council Ordinance Committee will review and discuss proposed amendments to Municipal Codes covering subdivisions, coastal zoning, and the inland zoning ordinance to implement SB 9, and forward their recommendation to City Council. The Council is expected to pass the ordinance amendments in December of 2021 with changes effective January 2022.

In the meantime, if you're considering building an ADU,  read more about Santa Barbara's existing requirements.