Santa Barbara: No office buildings allowed, houses must include home office

home office Santa barbara

‘Home office’ is chapter 23 of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.

March 1, 2023

  • No more office buildings in Santa Barbara
  • All new construction must include a home office

Santa Barbara city council has passed a sweeping set of new building regulations that will outlaw any new office building construction and mandate home office inclusion in all new houses, condos, and townhomes. In addition, the city has increased taxes on existing office buildings while also offering financial incentives for their conversion to live-work buildings.

The new regulations are effective immediately.

“Most people wake up in one box, jump into another box to drive, and then work in yet another box, all while we have homeless people who don’t even have one place to stay,” council member Betti Salazar said. “There are more than enough buildings for us all to have homes, and this is a step toward ending homelessness.”

It’s also part of a social distancing strategy as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year with no signs of a viable vaccine yet and scientists are warning of a possible new strain in Australia. City officials have said that part of the plan here is to help curb public gatherings in excess of 50 people to limit the spread of any infectious diseases.

One challenge, which a homeowners association has raised, is cost.

Specifically, offsetting the cost of an office for all businesses and transferring it to the shoulders of workers, who now have to create a home office at their own expense. Or buy a home at a higher price, thanks to increased square footage and/or additional ammenities.

Mayor June Golden is sympathetic to their concerns, but feels the rising national tide of working from home will incentive businesses to increase salaries or offer home office stipends to offset any additional expense. The city will look into ways of mandating that, although Golden acknowledges that many people living in Santa Barbara work for companies beyond the geographical (and regulatory) reach of city council.

Business leaders applauded the initiative, which is being studied by numerous other cities and counties.

“Ultimately, we’ve transitioned from needing one central space to throw a mass of humanity,” says Google VP Frankie Carrillo. “Innovation does happen via collaboration, but there are many ways to accomplish that without colocation.”

In other news, real estate futures in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco took another hit today, dropping another 10%. They’re now down more than 50% from pre-COVID-19 highs in 2019.

Again, this is a chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.

 


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