Both sides cited fire safety in Tuesday’s passionate debate over a proposed subdivision on 561 West Mountain Drive that the Santa Barbara City Council ultimately approved, after trimming it down. Most speakers blasted Charley Eckberg’s plan to create four lots on an eight acre parcel, claiming the additional traffic that his 4,500 square foot homes generated would make it impossible for residents to evacuate if and when a wildfire erupted. Ninety-six neighbors signed a petition calling on the council to reverse the planning commission’s earlier 4-to-3 vote in favor of the project. Eckberg countered that he’d engaged in a state-of-the-art weed and brush abatement program that would protect not just his property from wildfires, but his neighbors’ as well. In addition, Eckberg pledged to install two new fire hydrants. Although the councilmembers found many kind things to say about the project, they could not support the four lot split. After dismissing many of the neighbors’ concerns as based on feelings rather than facts, the developer’s attorney Greg Parker, agreed to accept three lots as opposed to four.


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