Mayor Helene Scheider

Paul Wellman (file)

Mayor Helene Scheider

State Challenges City Parking Lot Ownership

Santa Barbara City Hall Sees Move as Declaration of War

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
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One week before the busiest shopping day of the year, the California Department of Finance put the City of Santa Barbara on notice that the 12 acres of municipally owned downtown parking lots cannot be regarded as a legitimate “government purpose,” and as a result, it is challenging efforts to transfer ownership of the lots from the now defunct Redevelopment Agency to the City of Santa Barbara. As esoteric as that may seem, City Hall views the move as a declaration of war by a state agency that tried a similar assault this summer only to be beaten back. Should the state prevail, City Hall would be forced to sell off its downtown parking lots, most of which were built on city-owned land, financed with tax-exempt municipal bonds, and have served as the centerpiece of a massive urban redevelopment scheme 40 years in the making.

If S.B. has to sell its downtown parking lots . . .

See the results without voting.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown and the cash-strapped State Legislature abolished all redevelopment agencies throughout California in an effort to secure new revenues ostensibly to fund schools. Local governments would be allowed to hold on to properties deemed legitimate government functions, but legislation was introduced last summer explicitly excluding parking lots from such a designation. That language was rejected at the instigation of Santa Barbara’s Assemblymember Das Williams, but the state’s Department of Finance is nonetheless continuing to block the City of Santa Barbara’s efforts to assume ownership of the downtown parking lots. (It’s also blocking an effort by the city to assume ownership of a five-acre parcel by the train depot designated for a children’s museum.)

“This is something to fight over,” declared Mayor Helene Schneider, adding other cities must be experiencing similar issues. As a practical matter, parking policy has been central to the function of City Hall. For the time being, City Hall will ask the Department of Finance to reconsider. Failing that, the city would probably sue the state in court.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Another example of unelected bureaucrats in state government attempting to dictate to us as to what we can and can not do......

art (anonymous profile)
November 22, 2012 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Or, Art, another example of a city acting like a Soviet state. Should the city be in the business of renting space to automobiles? Is this OK because private business wants this whereas private business does not want the city to allow homeless people to be fed in city parks? These issues are not as simple a tea party rhetoric and knee jerk would make them. .

RHS (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 10:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's really little if any of the state's business what the city does with it's legally owned land. Some bean counter in Sacramento needs to validate their existence on the payroll.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 11:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Santa Barbara Parking Lots are the grand achievement of Santa Barbara Redevelopment Process, the system that provides the linch pin for our magnificent historically preserved architecture, city plan, and our economically viable and pedestrian friendly downtown. One way streets, feeder access, and outstanding parking lots are a key feature of our transportation system and values. I need only remind you of the community effort and expenses that went into the last parking lot across from the County Administration Building. Look at it again and imagine what a Sacramento process would have developed in its place. The effort that went into planning this system for the well-being of Santa Barbara cannot be overestimated. There remains one to be built --next to City Hall --consolidating the City parking lot with the News Press parking lot (for a new two story parking lot) with a rebuilt Harmer Adobe facing the Plaza which together would provide another lynch pin to historically redeveloping, Plaza de la Guerra, thereby returning the Plaza back into a pedestrian friendly Plaza that would provide the humanistic qualities of the historic Spanish Plaza in our original City Plan.

To conclude, it would be a catastrophe of enormous magnitude to turn the Parking Lots over to a Sacramento government that barely functions and is so alien to Santa Barbara values.

We have to fight this idea folks. I can't imagine anything more important then keeping control of the parking lot system.

DonJosedelaGuerra (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 12:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm with Ken and Don Jose (except I can't stand the Granada Garage, other than the attached condos and sculpture garden). Our parking lots are essential to our city plan, and our downtown core that works well for both autos and pedestrians. I am a downtown business owner (and, by the way, a solid left winger who's perfectly happy to see homeless people fed). I'm also fine with government taking taxes and in return giving us public roads and their logical extension, public parking. It's a great exchange, some of the best bang you can get for your buck nowadays. I can't imagine the thinking of some state government operative who could deny that parking lots are a legitimate function of government. Aren't roads something both the right and the left agree on? No private entity could do it better or for anything close to the same cost.

Well my break's over, got to get back to work.

Nitz (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 4:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think the city more than makes it's money back not just with parking fees but sales tax as well. In addition many if not all downtown retailers pay a fee for maintenance. The State doesn't give a dime (but makes money as the city does with the tax.)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 4:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Redevelopment money is a loan. Think of this as a foreclosure.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 9:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

...government purpose, such as roads, school buildings, parks, and fire stations CA Controller John Chang, Nov. 8, 2012

Parking for shoppers?

14noscams (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 10:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thankfully the petty attitude as evidenced by "parking for shoppers" isn't roundly being defeated nationwide.
Public commons are an American tradition, it's not too far fetched to call privatization Anti-American.
Away with these people who want to further enslave us to enrich their corporate coffers. Away with these people who would dispose of our public commons merely to score a political point.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 10:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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