The city’s new prosecuting attorney, Denny Wei, met the Santa Barbara City Council officially on Tuesday afternoon. His boss, City Attorney Ariel Calonne, stated his enforcement resources had tripled this budget season, allowing his office to finally get their teeth into complaints. Wei explained his new mandate encompassed more vigorous action on ordinance violations. Enforcement didn’t go straight to court action, he said, but started with meetings to ensure violators understood the rules and got a timeline for compliance.
Wei, a seasoned prosecutor who came to Santa Barbara from the City of Burbank in June, introduced two more new employees to the City Attorney’s office. William Alva, a new investigator, was formerly with the Oxnard Police Department and a U.S. Navy veteran who grew up in Mexico City and Chicago. Already, Wei said, Alva’s language skills have proved invaluable during investigations. Rounding out the team is paralegal Amy Scott. Wei said their current caseload included 86 open code enforcements, 248 vacation rentals, 37 criminal actions, and two nuisance abatement issues involving the same individual.
Projecting a slide of the categories, Calonne asked the council to rank their priorities from among safe housing, nuisance behavior, short-term rental enforcement, and consumer protection. Wei assured them that each case, no matter its category prioritization, received individual scrutiny. After frequent council speaker Anna Marie Gott demonstrated 84 vacation rentals advertised downtown — giving addresses for several— and stating 800 existed throughout the city, several councilmembers acknowledged they were a priority as well.
A meeting held about new homeless housing on Alisos Street the evening before was fresh on everyone’s mind. Councilmember Jason Dominguez, in whose district the housing is proposed, asked about recent fires, sidewalk blockage, and a “sit and lie” ordinance. City Manager Paul Casey responded that the Ordinance Committee would be looking at shopping carts on October 15, personal goods storage on October 22, and sidewalk vending laws on October 29.