City Attorney Pushes for Transparency

Calls Lack of Policy Around Private Land Use Talks ‘Dangerous Legally’

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne asked the City Council to adopt a broader policy restricting behind-the-scenes contact with individuals lobbying for or against specific land use developments.

Because so many council deliberations over such projects are quasi-judicial in nature — think of any project appealed to the council — Calonne recommended all arguments be made in the public arena, not behind closed doors, so that all parties can hear what’s being stated.

Since taking over as city attorney in the last year, Calonne has been issuing such cautions on a case-by-case basis. He described the lack of a clear policy as a “glaring” omission and “dangerous legally.”

To the extent private contact does occur, he’s pushed that councilmembers issue public disclosures, detailing not just with whom the communications took place but what specifically was said.

The admonitions would apply only in land use disputes involving specific properties, not broader land use and zoning policies.

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