On Tuesday, October 20, proponents of Measure B held a press conference to address what they called “scare tactics” by the No on B campaign. They criticized advertisements by opponents that say passing Measure B could prevent historical and vital services buildings from being rebuilt should they lose more than 75 percent of their value in an earthquake or other disaster. Cottage Hospital, for example, exceeds the new height limits proposed by Measure B, which are 40 feet in El Pueblo Viejo, and 45 feet elsewhere downtown.
City Council member and mayoral candidate Dale Francisco stated that those assertions “simply are a lie.” Francisco said that the 75 percent rule was not a part of the charter measure, but rather part of the city zoning ordinance and therefore subject to change by the council itself rather than a vote of the people. To this end, Francisco announced that he and Mayor Marty Blum plan to put an item on the City Council’s agenda to amend the current zoning ordinance to allow exemptions for historical buildings.
Attorney Eugene Wilson offered a written legal analysis of Measure B’s impact on non-conforming buildings. In it, he says that the Santa Barbara Municipal Code states, “Where a non-conforming building is less than 75 percent destroyed by a calamity, the building may be restored to its original condition so long as the reconstruction begins within one year of the occurrence of the damage or destruction.” Wilson asserted that the Municipal Code would be “the controlling law” with regard to damage to any building that exceeds the height limits of Measure B, and nothing contained in the measure would affect the law.
In a follow-up question after the conference, Wilson acknowledged that the language did not specifically address expansions or upgrades for non-conforming buildings (another criticism by No on B), but said there was ample precedent of buildings exceeding the current limit of 60 feet being allowed to renovate and install improvements.