Just Say No to Tall Buildings and Fences

Wendy Fined: While News-Press owner Wendy McCaw apparently won’t face any federal fines even if found responsible for unfair labor practices, she’s run up more than $13,000 in fines in Hope Ranch over a fence and foliage. And the fines are mounting at the rate of $200 a day despite efforts by officials of the private enclave where she lives to get her to follow its rules.

On the Beat

Despite efforts by the Hope Ranch Park board during the past two years, McCaw has refused to come to some settlement over the 10-foot fence she erected without a permit, or to remove vegetation that blocks a neighbor’s ocean views. Hope Ranch has many rules and enforces them diligently, but this is “only the second time in the past eight years” that it’s had to resort to fines, according to the association’s July newsletter. After dealing with her agents and attorneys, and unsuccessful mediation by a professional mediator, HR said it resorted to fines. At last report, McCaw’s people have not responded to the invoices.

Ironically, federal law does not penalize employers for blocking employees’ rights to organize as seriously as Hope Ranch does its residents for violating rules about fences and ocean views. The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting McCaw for unfair labor practices, including firing eight reporters for union activities. But even if she loses, federal law calls for no fines or penalties, though she might have to shell out back pay and rehire them. The irony is manifest, no?

Who Needs Stinking Permits? Aversion to permits seems to run among the McCaws. Wendy’s ex, Craig McCaw, cut down a bunch of trees on his newly acquired coastal property without first getting permits, officials said. The county slapped a stop-work order on Craig last month after finding that the murdered trees were in a monarch butterfly nesting area. The county and Wendy’s beloved California Coastal Commission are investigating. Whatever happens, the trees are goners and the flutterbys apparently homeless. The beautiful cove is just up the coast from the Bacara.

Fess Goes Big: With Fess Parker nearing final okay of his waterfront hotel on East Cabrillo Boulevard, I wonder how folks will feel when it’s built. The 150-room place is humongous, but the city not only okayed it but wanted it. It’s way out of proportion to the oceanfront location and adjacent Chase Palm Park, and also an unfortunate precedent. It, however, might fit in with the monstrosities rising on Chapala Street. I like Fess, but his new hotel was a mistake, as was city approval of Bill Levy’s ill-fated time-share at the foot of State and Cabrillo.

Travolta Getting Film Fest Award: John Travolta will receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s second annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at a black-tie event Nov. 15. The Four Seasons Biltmore bash will include a look at Travolta’s career: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy, Pulp Fiction, and the currently playing Hairspray. Douglas, a part-time Santa Barbaran, will present the award.

“[Travolta] is so deserving of this unique award,” said Roger Durling, film festival director. “For the past four decades, John Travolta has given us iconic performances, just as Kirk has done in his lifetime.” Added Jeff Barbakow, film festival board president: “We are delighted to have this event as the entree to what has become a film festival of the highest of caliber.” The festival runs Jan. 24-Feb. 3, 2008.

It’s the Pitts: As for Sotheby’s home office banning listings of mobile homes, a reader points out that before the S-people bought Pitts & Bachmann, the late Dave Pitts “was the most trusted name in Santa Barbara real estate. Sotheby’s attitude is embarrassing. In a town that is seriously lacking in affordable housing, they had a great opportunity to help locals achieve home ownership. Many younger people start out in a mobile home and build up equity to buy starter houses and condos.” (Let’s not forget that fine people who worked for Dave are still there.)

Let Negotiations Begin: Now that the feds have certified the News-Press newsroom election of the Teamsters as its bargaining agent, over Wendy McCaw’s vociferous objections, when do Wendy’s people and reporters sit down to negotiate a contract? One day after hell freezes over? It’s the law, of course, but we know all about NP attitudes toward that.

The Real Thing: Currently a PCPA production at Solvang’s open-air Festival Theatre, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, starts off as one of those bright, quasi-amusing Brit comedies about tangled infidelities among literary and theater folk. But then Stoppard-through his main character Henry, a playwright-launches into not only a witty exploration of the nature of love and trust but the essence and purity of words in the hands of writers. Combined with the laughter and tears of those compelled to change partners and beds, it all makes for a brilliant, thought-provoking evening of theater under the stars. Info at 922-8313.


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