Long simmering efforts to bring newsstands located throughout downtown Santa Barbara within the regulatory confines of City Hall’s aesthetic review were delayed by another month after News-Press editor Don Katich and Independent publisher Joe Cole objected the proposed guidelines gave too much discretionary authority to the city’s Public Works director.
Under the proposed ordinance, the Public Works director would wield discretionary power to order unsightly, non-compliant newsstands hauled away. No appeals process exists short of taking City Hall to court. City Attorney Ariel Calonne stated protections against abuse of discretion could be written into the proposal. “The First Amendment hates discretion,” he stated on the grounds it can lead to “censorship.”
City Hall has received complaints from a small number of civic activists in recent years upset by the presence of older, dilapidated newsstands — particularly those in front of downtown post office — which they contend inflicts “visual blight.”
At the City Council’s Ordinance Committee, Katich said the proposed order was targeting the News-Press. There are roughly 700 newsstands distributed throughout downtown. The News-Press has 101; The Independent has 77. The new ordinance would require annual fees for inspections. If City Hall were to make the improvements required by the new ordinance, it would do so at a cost of $110 an hour.