By Raiza Giorgi

Appeals to a low-income supportive housing project next to the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez were denied at the Aug. 12 meeting of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. Commissioners stated that because of the state regulations on supportive housing projects and the need for more affordable housing in the county, they decided to move forward on the project. 

“I appreciate the approach from the appellants and compliment that it was not for the fear of the people who would be neighbors, but concern for their welfare,” said Third District Commissioner John Parke. “We have to be realistic and our hands are tied by the state.” 

The Sagunto Place project is proposed to have 23 units with one manager unit, 12 units that target the disabled and homeless populations, and 10 units for qualifying income levels of 80 percent of the Average Median Income which for Santa Ynez is less than $66,750 per year, according to the staff report. The project is owned by Thompson Housing of Santa Barbara and partnered with the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County, who took ownership July 21. 

“We have done 42 projects and over 2,200 units in Santa Barbara County including 13 communities for people with special needs and nine for homelessness,” said Frank Thompson of Thompson Housing. “This is not our first rodeo. We are still 1,500 units away from alleviating homelessness in our community and each community including Santa Ynez needs to help solve this.” 

Thompson said using the “By Right of Approval” through Assembly Bill 2162, which deals with homeless and at-risk populations like disabilities and streamlines affordable-housing projects. 

“Already we have people calling us to inquire how they can apply,” Thompson said after the meeting to the Star. “There is a need for this project as there are people in Santa Ynez who are struggling to pay high living expenses. This enables young people able to afford staying in their hometowns, or a disabled adult to live near relatives.” 

The planning department analysis of the project said the project is in consistency with the development standards from the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan and land use development code. 

The appeal from the neighboring businesses stated the project adversely affects public health and safety as well as parking issues. 

“My family has dealt with homelessness and substance abuse and I completely agree we need this type of project, but this is the wrong location for it being so close to a saloon and the Chumash Casino,” said Brian Asselstine, who owns the building across the street. 

He continued that putting people at risk and recovering from substance abuse next to a bar is the wrong message to send. He brought up the fact that Recovery Ranch is also located just behind the Maverick Saloon, and there have been issues he has witnessed because of it. 

“I am concerned about the safety of the people who will live there,” Asselstine continued. “I know you will feel good about pushing this project through, but we have to inherit this and deal with it everyday.” 

Several people called into the meeting to voice their support for the project as one person said she loves eating at S.Y. Kitchen down the street, but was sure that her busboy can’t afford to live in Santa Ynez and this would help. 

Others opposed said the noise levels are a concern in addition to people trying to recover from substance abuse being too tempted by the saloon. 

“I am in support of affordable housing and helping homelessness, but just because the county hasn’t met those needs doesn’t mean this project should be put here,” said Demetrios Lozoides, owner of the Maverick Saloon. “I am happy to help find another place and move the needle forward.” 

There was a petition circulating that had more than 2,000 signatures of people who did not support this project. 

“There is a misunderstanding of this commissions ability to move this project,” said First District Commissioner Michael Cooney. “It is serious business we do not have discretion as to the location of the project and if there were litigation, the state would be upheld. Even though we do not feel this is the best location, we can still be supportive and I intend to vote in favor because I see no alternative.” 

Fifth District Commissioner Dan Blough agreed he felt the location wasn’t optimal but glad that Thompson and the Maverick owners are working together. 

“People who don’t want to live there won’t,” Blough said. “If they don’t want to live next to a noisy bar, then they can go somewhere else.” 

“If anyone can make this work it’s him (Frank Thompson),” said Vice Chair Commissioner Larry Ferini. “Even though I don’t think it’s the right location, the legislature is cramming it down, and I want to vote no but it won’t do any good.” 

Housing Authority Director John Polansky said it was agreed to build a sound wall due to noise concerns as an amendment to the approval. The wall is to be at least 8 feet tall and 185 feet wide.  

The appeal was then denied 5-0. 

After the meeting Thompson said that the next step is to get the building plans drawn up and submitted, which will take several months and then through the county plan check for review before any construction can start. He estimated at least nine months before construction fencing will be up. 

The building will have heat and air conditioning and use solar power with LED lighting to reduce light noise, Thompson added. 

“Once it’s all done, I think people will see just how needed this is and it will be a great addition to the valley,” Thompson said. “We will work very hard to serve the community.” 

To watch the meeting click HERE.