Mixed Use - The Sheetz Building, Santa Barbara

Mixed-use and adaptive re-use projects, due to structural fire and life safety issues, require special knowledge of building codes and zoning ordinances and are more dependent on the architect’s ability to integrate technical knowledge with artistic skill than most projects.  Howard Wittausch’s combined architectural and engineering backgrounds coupled with his training and experience as a Certified Plans Examiner uniquely contribute to his expertise and ability to work creatively with Mixed Use projects.

The Project:        
Retrofit an existing 2-story unreinforced masonry (brick) commercial building in downtown Santa Barbara, adjacent to the world-famous Fox Arlington Theater to accommodate a residential apartment upstairs and a retail store downstairs.

The Challenge:    
The building is located in Santa Barbara’s Historic ‘El Pueblo Viejo’ District, adjacent to a building that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The proposed project is reviewed and approved by the City’s Historic Landmarks Commission, which determines whether architectural detailing is historically correct and/or appropriate and whether the project’s size, bulk and scale is compatible with the neighborhood.  The building is located in a parking “Zone of Benefit” where any intensification of use could trigger changes in parking requirements.  Finally, changes of use in historic buildings trigger structural fire and life safety issues, which can require these buildings, especially in the case of unreinforced masonry buildings, to be brought up to code.

The Solution:    
Negotiate with City staff regarding the preservation of historic structures for adaptive reuse and to obtain parking exemptions by  reducing commercial use in exchange for expanding residential use.  Use the State Historic Building Code to waive strict compliance with the California Building Code as it applies to structural design, fire and life safety, and accessibility, to preserve historic fabric.

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