New Developments

Engaging in not-so-subtle competitive chest-thumping, the City of Santa Barbara’s Redevelopment Agency explained how it repossessed an affordable condominium from an owner who’d twice started methamphetamine-related fires and illegally obtained a loan on the property. The agency will resell the unit for $241,000, well below the market rate of $750,000. The city’s enforcement action stands in contrast to the county’s affordable housing track record. A high-ranking county official recently indicated he’d need a staff of 40 to ensure rule compliance in the county’s 400 affordable units, 25 percent of which are afflicted by fraud. City Hall has enforced compliance in its 361 below-market units with only three people, and pursued action against 24 occupants in the past seven years. “I know the county wishes they were one-tenth as good as you are,” said Councilmember Brian Barnwell to city housing officials.

Santa Barbara city councilmembers are still steamed at how their proposal to extend Santa Barbara’s “sphere of influence” into Noletathe unincorporated land between Santa Barbara and Goletawas shot down at last week’s LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) meeting. After five years of deliberationand a petition with 4,000 signaturesthe fate of this in-between area remains up in the air. If Noleta falls into Santa Barbara’s sphere, it would give Santa Barbara no authority over what happened there but would indicate an interest in eventually annexing the area into the city’s domain. The big player in the melodrama was new 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who advocated that affected residents vote in an advisory election before Santa Barbara’s sphere of influence was extended. She also charged that those signing in favor of joining Santa Barbara’s sphere were not given the option of voting in favor of the status quo.

Santa Barbara’s Community Development Director Paul Casey said he expects developer Bill Levy’s foreclosed properties on lower State Streetlong slated for a Ritz-Carlton time-share condo complexto be sold off to one of two private development firms this week. While Casey declined to name the suitors, he said he was confident they had the deep pockets to complete what would be the largest private redevelopment project to hit Santa Barbara in decades. Levy was foreclosed upon in January by Mountain Funding after he defaulted on about $40 million in loans, interest, and late-payment penalty fees. Even in foreclosure, however, Levy has been trying to entice former investorsmany unpaidwith schemes to regain interest in the plan.

For the first time ever, City Hall is allowing a developer to use an electronic elevator lift to provide parking for a condo project at 320 East Victoria Street. The lift will allow the developers to squeeze eight parking spaces into a garage that could otherwise accommodate only four cars, saving 800 square feet of space. Though city traffic planners had their doubts, they approved of the lift because the garage fronts the end of an alleyway, so no traffic will be blocked as cars enter and exit. The lift was the brainchild of garage co-owner Dennis Allen, who visited a San Diego complex utilizing the same arrangement. Architect Dennis Thompson said he was “excited” about the project but acknowledged it would not work for all areas.


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