Councilmembers Clash over Milpas Business District

Murillo Condemns PODER’s Picket of El Bajio Restaurant

Santa Barbara Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss sent council colleague Cathy Murillo an email stating she should not “choose sides” in the dispute over the business improvement district proposed for the Milpas Street area. Hotchkiss suggested Murillo wait until the matter comes before the council; to do otherwise, he said, has the air of Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

Murillo has been a vocal opponent of the business improvement district, arguing that few of the affected businesses were notified the district was under consideration until it after first announced. “I did my homework and research,” Murillo responded to Hotchkiss, adding she’d been asked to participate by business owners concerned the district would accelerate gentrification. “I could not say no,” she added. Since the exchange of emails, Murillo and Hotchkiss came to an understanding while hashing out their views during an impromptu discussion in the City Hall parking lot.

Murillo also said she “condemned” the picket action organized by PODER in front of the El Bajio restaurant two weeks, in which protestors blocked the driveway, entrance, and milled about the restaurant. PODER opposes the business district as well, and targeted the restaurant because the owner supports it. That protest triggered strong community backlash against PODER. Murillo said PODER members should not be mistaken for business owners along Milpas who’ve objected to the formation of the new business district.

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