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Los Alamos residents still worried about impacts of proposed parcel split


Despite Santa Barbara County’s recent attempts to assuage Los Alamos residents’ concerns about a proposed parcel split on an empty lot on Main Street, many are still concerned about the potential for traffic congestion.

At a community Zoom meeting on Jan. 28, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and county staff addressed questions regarding an application for a tentative parcel map that would split a 1.53-acre lot at 774 Main St. in Los Alamos into four separate and smaller parcels. While no structural development is currently proposed for the project, Los Alamos community members worry the parcels will eventually be used for housing, and that proposed entrances and exits to those parcels could lead to future traffic congestion issues on Shaw Street.

THE SITE Some Los Alamos community members are concerned that a proposed subdivision at 774 Main Street could lead to traffic issues on Shaw Street, a private and narrow road. - SCREENSHOT FROM GOOGLE MAPS
  • THE SITE Some Los Alamos community members are concerned that a proposed subdivision at 774 Main Street could lead to traffic issues on Shaw Street, a private and narrow road.
“This small part of Los Alamos should be no more or less appreciated for what it is than any other,” Los Alamos resident Seth Steiner said at the meeting, “and if Shaw becomes the access road, it will be severely impacted and made less safe and enjoyable for all.”

The portion of Shaw Street most likely to be impacted by any development on 774 Main St. is privately owned and, thus, not maintained by the county. A group of homeowners living on Shaw Street, including Steiner, pay dues to help fund the preservation and maintenance of the road. Steiner said Shaw Street is a narrow road that roughly 18 homeowners use to access their homes. It’s quiet and doesn’t get much vehicle traffic, he said, making it popular among walkers, bikers, and other pedestrians.

But as outlined in the project application, three of the four proposed parcels would be accessed from Shaw Street via a 24-foot shared driveway. If homes are built on those parcels—Steiner said he’s heard that as many as 11 could be built in total—that could lead to as many as 20 to 30 new vehicles in the neighborhood. While the proposal includes plans to widen a portion of Shaw, that wouldn’t include the last 100 feet of the road before it intersects with Foxen Lane, where Shaw bottlenecks into a single lane.

Although Los Alamos residents are calling for a traffic study in the area, the county typically only conducts traffic studies if a proposed project is estimated to generate 50 new peak hour travel trips. This project does not meet that threshold, and staff said at the meeting that a traffic study is unlikely.

Steiner said county staff need to pay closer attention to what locals are saying about this project. Staff aren’t on the ground. They aren’t familiar with the area like Shaw Street residents are. And Steiner said it’s not too early in the project for Los Alamos residents to get involved, as some county staff have insinuated.
“Not at all,” Steiner said. “I think if we remain silent about this or if we accept the way things are moving we’ll have less and less opportunity to shape the outcome. That attitude again is not accepting what the town feels about this.”

But county staff said they’re doing all they can to find compromises. In an attempt to reduce impacts to Shaw, planner Erick Gomez said a portion of one proposed parcel will go toward widening part of the private road. Parcel No. 4 will be accessed strictly from Main Street, and while entry to the remaining three parcels will be via Shaw Street, they’ll have exits on both Shaw and Main. Previously, all access and exits to parcels No. 1, 2, and 3 used Shaw Street.

Caltrans, Gomez said, will not allow entry to the parcels via Main Street because of its proximity to Highway 135.

“We did receive some concerns regarding access from Shaw Street,” Gomez said, “and so this is a way to maybe meet us halfway while also respecting that Caltrans has certain standards that we also need to make sure that we're meeting.”

At the meeting, Supervisor Hartmann also noted that Santa Barbara County will be required by the state to facilitate the creation of almost 30,000 new units of housing in the next eight years.

“And we all know we need workforce housing, we need farmworker housing, we need housing for lower income families, we want housing so that our children can stay here, Hartmann said at the meeting. “So that's kind of the big picture that we're all thinking about.” ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

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