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Saving Santa Barbara: Volunteers Complete Historic Element of City’s General Plan

By Cheri Rae

Remember the General Plan? That City document that sucked up years of staff and consultant time and political debate—along with millions and millions of dollars? When it was finally adopted last year, it included only a cursory Historic Resources Element—not a comprehensive one. That was an affront to preservationists in a city that banks so heavily on the treasures of its long and colorful past.

Many of these stewards had insisted from the beginning of the General Plan process that the Historic Resources Element should have been the starting point for the gargantuan project—not an after-the-fact add-on grudgingly included in the document.

And at one point in the interminable General Plan effort, the political make up of City Council had enough votes to actually agree to with them. Council voted to allow knowledgeable citizens to work with City staffers to develop an appropriately researched and written Historic Resources Element for inclusion in the General Plan.

A distinguished group of preservation-minded stewards representing a range of expertise and organizations, volunteered to hammer out a Historic Resources Element worthy of Santa Barbara’s unique cultural and historical legacy.

They include Judith Orias and Fermina Murray (Historic Landmarks Commission; Stella Larson (Planning Commission); Mary Louise Days (Citizens Planning Association and Santa Barbara Conservancy); Kellam de Forest (Pearl Chase Society); Jeanne Kahre and Wanda Livernois (Allied Neighborhood Association); Susette Naylor and Anne Peterson (Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation).

Historic Resources Element

After 21 meetings and much discussion, the 39-page document they produced (replacing the earlier six-page one) is finally ready for official review, PDF left.

Of particular note, the Historic Resources Element identifies four primary goals:  1) Protection and Enhancement of Historical Resources 2) Increased Awareness and Appreciation 3) Governmental Cooperation 4) Neighborhood Historic Preservation.

And new policies recognize the importance of avoiding the demolition of historic resources; protection of neighborhood historic resources; streetscape and landscape historic resources; and surveying, documenting and designating historic resources. And it even includes a policy about public education—and one that encourages adaptive re-use.

The Historic Landmarks Commission will weigh in on it on Wednesday, July 18 at 1:30 (David Gebhard Public Meeting Room), and the Planning Commission will review it on Thursday, July 26 at 1:00 (City Hall). The City Council session has yet to be scheduled.

3 Responses to “Saving Santa Barbara: Volunteers Complete Historic Element of City’s General Plan”

  1. Great work, thank you for it — but most of the PDF, from page 6 on, except for the map, is blank with just some black lines on the pages on the iPad. Why is that? It’s good on my desktop.

  2. Here's to the city good guys and gals

    Remember the General Plan? Who could forget that high-rise, high density disaster city staff tried to shove down our throats until enough of us choked and threw some of the bums out. Not enough, so continue to be vigilant.

    City staff wants/needs growth because that is the only way they get more salary and benefit increases. Never forget this simple fact. If you want to lose Santa Barbara, just snooze through the next general plan.

    Whole reason they are doing this Historic Element now is because city staff tried to deep six it when they did the General Plan, but those who still care about this town and you just saw a list of them, demanded the city live up to its promise to include this Historic Resources Element which is the heart and soul of our town.

    Never take Santa Barbara for granted and a million thanks to those who attend these hearing, wade through the verbiage, tackle hostile city staff and never back down when it is the right thing to do.