The Santa Barbara City Council is in store for a major remodel. In November, residents of districts 4, 5, and 6 will choose council representatives and complete the city’s historic shift from an at-large to a district election system. Among the candidates, only one incumbent is running — Gregg Hart in District 6 — meaning there will be at least two new faces up on the dais. (The mayoral race is a different story, with three councilmembers running, one prior councilmember, and a newcomer, but that will be told in a future issue.)

The district contests, broken down here by boundary and candidate, feature an intriguing mash-up of hopefuls, including a City College instructor, an entrepreneur, and a former fire chief. Overall, the field is politically green and leans mostly Democratic, though council seats are technically nonpartisan positions. Conspicuous is a lack of gender and racial diversity among the eight candidates.

While nearly identical in total population with close to 15,000 residents each, the districts vary considerably in age, race, and income. For instance, 31 percent of District 5’s residents are 60-plus years old, while only 16 percent of District 6’s residents fit in that range. Most District 6 residents live in rented apartments or condos, while the majority of people in districts 4 and 5 own single-family homes Spanish is spoken in nearly 30 percent of District 6’s homes; it’s closer to 10 percent for the other two areas.

Campaign money is already flowing freely with expectations that this election ​— ​which will also decide the fate of a controversial one-cent sales-tax increase ​— ​will rank as the most expensive in Santa Barbara’s history. Combined fundraising could creep close to the million-dollar mark. Housing, State Street, and infrastructure are pressing issues that might take the forefront of debates. Perennial topics such as water, homelessness, and Highway 101 will also be discussed in earnest.

With the candidate filing period now closed, the Santa Barbara Independent reached out to each finalist to compile this election primer. Some responses have been edited for clarity. For a more detailed map of the districts, and to find which area you live in, use our interactive map below.

District 4 City Council candidate Jay Higgins
Paul Wellman

Jay Higgins

Santa Barbara Resident:  ​31 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​No party preference

Current/Former Employment: Land-use planner and current member of the Santa Barbara City Planning Commission

Relevant Political Experience: “I have a lot of local government experience dealing with its mechanics (staff, policies, ordinances, and plans). I also have financial management experience, having worked to make certain residential projects ‘pencil’ on behalf of a local homebuilder, and for Habitat for Humanity. Plus, I have a master’s degree in organizational management from Antioch University here in Santa Barbara.”

Personal Statement: ​“Santa Barbara’s extraordinary location and unique character give us many advantages, yet we face serious challenges to the livability and fiscal stability of our community. From my perspective as a planning commissioner, I believe our collective vision and fundamentals have blurred ​— ​impacting our families, neighborhoods, businesses, and Santa Barbara’s civic nature. We must take decisive action now to shape and protect the future we want for our kids, or we risk losing some of what we cherish about this city. That’s why I feel compelled to run for City Council, where I can apply my professional but independent expertise, untethered from the political parties.”

Key Endorsements: ​Planning Commissioners Addison Thompson, John Campanella, Lesley Wiscomb, and Mike Jordan; former councilmember Dale Francisco; retired city planner Don Olson

Campaign Funds Raised: $20,499

District 4 City Council candidate Kristen Sneddon
Paul Wellman

Kristen Sneddon

Santa Barbara Resident: ​25 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Democrat

Current/Former Employment: ​Environmental geology instructor at Santa Barbara City College and small-business owner of a college counseling service. Former career as a research geophysicist for the United States Geological Survey

Relevant Political Experience:  ​“I am the current chair of the Peabody Charter School Governing Board and have been on its executive board for six years. Formerly, I was the chair of the Starr King Parent-Child Workshop.”

Personal Statement:  ​“I was inspired to run after our Santa Barbara March for Science, where those with science backgrounds were encouraged to run for local office. I bring a complementary perspective to City Council that is valuable when adapting to a changing world and economy. I am also deeply rooted in our community and have lived in Santa Barbara as a high school student, an educator, a small-business owner, and as a parent. I want to see our city thrive and be sustainable for generations.”

Key Endorsements:  ​Supervisor Janet Wolf, Mayor Helene Schneider, Councilmember Jason Dominguez, S.B. Unified School District Board President Kate Parker

Campaign Funds Raised:  ​None reported in latest filing period

District 4 City Council candidate Jim Scafide
Paul Wellman

Jim Scafide

Santa Barbara Resident: ​12 years

Political Party Affiliation:  ​Democrat

Current/Former Employment: ​Business attorney. Formerly a division chief for the Massachusetts Attorney General

Relevant Political Experience:
 ​“I was a City Council member (elected at 18) and mayor (elected at 26) of the City of East Liverpool, Ohio. I also served as the City of Santa Barbara’s representative on the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens.”

Personal Statement:  ​“The election of Donald Trump was the final impetus inspiring me to run because I so oppose his hate-filled policies, but I have for a long time worried about accessibility of housing for working families and limited economic opportunities in Santa Barbara. National policies and trends are challenging our cherished environment, and I want to preserve our neighborhoods, open spaces, parks, and the natural beauty of the area. I am one to build consensus and achieve pragmatic solutions to problems, employing my skills and education to find agreement where personalities and political histories have prevented accord.”

Key Endorsements: Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, Montecito Planning Commissoner Donna Senauer, Tri-Counties Central Labor Council

Campaign Funds Raised: ​$25,425

District 5 City Council candidate Eric Friedman
Paul Wellman

Eric Friedman

Santa Barbara Resident: 27 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Democrat

Current/Former Employment: ​Employee of Trader Joe’s on De la Vina Street. Previously, staff aide to former 1st District County Supervisors Naomi Schwartz and Salud Carbajal

Relevant Political Experience: ​“I worked on public policy at the local level for 14 years, from 2002-2016. I also served on the City Library Advisory Board from 2005-2014 and on the City Harbor Commission from 2010-2013. In addition, I have volunteered with a number of local nonprofits, including serving as past president of the Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation.”

Personal Statement: ​“I grew up in Santa Barbara and am now raising my two sons in the city I love. The next council has an opportunity and responsibility to implement a long-term vision for Santa Barbara that will meet the needs of current and future generations. I intend to have an open-door policy to make City Hall more transparent and accessible as our community works together to address housing affordability, reenvisioning our historic downtown and cultural arts district, rebuilding our infrastructure, and bringing Santa Barbara back to a leadership role in environmental policy. As a nearly 40-year resident of the county with a career in public policy, I am ready to serve.”

Key Endorsements: ​Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, Congressmember Salud Carbajal, Supervisor Joan Hartmann, Councilmember Gregg Hart

Campaign Funds Raised: ​$52,064

District 5 City Council candidate Warner McGrew
Courtesy Photo

Warner McGrew

Santa Barbara Resident: ​51 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Democrat

Current/Former Employment: ​On-call liaison officer for a federal incident management team deployed to major fires and disasters; formerly the City of Santa Barbara’s fire chief

Relevant Political Experience: “As city fire chief and fire marshal, I was responsible for preparing and managing one of the largest budgets in the city’s General Fund. I was assigned to the position of acting city administrator as needed, and led contract negotiations for both labor and management groups.”

Personal Statement:  ​“I have 47 years of leadership experience in government. Because of my leadership in the city, I have an in-depth understanding of our local government and the importance of its role to serve our community. I will use experience, collaboration, and leadership to address the issues facing Santa Barbara while bringing positive vision and direction.”

Key Endorsements: ​Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Santa Barbara Police Officers’ Association, Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves

Campaign Funds Raised: ​$12,200

District 6 City Council candidate Gregg Hart
Courtesy Photo

Gregg Hart

Santa Barbara Resident: ​52 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Democrat

Current/Former Employment: ​ ​Currently serves as public information officer for Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) and as a Santa Barbara city councilmember. Previously worked for assemblymember Jack O’Connell and owned a daycare business.

Relevant Political Experience: ​“I have represented Santa Barbara as a planning commissioner, city councilmember, and state coastal commissioner in addition to working on governmental infrastructure issues for years in my role at SBCAG.”

Personal Statement: ​In my role as chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee, I’ve prudently allocated tax revenue while investing in programs that improve the quality of life for all residents. I’ve worked to implement one of the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation while opposing outdated oil production practices that endanger our coastline.”

Key Endorsements: Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood

Campaign Funds Raised: ​$101,608

District 6 City Council candidate Jack Ucciferri
Paul Wellman

Jack Ucciferri

Santa Barbara Resident: 15 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Berniecrat

Current/Former Employment: ​ Entrepreneur and realtor

Relevant Political Experience: “I have a clear vision for Santa Barbara’s future, a solid grasp of the issues, and in-depth understanding of the interest groups trying to shape local policy. I care deeply about shaping the Santa Barbara that my young son will grow up in. I am not beholden to outside interests and pledge not to run for higher office during the course of my tenure on council.”

Personal Statement:  ​“I am running to reclaim City Hall for the people of Santa Barbara. I am passionate about bringing 21st-century urban design, data-driven decision-making, and transparent governance to Santa Barbara. I believe in bikes, campaign finance reform, and ending Cox Cable’s monopoly over our broadband market.”

Campaign Funds Raised: ​$3,000

District 6 City Council candidate Aaron Solis
Paul Wellman

Aaron Solis

Santa Barbara Resident: ​4 years

Political Party Affiliation: ​Independent

Current/Former Employment: Activities director of San Marcos High School, as well as a teacher, Associated Student Body advisor, and golf and basketball coach

Personal Statement:  ​“People are screaming for new minds to help run our city. I promise to look at issues from both sides and will not be influenced by various political activist groups. I will not accept any campaign donations as I do not want to be swayed by those with an agenda because politicians influenced by big money [are] a huge problem in our political system, even on the local level. District 6 is a fantastic mix of residential homes, condominiums, rental units, and businesses from Cottage Hospital to downtown to Santa Barbara High School. It will take all of us working together to maintain a thriving city.”


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