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Plan Santa Barbara: the Historic Element

by Betsy Cramer

Four years ago, when the community workshops on the General Plan Update were in full swing, preserving Santa Barbara’s historic resources via a separate Element in the General Plan was but a twinkle in preservationists’ eyes. Or but a mote, according to others. On Friday at the Council subcommittee, the twinkle became a smile and seemed a certain Plan A. The Historic Resources Element “is a vital part of the General Plan,” Councilmember Dale Francisco said firmly. No one disagreed.

This decisiveness in what has been a far-from-decisive process developed because the Planning Commission urged and then the City Council confirmed: there will be a separate Historic Resources Element, not just bits and pieces incorporated into the Conservation Element. Staff listened; the extensive preservationist community heard.

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Mayors Civility Accord

At the State of the City Breakfast, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said she, along with other mayors from around the country,  signed the below civility accord and pledged her commitment to the following principles:

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State of the City of Santa Barbara

500 city officials and business leaders turned out this morning for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City Breakfast. So what is the state of the city of Santa Barbara?  Business Woman Award Winner Joanne Funari summed it up in one sentence… “the positive is that the negatives are getting smaller.”

What are the two biggest challenges facing the city of Santa Barbara in 2012, according to City Manager Jim Armstrong? (answers below)

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Closer View of Santa Barbara’s Employee Mortgage Loan Assistance Program

Let’s take a closer look at one of those home loans, the most expensive one in the program: The purchase price of a home at $1,790,000 in a fine neighborhood in Santa Barbara. The employee in the City Attorney’s office was awarded a 5-year pin for employment by the city this January (who presumably can now expect a 25% forgiveness of the points loan of $31,392, or approximately $7,800).

The monthly salary of this employee, in the most recent collective bargaining agreement is between $8,376.01-$10,181.04

It appears that the buyers had a down payment of approximately $730,000 when they purchased this house. Did they really need the additional $173,175 at very low interest—what is almost interest-free money—to find suitable housing in the City of Santa Barbara?

We will not disclose the name or address of the city employee, but here are the facts as documented on City and County files:

Document: Deed of Trust April 7 2006

Purchase price per tax assessor: $1,790,000.00

Second Mortgage: (provided by the City as part of the Employee Mortgage Loan Assistance Program): $147,150.00  Deed of Trust is recorded. The Promissory Note of the same date is not recorded.   Current interest rate  0.56%

First Mortgage: (provided by Santa Barbara Bank and Trust) $882,850.00 dated April 4, 2006 Deed of Trust recorded.

Points Loan: $ 31,392.00  (Provided by the City of Santa Barbara as part of the Employee Mortgage Loan Program. Apparently this loan is not recorded.  Is this loan also interest only for five years?)   The chart provided by City Finance Director Robert Samario shows no payments on principal to date.

Among the questions that still need to be answered are the following:

  • 1)    What portion of this loan program covers the monthly administration costs to accept and record payments, determine the applicable interest rates and verifications necessary?
  • 2)    Does the City issue 1099 forms to the employees who have these loans? Does the City consider the below market loan rates “extra compensation?”
  • 3)    What are the written rules and terms for forgiveness of the points loans?

$1.35 Million to Promote Tourism

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will receive a presentation from the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau and Film Commission (CVB). Did you know, the City’s annual contract with CVB to promote tourism is $1,349,535?

According to the agenda, the contract with CVB helps support the expenses of administration, advertising, consumer and trade information services, public relations, sales, and the Film Commission… and all those glossy magazines.

Lake Francis

Following the rains, a lake now sits where St. Francis Hospital once stood; not to mention, a leaking fuel tank. The soil below this pool of water was once too contaminated to be disposed of at Tajiguas Landfill or elsewhere in Santa Barbara.

Plan Santa Barbara: Chewing on Density, Agreeing Floor Area Ratios

By Betsy Cramer

The City Council subcommittee on the General Plan Update continued its efforts on Friday, chewing again on density issues, adding to the discussion floor area ratios (FARs) and touching on form-based coding. The afternoon concluded with discussing adding a Historic Element to the General Plan.

Principal Planner John Ledbetter’s hopes that the density discussion would be finished on Friday were not realized, but the subcommittee seemed to near that staff goal. “Seemed,” because there remain details and the always lurking threat of a stalemating 4-3 vote if councilmembers won’t compromise long-held positions. But the details don’t need to be decided at this stage.

It’s apocryphal that laws, like sausages, are better not to be seen being made. The General Plan is a city’s ultimate local law and it’s to Santa Barbara’s credit that the process is very open, televised with repeated re-runs on on City TV, Channel 18, available online. It doesn’t make it much more palatable, except to appreciate the openness. Even so, I wonder how many people not involved in the process are watching what sometimes resembles a dripping faucet. It is for that reason, I offer an overview of this step in what is a complicated and multi-million dollar process.

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Fairy Tales from the City of Santa Barbara


The quote below found in the an appendix of the SB General Plan Update is from the “Santa Barbara View.” “The City intends to expand the home loan program for its workers. The General Plan Update appendix, section H12.2, under City Assistance reads: Expand and improve the existing Homebuyer’s Assistance Programs.”

Another reason the General Plan Update and the nasty issues against the long term good will of the City and Taxpayers in Santa Barbara has to be stopped! For those of you in other communities read closely and look to the planning and long term details in you city planning.

Many have questioned the hard position taken against the General Plan Update, and the control of City Hall for 40 years. This is one classic example of why there needs to be a house cleaning.

After the ongoing exposures of insider deals, really stupid street plans to support deadly high density infill, and more growth in government (read that as your tax dollars) the General Plan Update once again has been exposed as being a seriously flawed and intentionally BIG GOVERNMENT document.

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