If nothing else, Frank Hotchkiss is the only Buddhist Republican in the race. Now in his second bid for the city council, Hotchkiss said he’s “running scared” and walking precincts. Registered Democrats vastly outnumber registered Republicans, though Republicans tend to turn-out in higher numbers. As a result, Hotchkiss is about to go through his first pair of shoes.
When Hotchkiss first ran, he came across a bit grumpy and high-handed. “Gang members,” he famously declared, “should get out of town.” This time around, Hotchkiss’s issues are much the same, if not more so, but his delivery has softened. Now, he’s more mindful that the problem is complex. Some of Santa Barbara’s more notorious gang incidents have been sparked by out-of-town gang members. Even so, he warned, “It’s only a matter of time before Santa Barbara gang violence escalates from stabbings to shootings. There’s no silver bullet or magic wand,” he said. “It’s like a weed. You have to keep after it.” To that end, Hotchkiss supports more aggressive enforcement of the curfew laws that prohibit teens from being out after 10 p.m. except for specific reasons. He said past efforts targeting habitual offenders proved effective. “When you get a knock on the door and there’s a cop telling you that you have two ways to go, people tend to listen,” he said. And parents, he said, need to be held legally and financially responsible for the destruction caused by kids who are in gangs. “They need to pay for stuff, graffiti tagging. It needs to be brought home.”
Hotchkiss, a one-time actor, publicist, journalist, and now real estate agent, moved to Santa Barbara with his wife nearly 12 years ago. He got involved with the Riviera Association, hosted an art salon at his house, acted in plays at the Garvin Theater, and lived the life of Santa Barbara. When councilmember Helene Schneider proposed the Light Blue Line project three years ago to highlight the effects of worldwide global warming on Santa Barbara, Hotchkiss came unglued. To him it was a silly waste of city staff time. As a real estate agent, he was concerned that properties located near the Light Blue Line might suffer a drop in value. He ran for office, holding his campaign kick-off at spot that would have been 23 feet underwater, at least according to the Light Blue Line.
This time around, the issues are more broadly scary. City Hall, having already made $10.5 million in budget adjustments, is looking at a shortfall of another $5.5 million next year. “We need to have someone come in from the outside and do a top-to-bottom audit to see what functions we can provide more efficiently,” he said. In the meantime, he’d start by trimming the city’s Planning Department. “We have 33 planners. Los Angeles has 134,” he said. “Something’s out of whack with those numbers.” He said City Hall should not attempt to raise new revenues by imposing new fees or taxes. “Now is the time to encourage business by reducing costs,” he said.
Hotchkiss has embraced Measure B, noting that his support - based on neighborhood preservation - cost him the endorsement of the S.B. Association of Realtors. “They threw me under the bus,” he said ruefully. “As a realtor I should be against it, but as a Santa Barbaran I’m for it.”
One act of “neighborhood preservation” caused blogger Craig Smith to tag Hotchkiss, “a get off-my-yard Republican.” Hotchkiss had complained to Marymount administrators that people using the school’s basketball courts on weekends were becoming a nuisance. In response, Marymount now has it such that the baskets come down on weekends. “These were not neighborhood kids. These were people from all over the city, yelling and swearing, and playing music with their car doors open and leaving broken glass behind,” he said. “To me, it was all about preserving the neighborhood.”
Hotchkiss, however, is less than enthralled with the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (NPO) suggesting that some of the remodeling restrictions are too tight. Although the NPO is now coming up for review, Hotchkiss is not inclined to meddle. The other side, he said, wants to make the restrictions even tighter, so best to leave it as is.
Like Michael Self, Hotchkiss opposed city plans to redesign the intersection of State and De la Vina streets to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. He worried the new configuration would back up traffic for 500 feet and that drivers - seeking to avoid the delay - would take to nearby residential streets instead.
Hotchkiss is also backed by Van Wolfswinkel. “He supported me because of my vision for Santa Barbara,” Hotchkiss explained, “because I support Measure B and clean beaches.” He said he did not like negative advertising of any kind and vowed not to engage in it. But he said Van Wolfswinkel’s opponents have thrown some low blows. Specifically, he took issues with mailers paid for by the No on B campaign charging that Cottage Hospital could not be rebuilt after an earthquake if Measure B were passed. “This isn’t remotely true,” he said. “Is there something impossible about 45 feet and health facilities?” Furthermore, he noted that Measure B’s opponents had received thousands of dollars from the National Association of Realtors, hardly a local donation. “These are scary times,” he said.