New Developments

Judge George Eskinspeaking on behalf of his wife, former Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, and the other owners of a four-story mixed-use property at 1528 State Streetwent before the City Council on 3/13 objecting that a proposed four-story property to be built next door will obliterate their views and destroy their personal privacy. After a lengthy meeting, the council denied Eskin’s appeal, ultimately arguing that the developeran Iranian neurosurgeon living in Reddinghad followed all the rules in place at the time and never asked for any modifications of city land-use rules.

The building that housed Jimmy’s Oriental Gardenswhich closed last July when owner Tommy Chung retiredwill be incorporated into El Presidio State Historic Park. The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation purchased the building, including the apartments above and behind the restaurant, for $3.1 million on 3/9. As the final remnant of Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, Jimmy’s will be preserved, said trust spokesperson Jared Brach. The liquor license and business itself were not part of the sale, though the property may be subleased for the next few years to tenants and possibly a restaurateur.

One of the nation’s biggest real estate conglomerates is currently in escrow to purchase the lower State Street property on which developer Bill Levy had secured permits to construct Ritz-Carlton time-share condos, reportedly for $46 million. City officials confirm they’ve met with representatives for Trammell Crow, a Texas-based company boasting an international workforce of 20,000, $5 billion worth of real estate in its portfolio, and another $3 billion worth in the pipeline. The deal is scheduled to clear escrow in the next two weeks, and city officials are confident the company’s pockets are deep enough to finish the job Levy could not. Trammell Crow purchased the land and permits rom Levy’s lender, Mountain Funding, to whom Levy owed $42 million.

Developer Bill Levyformerly one of Santa Barbara’ best known wheeler-dealershas been sued twice in the past two weeks, once by commercial landlord Rob Rossi and once by First Republic Bank. After being foreclosed upon by Mountain Funding, Levy has sought to placate desperate investors by promising to get them back into the Ritz-Carlton project. He hoped his control of the former Beakins building at 25 E. Mason Street might be his entree, but landlord Rossiwho also owns much of the Granada Buildingsued, claiming Levy owed $44,000 in back rent. Levy countered that Rossi has a $36,000 security deposit. Meanwhile, First Republic filed suit, claiming Levy refused to pay back a personal loan and credit line to the tune of $301,000.

A group of neighborhood activists has filed a lawsuit charging the Santa Barbara City Council violated its own environmental regulations in approving Cottage Hospital’s plans to demolish the shell of St. Francis Hospital and build 115 condos primarily for Cottage employees. Of those condos, 85 percent will be sold at below-market rates. Critics of the plan complain the city’s environmental review process was fatally flawed and have sought to get Cottage to scale back its development plans.

County supervisors approved a standardized format for architectural design guidelines and community plans at their 3/13 meeting as part of the continuing effort to streamline planning and review processes. The board carefully steered clearat least for nowof standardizing the content of those plans, however, as community activists turned out to warn them against interfering with their communities’ unique character. However, several controversial proposals from interim planning director John Baker will come back for individual hearings, including removing private view considerations from community planning processes.

Many years behind schedule, Santa Barbara’s teen center will officially open this Saturday with a March Madness celebration replete with dances, deejays, and games. Located at 1235 Chapala Streetonce the site of the Santa Barbara community development departmentthe center will feature a game room, movie projector, snack counter, and lounge named after former Mayor Harriet Miller. The teen center was first proposed in the late 1990s partly as a response to gang violence but then languished until proponents pitched a strategically controlled public fit. Many organizations, including the Santa Barbara Youth Council, Santa Barbara Women’s Fund, and Santa Barbara Foundation, helped usher the project off the drawing boards and into reality.

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