Bella Riviera: Workforce Homes


Bella Riviera at the former St. Francis Hospital site opened in the spring of 2013.  The ambitious project was initiated by the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation (SBCHF) as a means of providing 81 affordable homes to meet the housing demands faced by those employed by the Cottage Health System. 


Following the closure of St. Francis Medical Center in 2003,  Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health)  offered  the SBCHF opportunity to buy the site.

SBCHF believed that since the buildings were no longer safe and suitable as a medical center, the best use of the property was to build affordable professional homes for Cottage employees.


This was prompted in part by our understanding of the cost of homes in Santa Barbara and knowledge that 20% of our Cottage workforce face a significant commute in order to work at our hospitals.

Following a successful working partnership with the City of Santa Barbara, including its planning and architectural review process, Cottage began the 10-year project to develop the beautiful Bella Riviera property.


The SBCHF formed an entity called the Villa Riviera Real Estate Company (VRE) to develop Bella Riviera. VRE contracted with SL Residential (SLR) to build the Bella Riviera condominiums and market the units for sale.


The old hospital buildings were demolished, followed the construction of 115 townhomes on the approximately 5.9 acre site. The homes were built using the Santa Barbara Built-Green "3-star" rating.


Cottage employees who did not own homes were given the opportunity to apply for these units through a lottery process. 


It is comprised of 115 total units (of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedrooms), 81 of which are professional homes for Cottage employees.


The development also includes 34 units that were sold at market rate – which helped make the project financially feasible.


The homes are now all occupied.  
 •  26 by clinical staff
 •  25 by registered nurses
 •  21 by non-clinical staff
 •  9 by medical residents

Three of the proud CHS employees
who now own homes at Bella Riviera


Importantly, through resale agreements with employees, these homes will stay in the Cottage homes inventory into the future:  When the employee homeowner separates or retires the home will be resold to the next interested and available employee.



Kudos to all

A project of this size and complexity required the collective wisdom and hard work of many, many  individuals and agencies in our community, and its success is due to many, including:


The CHS and SBCHF Board of Directors, who realized that in order to offer our community the best healthcare program possible, we need to offer not only our existing mortgage assistance program, but also need to invest directly in creating workforce homes.


The leadership of the City of Santa Barbara, including the Planning Commission, Architectural Board of Review, and ultimately the City Council.


Key members of the CHS executive management team, including VP of Project Management Ron Biscaro, Senior VP and CFO Joan Bricher, VP of Finance Karen Jones, and VP of Human Resources Patrice Ryan. Each was supported by many members of the CHS management team.


The Board of Directors of the Villa Riviera Real Estate Company, the organization that was created to manage and oversee the project


The architectural firm of Cearnal Andrulaitis


Builder SR Residential