NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Those hoping to see a dramatic redesign of De la Guerra
Plaza
were heartened by the Santa Barbara City Council’s
decision to hire a consultant to jump-start the community planning
process for such an ambitious endeavor. That action reverses the
council’s previous decision – made two years ago – to take a
low-key fix-it approach to the historical plaza in deference to
business interests and the Santa Barbara News-Press, which
argued there was nothing wrong with the area that a few new
curb-cuts and electrical outlets couldn’t cure. But now, the
council will entertain proposals to make the plaza more inviting to
residents, including banning cars from the area.

It appears the politically connected board of the
Granada Theatre has beaten back a plan to impose a
$1 surcharge on Granada tickets to fund local arts
groups. Smaller arts groups supported the surcharge, arguing that
City Hall had already given the Granada $4.5 million (as well as
building the $25 million Granada Garage), and is now facing a
request for an additional $500,000. But at a Monday meeting,
Granada supporters argued the Granada will subsidize the rent it
charges many local arts organizations, which will contribute to an
annual operating shortfall projected at $500,000. They said the
surcharge was unfair to their customers and offered to participate
in an effort to develop a sustainable funding approach for Santa
Barbara’s performing arts community. Councilmember Iya Falcone
suggested the city might contribute $50,000 to study the
matter.

Southern California developer Rick Caruso
confirmed that he is purchasing the long-neglected Miramar
Hotel
, located along Highway 101 in Montecito, from
Biltmore hotel owner Ty Warner. Appearing at a press conference
with 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal on January 26, Caruso
said he would try to preserve one or two of the landmark hotel’s
bungalows and will maintain the blue-roofed theme if the community
desires, but he also said that the buildings are mostly too
dilapidated and the rooms too small to simply refurbish. Caruso’s
other projects include The Grove, an upscale, open-air “shopping
village” associated with Los Angeles’s historic Farmers Market.

The Citizens Planning Association has filed suit against the
Santa Barbara City Council and developer Mark Lee to examine
alternatives to the Veronica Meadows housing
development
, which the council approved in December on a
5-2 council vote. The lawsuit, made public January 30, accuses the
council of failing to adequately explain why “overriding
considerations” excused the project’s environmental impacts. For
several years, Lee sought the city’s approval to develop the
creekside acreage along Las Positas Road, where he now has
permission to build 23 luxury homes – and two affordable units for
people who can pay up to $400,000 for a home.

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