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Objective Design StandardsPlanning Central

What Are Objective Design Standards?

To address the State’s housing shortage, recent State legislation requires certain multi-unit housing projects to be reviewed and approved using objective standards. Objective standards are a type of regulation that do not require a judgement call to determine that they’ve been met. For example, the City has Zoning Ordinance standards that limit building heights, require that buildings be set back a certain distance from property lines, and establish the minimum number of parking spaces required for a development project. These regulations are all considered “objective standards” because they are numeric and don’t require a subjective opinion to determine whether a development project follows those standards. 

Why Develop Objective Design Standards? 

For decades, development projects have been permitted using design guidelines that apply to specific types of projects and specific areas of the City. These design guidelines include a mix of objective and subjective language, which can add uncertainty and confusion in the permitting process. By developing objective design standards, the permitting process will become more streamlined, predictable, and easier to interpret for all stakeholders. In addition, there is clear direction from the State Legislature to move away from a subjective permitting process for multi-unit housing projects and towards one that is objective in nature.

How Will the City Develop Objective Design Standards? 

In May, 2021, City Council adopted the City’s first objective design standards, which were developed using the El Pueblo Viejo Design Guidelines as a reference and only apply to the few types of multi-unit housing projects that qualify for Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) streamlined approval process. For more information about those design standards and SB 35 eligibility, click here.

As a follow-on effort, the City is developing objective design standards for all multi-unit housing projects. This is a two-year grant funded effort initiated in spring 2021. More information about this effort will be posted when available.

Project Contact

Rosie Dyste, Project Planner
RDyste@SantaBarbaraCA.gov
(805) 564-5470 ext 4599

Last Updated: May 27, 2021
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