Commissioners deny appeal concerning proposed Main Street housing project

By Janene Scully

Noozhawk North County Editor

A proposal to divide a 1.5-acre parcel into four lots in Los Alamos drew support from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Wednesday despite objections from neighbors.

Commissioners unanimously voted to deny an appeal of the zoning administrator’s approval and allow developer Stephan Ruffino to split the lot at 774 Main St.

“I haven’t seen anything really in the project that’s glaring other than it’s ultimately an improvement,” said chairman Larry Ferrini, who represents the Fourth District. “It helps the county accomplish more goals by getting needed housing. He’s not stuffing them in there. They’re large lot sizes. To me, it’s a great project.”

Commissioner Laura Bridley noted that the application involved a lot split, not a development plan, conditional use permit or one of the “bigger juicier cases that we normally wrestle with.”

“It’s a parcel map, and it’s here because it’s an appeal, so it’s an order of magnitude to keep in mind,” Bridley said.

Ruffino applied to divide the parcel into four lots ranging from 12,415 to 19,305 square feet, receiving approval from the zoning administrator for the split.

However, Seth Steiner and the Shaw Street Maintenance Association filed an appeal, citing a number of traffic and other concerns to send the project before the Planning Commission.

The proposed lot split would require use of what Steiner contends, and county counsel disagrees, is a private section of Shaw Street between Wickenden Street and Foxen Lane.

The possibility for as many as 11 new residences on the property — duplexes plus accessory dwelling units — sparked traffic volume and parking concerns on Shaw Street, which narrows and could cause a bottleneck, Steiner said.

“We’re neither against new development in Los Alamos nor are we opposed to affordable housing,” Steiner said. “However, our safety, our home values and our quality of life need to be respected by the county and not undermined.”

Ruffino has agreed to a condition that would require widening Shaw before any development occurs, county staff said.

His representative, Frances Romero, a planning consultant from TW Land Planning and Development, said Ruffino agreed to create an egress to Main Street for the new lots to reduce the traffic on Shaw.

“I’d like to emphasize that the project before you is a lot split,” Romero said. “We are moving lines on paper to create three additional parcels that are consistent with the existing zoning on the site and are actually larger than the minimum requirement of 10,000-square-foot lots.”

Commissioners briefly discussed delaying action to refer the topic to the Los Alamos Planning Committee, although there were questions about whether the LAPAC remained active and should have a role.

The Los Alamos community weighed in on the project earlier this year when Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and planning staff hosted a virtual community meeting on the lot split. 

The Planning Commission’s denial can be appealed to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at