“Welcome to Santa Barbara,” Mayor Helene Schneider facetiously told Ben Shearer, the director of construction for the Fresh and Easy grocery store chain, which opened up a location on 336 North Milpas Street earlier this month. In fact, Schneider — and most of the City Council — expressed genuine appreciation for the new retail establishment, especially since, as Councilmember Bendy White pointed out, it was built in the middle of a recession. However, the mayor was also welcoming Shearer to one of those planning détentes so common to a city defined by aesthetics.
Tear down that wall, or at least shave a few inches off the top, Constantine Frangos — who owns property adjacent to the market — demanded of City Council on Tuesday. He had lost an appeal last year asking for changes to the building’s plans, but the council did direct the Planning Department to enforce the reduction of a wall between the two properties from eight feet to six feet (and also to widen the sidewalk).
There was much discussion over how the tiered wall — which at its highest point rises six feet, six inches off the ground on the Fresh and Easy side — should be measured, but Councilmember Randy Rowse said that in its current state, the wall was “absolutely in compliance” with the spirit of the council’s directive. Councilmember Grant House and Schneider insisted that word is bond, suggesting that the top row of cinder blocks be removed. Dale Francisco, however, countered from the dais, “We were not talking about six feet. We were talking about an effect we wanted to achieve,” preserving the view from the Frangos property.