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Plans to Demolish Franceschi House

By Kellam de Forest

frThe historic Franceschi House is again under threat of imminent demolition. Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department is asking City Council to approve plans to demolish Franceschi House in Francschi Park at Tuesday’s July 23 meeting.

The Department, so far, has been unable to find the funds to stabilize the hillside on the north side of the structure and to provide ADA access paths, therefore it is recommending that the joint effort with the Pearl Chase Society to rehabilitate Franesschi House be terminated and the house torn down.

It is also requesting that an alternate project for the site be developed to recognize the contributions of Dr. Franceschi and others associated with the Park.

Demolition of Franceschi House

Today the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider the “discontinuation of efforts to restore Franceschi House and the recommendation of demolition.” According to Staff recommendations, “with mixed feelings over the loss of a historic structure in one of our City parks, the staff recommendation is to demolish the house and construct an alternative project on site to recognize the contributions of Dr. Franceschi, Camillo Fenzi, Alden Freeman and others.

frFor over 45 years, all efforts to fund and restore the house have failed. The City has not been able to fund the project through grants or the General Fund over that time. Three separate efforts to secure a public/private partnership which would fund and complete the project have also been unsuccessful, including the most recent partnership between the City and the Pearl Chase Society. With the return of the unused project funds held in the PARC Foundation, City funding for the Franceschi House Rehabilitation project will total $288,593.02. Estimated project cost to demolish the house, the least expensive option, is estimated at $1-2 million or more. Given that the Parks and Recreation Department unfunded infrastructure improvements total over $112 million with many competing priorities, opportunities for General Fund funding for the Franceschi House will continue to be a significant challenge.

Staff would also like to note that the continued deteriorating condition of the house has an increasing maintenance burden. The Department receives regular communication from neighbors and the Riviera Association expressing concerns about fire and vandalism.”

What to Do About Vacation Rentals by Owner?

Santa Monica is the latest California city to crack down on Airbnb and the rest of the short-term rental industry. Last month, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a home-sharing ordinance, which bans the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days and requires those who take part in allowable home-sharing to obtain a business license from the city and pay a 14% hotel tax. The law takes effect June 15. The city says proceeds from the hotel tax will help pay for enforcement officers and an analyst to find illegal rentals online. This exact conversation will take place in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, so let’s ask Viewers what to do about vacation rentals by owner:

Pros and Cons of Vacation Rentals

By Everett Clayton
On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council will take up the matter of vacation rentals. There will be some who urge that they be banned altogether, saying they deplete the supply of affordable housing and wreck neighborhoods with all-night parties thrown by vacationers who don’t live here and aren’t worried about what their neighbors think of them.

I understand those concerns. We all do. My wife and I bought our home here 15 years ago because we were smitten by the casual beauty and friendliness of Santa Barbara. We would not have moved in next to Animal House.

Over the years, one thing we have learned, and come to deeply appreciate, is the care the city takes to create vibrant public places for residents and tourists. We walk and bike everywhere. It is a wonderful place to be, to unwind, and to understand what is truly important in life.

Another thing we have learned is that all that beauty, all those safe, clean and entertaining public places, take money to support. Lots of it. When we began renting our home to vacationers almost a decade ago, we were happy to pay the transient occupancy tax. We could see that the money was being well spent to make the city good for us, our guests and the whole community. To us, that was local government at its best.

For eight months now, we have not been able to rent our home to weekly vacationers. Our home is in a residential neighborhood, and we were notified by the Zoning Department that we had to stop, despite the fact that we had a business license from the city and paid our TOT promptly —despite the fact that many other vacation rentals in the same neighborhood were permitted to continue. We didn’t think this unequal treatment was fair, so we complained, in letters to the City Council and in this newspaper. Now, at last, the city is taking up the issue.

Here’s my assessment of the pros and cons:

•Neighborhood character: This is what everyone is worried about. No one wants an obnoxious party house next door. Understanding that, many communities, like Pacific Grove and Ventura, have adopted vacation rental permit laws that require concrete noise-response plans. This gives neighbors something they don’t have otherwise —a number to call without embarrassment and assurance that something will be quickly done about the disturbance.

These ordinances also limit the number of guests to that appropriate for the size of the home and require adequate parking, both vast improvements over doing nothing. They require bringing the home into compliance with safety codes covering smoke alarms, carbon-monoxide monitors, etc. This improves safety for all.

Homeowners hoping to attract guests have to spend money to keep their homes looking nice. This results in better-maintained homes in the neighborhood. Improving a home frequently requires a city permit, which gives the city a chance to bring other aspects of the home up to code. For instance, when we built a new fence, we got a permit and as part of that process were required to install a new main sewer line from our house to the street. This was an improvement that will benefit us, the city and any future owner. Bringing vacation homes into compliance with building codes gives the city a chance to improve the quality and safety of its housing stock.

City Budget: The city is reviewing its budget now and worrying about how to pay for everything. It projects a $1.9 million shortfall for 2016. Vacation rentals not permitted by residential zoning now contribute $800,000 of tax revenue per year to the city’s general fund. That number could be even larger, I suspect, if the city adopted a vacation rental permit law that lets renters come in out of the cold as long as they pay the TOT.

•Tourism: Santa Barbara is a tourist destination of global appeal. Much of our local economy, and jobs, depends on it. Increasingly, in the VRBO and Airbnb world, visitors want to stay in homes. My wife and I do it everywhere we go. When we were renting our home to vacationers, we had guests from England, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and other foreign countries, as well as from all over the United States. They all left charmed by our home and our city, taking those good impressions with them, telling their friends. Our vacation rental websites showed the world how lovely our city is. Our guest reviews sang the city’s praises. People saw and heard and came. We were like a mini Chamber of Commerce for the city we love.

•Housing supply: None of us are happy that our community is too expensive for many to afford. It would be nice if we could achieve some kind of utopia in which everyone could have easily affordable shelter. Rising home prices are a fact of prosperity and local vitality and desirability. And while rising home prices may be tough on renters, they are good for homeowners.

On the other hand, taking away a property owner’s right to use his property as he wishes solely to limit his ability to increase its value, so that it will be more affordable to others, has obvious problems. We generally don’t do that sort of thing in this country.

A well-designed vacation rental permit ordinance can deal with the occasional visiting jerk, probably more effectively than existing noise ordinances. Everyone would know the rules, and there would be a clear enforcement procedure. When you consider that, together with the free worldwide publicity for the city from vacation rental websites and the substantial tax revenue that can be used to keep Santa Barbara the beautiful and exciting place we all love, legalizing and sensibly regulating vacation rentals looks like a win for all.

Community Input on Short-Term Vacation Rentals

618772123_Vacation_Rentals_In_Hawaii_Image_answer_1_xlargeThe Santa Barbara City Council will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, June 23 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss options for the regulation of short-term vacation rentals.

The purpose of this meeting is for the City Council to receive public input and recommend options for the regulation and enforcement of short-term vacation rentals to address community concern. The public meeting will be held in the Council Chambers, 2nd floor, City Hall at 735 Anacapa Street.

According the the Santa Barbara City Council Agenda, “The growth of the vacation rental market is likely contributing to the low rental vacancy rate. There is also a concern that this is having a negative impact on the character of neighborhoods and creating other nuisances, including noise and available parking. At the same time, however, the City is collecting Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenue from short-term vacation rental owners. In response to the growing concerns over the impacts of vacation rentals in neighborhoods and the mixed message created from the enforcement of the TOT ordinance, the City Council directed staff to address this policy issue.

The City Council and staff are aware that short-term vacation rentals exist throughout the City and that most are operating in residential areas where they are not allowed under the Zoning Ordinance. To date, alleged violations have been investigated and code enforcement action taken only in response to neighborhood complaints.”

Evening Walk at the Mission

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Evening Walk at the Mission
It’s been a few weeks since I Madonnari, but the faint images of the beautiful artwork still persists on the ground in front of the mission. It’s a perfet time for a cool evening walk around the mission grounds.

-Bill Heller

EcoFacts: Moral Grounds

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Discussions around the globe have been sparked by the Pope’s much anticipated book length document on climate change: On Care for our Common Home

Other spiritual leaders are responding:

The ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual problem… The proper relationship between humanity and the earth or its natural environment has broken with a fall, both outwardly and within us…” (John Zizioulas)

“We are — as never before — in a position to choose charity over greed and frugality over wastefulness in order to affirm our moral commitment to our neighbor and our respect for the Earth. Basic human rights such as access to safe water, clean air and sufficient food should be available to everyone without distinction or discrimination…” Easter Orthodox Church and Anglican Communion)

pope-environmentIs there a moral imperative to live responsibly, in general, and with regard to our environment? The reason so many in the developed world do not, I believe, is that modern life encourages this disconnect, with the drive toward maximum convenience in the shortest time, and immediate gratification. Really, who would not want these when offered them?  The harsh realities behind many of the sources of our needs and pleasures do not invite consideration, we are asked to look the other way.  And, the economic reality is that resources are too cheap for us to be frugal with them.  It’ll be a rough road to a better world.

9 Years of the Granada Garage

Almost missed it, but it is birthday week for Santa Barbara’s Granada Garage! On June 13, 2006, the $30+ million, mismeasured Granada Garage was officially dedicated on behalf of the City Council and Santa Barbara’s now defunct Redevelopment Agency.

Santa Barbara Leading the Way in Water Conservation

The Santa Barbara City Council applauds Santa Barbara’s conservation efforts.

According to the Agenda… “the City’s most recent water conservation numbers for May 2015, show a 37 percent reduction in water use based on 2013 water demands. The 2013 reference is the State’s baseline for comparison and reporting on statewide water conservation efforts. Since June 2014, following Council’s Stage Two Drought declaration, City water customers have achieved a cumulative reduction of over 20 percent. Santa Barbara has been one of the few water agencies statewide that has consistently met the State’s water use reduction targets.

water-conservation-logoUnder the State’s current regulations, adopted in May 2015, mandated water use reductions for each water agency range from 4 to 36 percent, based on residential per capita water use. For Santa Barbara, the state-mandated water use reduction is 12 percent, which is a result of the low per capita residential water use of 79.6 gallons per day. In earlier drought updates, the City’s state-mandated water use reduction was reported as 16 percent based on results of state reporting at that time; however, City staff recently updated the City’s monthly conservation reports to the state to include potable water used as blend water in the recycled water system in response to clarified State guidelines. This adjustment reduced the City’s baseline June 2014 through September 2014 residential per capita water use (since blend water use is not residential), and pushed the City into a lower conservation tier, thus reducing the City’s state-mandated reduction from 16 to 12 percent. However, the severity of the drought on local water supplies necessitates a City-wide 25 percent reduction target to ensure the City has adequate supplies for the 2016 water year.”

PS: Stage Three water rates will be effective July 2015, and will help meet the 25 percent water use reduction target.