The Santa Barbara Horticulture Society was forced to relocate its monthly meetings because room rental rates at the Louise Lowry Davis Recreation Center jumped by about 35 percent at the start of 2013. Society president Amy Blakemore said the city notified the group in late December of last year that rent would increase by $56 for their upcoming January meeting.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department — which runs the rec center — said nearby residents had complained about noise coming from the facility in the evenings. In response, the city hired a staff member to hold a key to the building — which board members had previously done — and monitor all evening meetings. The extra cost increased the rate for every group renting a meeting room by $17 per hour.
“It’s not like we’re a loud group,” Blakemore said. “We never had a problem or a complaint.” In fact, the new monitor even commented several times on how clean they had left the place, she said.
Unable to pay over $200 each month for their three-hour meetings — yearly membership is $20 per family — the Horticulture Society moved to the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on La Cumbre Road a few months later, where they now pay $50 a month.
Another group, the Cactus and Succulent Society, also rents out space at the Lowry Davis Center, but one member recently said: “Over time, fees have increased. The president is looking for a place that’s a little more cost efficient for us.”