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NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Developer and real estate agent Bob Hart is asking the Santa
Barbara City Council to approve a mixed-use condo conversion that
the Planning Commission unanimously rejected two weeks ago. Hart
hopes to convert four apartments he had built above an office he
owns in the 3400 block of State Street into condos. City planning
staff initially supported him, but the Planning Commission ruled
otherwise because Hart was providing only half of the parking
spaces required by law and had not complied with the city
guidelines that would have made him eligible for special
consideration.

The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to
adopt an ordinance that would help tenants evicted because of
land-use changes. Under the new ordinance – a final version of
which will be voted on next week – tenants who are forced to move
because their buildings are being redeveloped would be entitled to
four times the median market rent for their unit, or $5,000,
whichever is higher. Councilmember Iya Falcone argued that if the
inside of a building is “gutted” but the façade remains unchanged,
the ordinance would not apply – “a major loophole,” she said. But
Councilmember Brian Barnwell argued that residential redevelopments
in Santa Barbara tend to occur when luxury projects supplant older
buildings, which typically requires total redevelopment. There are
currently 32 projects pending or approved in Santa Barbara that
call for the demolition of one or more units.

All three of the slow-growth incumbent candidates who hammered
out the City of Goleta’s first General Plan have been voted out of
office, according to the most recent count of absentee and
provisional ballots. Roger Aceves will join top vote-getters
Michael Bennett and Eric Onnen – both of whom were backed by
agricultural landowners seeking to develop their property – in the
three open City Council seats.

An auditor’s report detailing 26 years of lax oversight in the
county’s affordable home- ownership program is not yet complete,
though it has already consumed hundreds of hours of staff time.
County staff expressed little confidence that past abuses by the
homeowners – such as mortgaging and subleasing at nonaffordable
rates – could be rectified at this point because the county’s
paperwork is so disorganized. Supervisors discussed outsourcing the
program to a nonprofit agency with an established track record, or
else abandoning it.

In a showdown between the visionaries and the fix-its over the
future of Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza, the visionaries
clearly prevailed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The council
rejected a narrow choice of limited infrastructure
improvements – favored by many of the business owners operating
around the plaza – in favor of a broader and more ambitious
redesign of the entire plaza, which most councilmembers agreed had
become a civic dead zone rather than a civic center.

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