City Hall Merry-Go-Round: City Council incumbents may have to go on a mass demolition derby if they expect re-election or want a shot at becoming mayor or winning higher office. If in defeating genial Councilmember Brian Barnwell and Measure A, voters were protesting overdevelopment (Exhibit A: those monstrosities on Chapala Street), then maybe it’s a message to the council: Tear them down. And cancel all those other giant projects now wending their way through the planning process. (This is planning? No real planning is going on, just approving blueprints. The ABR would approve the Bates Motel and Norman Bates’s mother’s house of horrors.) And nix that yet-to-be-built Levytown-Entrada-Ritz-Carlton time-share mistake on lower State. Toss the Arlington Theatre proposal for condos into File 13.
Turn the land into parks and use the handy redevelopment slush fund to pay the whole monster bill. (Why not? Did the city ask you if it could drop $30 million for the Granada Garage without a public vote?) Pass draconian down-zoning, banning behemoths. True, the cost to condemn all this would be horrendous, but the public just might gulp at the price, then cheer. After all, they’d be getting their town back before it’s too late.
I’m not saying all this should be done. Just that if the voters are this angry about the out-of-control super-building, it may be the only way incumbents can keep their jobs at the next election. And some of them are said to have ambitions far beyond City Hall, as in Board of Supervisors and Assembly. Careers are on the line.
If you think it’s between councilmembers Iya Falcone and Helene Schneider as to who’ll be the next mayor in two years, take a close look at the November 6 election results. Dale Francisco, a guy no one ever heard of, ousted Barnwell, who was seen by many as too pro-growth. Given the undeniable state of public unrest, who’s to say that some Mr. or Ms. Anonymous won’t get on the ballot and win when Falcone and Schneider split the vote?
Let’s see how Mr. or Ms. would campaign: They’d be against all those giant building projects that block out the sun and mountains and include $1-million-plus condos that do nothing for the working folks; against roundabouts, traffic obstructions; and-de rigueur-that dreaded Light Blue Line.
Then there’s the City Council’s okay a year ago of the highly disputed Veronica Meadows 25-home project off Las Positas Road. Now a judge has found fault with the environmental report and is tossing the whole enchilada back to the council. Councilmembers Das Williams and Schneider oppose annexing the property to the city. “I can’t see any reason to approve building luxury housing on open space,” Williams said.
Is it a surprise that both Das and Helene kept their seats on November 6?
I had a glass of wine the other evening with a well-known local Establishment man, in the shade of his lovely garden in the hills of Santa Barbara. He’s very, very angry about what’s going on. He voted against all three incumbents and wishes they’d all been kicked out. I won’t mention his name but he sits on many nonprofit boards and charities and cares passionately about the town he and his family have lived in for generations. But he’s had it.
The natives are restless. Measure A, which would have changed election years and saved beaucoup bucks, lost big-time. Partly, I believe, because opponents objected to giving incumbents any extra time in office beyond their regular terms.
Of course, if you believe that this is all fuss about nothing and that Barnwell would have been re-elected if he’d mounted a strong campaign, and then Francisco wouldn’t have gotten in and the status quo would have been preserved-well then, everything is okay at City Hall. Barnwell lost by 500 votes. Oddly, Michael Cooper, who dropped out early in the race but was on the ballot, got 756 votes.
A couple of months ago, I interviewed Barnwell when he was calling for a three-story height limit downtown. Too late, his critics charged, asking why he went along with the four-story build-’em-tall-and-wide trend all these years. And, to their horror, there are all these mega-projects in the pipeline that no one seems to want to stop. Yet.
You Can’t Take It with You: In these too-glum times, what we need is a cup of zaniness, buckets of fun, and barrels of love. That recipe can be found in the Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can’t Take It with You. Set in the depths of the Depression, the George Kaufman-Moss Hart comedy centers on a loony, lovable poor family. The daughter falls for the son of an uptight Wall Street tycoon who feels that this is one cultural gap love can’t bridge. Saturday night’s audience howled with laughter, and I did, too. Then at the end, my eyes misted. There’s a message that shines through the generations since the play hit the Broadway boards: Live, love, and be true to yourself; you can’t take your bank account with you. (Through December 23 at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre.)