Those hoping to see a dramatic redesign of De la Guerra Plaza were heartened by the Santa Barbara City Council’s decision to hire a consultant to jump-start the community planning process for such an ambitious endeavor. That action reverses the council’s previous decision – made two years ago – to take a low-key fix-it approach to the historical plaza in deference to business interests and the Santa Barbara News-Press, which argued there was nothing wrong with the area that a few new curb-cuts and electrical outlets couldn’t cure. But now, the council will entertain proposals to make the plaza more inviting to residents, including banning cars from the area.

It appears the politically connected board of the Granada Theatre has beaten back a plan to impose a $1 surcharge on Granada tickets to fund local arts groups. Smaller arts groups supported the surcharge, arguing that City Hall had already given the Granada $4.5 million (as well as building the $25 million Granada Garage), and is now facing a request for an additional $500,000. But at a Monday meeting, Granada supporters argued the Granada will subsidize the rent it charges many local arts organizations, which will contribute to an annual operating shortfall projected at $500,000. They said the surcharge was unfair to their customers and offered to participate in an effort to develop a sustainable funding approach for Santa Barbara’s performing arts community. Councilmember Iya Falcone suggested the city might contribute $50,000 to study the matter.

Southern California developer Rick Caruso confirmed that he is purchasing the long-neglected Miramar Hotel, located along Highway 101 in Montecito, from Biltmore hotel owner Ty Warner. Appearing at a press conference with 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal on January 26, Caruso said he would try to preserve one or two of the landmark hotel’s bungalows and will maintain the blue-roofed theme if the community desires, but he also said that the buildings are mostly too dilapidated and the rooms too small to simply refurbish. Caruso’s other projects include The Grove, an upscale, open-air “shopping village” associated with Los Angeles’s historic Farmers Market.

The Citizens Planning Association has filed suit against the Santa Barbara City Council and developer Mark Lee to examine alternatives to the Veronica Meadows housing development, which the council approved in December on a 5-2 council vote. The lawsuit, made public January 30, accuses the council of failing to adequately explain why “overriding considerations” excused the project’s environmental impacts. For several years, Lee sought the city’s approval to develop the creekside acreage along Las Positas Road, where he now has permission to build 23 luxury homes – and two affordable units for people who can pay up to $400,000 for a home.

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