New residential development within 250 feet of Highway 101 will be significantly restricted for the indefinite future if a new ordinance proposed by planners at Santa Barbara City Hall is adopted. This Tuesday, the City Council’s ordinance committee voted 3-0 to initiate the process of enacting such an ordinance. Driving the issue is concern by the state Air Resources Board that the exhaust particulates generated by diesel trucks can cause more than 10 additional cancers per 1 million residents. The state board has recommended a 500-foot buffer, as has the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.
City planners insist that higher threshold was based on emissions generated from much wider freeways that get far more diesel truck traffic than Highway 101. The new rules will not apply to parcels of land buffered by sound walls or to industrial or commercial development. City planners estimate that 90 parcels could be affected. Remodels will be exempted if the new building footprint is less than 50 percent bigger than the existing structure. And if developers install filtration systems — or plant broad leafy trees that absorb the diesel particulates — city planners will consider their applications.
The new ordinance is designed only as an interim measure and will be abandoned if and when new diesel exhaust regulations curb carcinogenic emissions. “We’re saying there’s a line in the sand, but we just don’t know where it is?” asked Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss. The line, he was told, was 10 new cancer cases per 1 million residents.