At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez asked if the city could enact an ordinance to prevent old, sick, and disabled people from living in the Santa Barbara foothills to develop more housing in high fire areas. When did it become okay to discriminate against protected classes?

If this is how Gutierrez conducts himself in a public meeting, what is happening behind the scenes that we don’t see? This behavior should not be allowed to happen without ramifications. The only way this will happen is if our press makes it known outside the small group that attended this meeting. The fact that the City Attorney advised him that such an idea was not legal, and the rest of the council did not support it, is not sufficient; it does not change the fact that Councilmember Gutierrez was advocating for discrimination.

To provide further context, his comments came up in a discussion related to an ordinance to allow lot splits. The City Council and mayor were cautioned by many that allowing lot splits in high fire areas would pose a significant risk to residents, and there are no plans to mitigate this risk. This was Councilmember Gutierrez’s solution. So I guess it also means it’s okay if people not in these protected classes can’t get out in an emergency and die?

For the record, I am a strong proponent of the need to develop housing, especially targeted to low income individuals. Discrimination is never the answer.

For your information, these meetings are recorded as part of the public record, so you can listen for yourself. I hope you will make this known to our community so appropriate actions required by law are taken. —Jim Carbone, S.B.

Oscar Gutierrez replies:

To Mr. Carbone and others who have reached out to me about this, please take the time to watch the video of the meeting and my comments that start at 2:03:45 here:

I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech, and I appreciate the voicing of opinions. Maybe I should have been clearer, but I think my comments are taken out of context.

I understand the concerns of the elderly and disabled. I constantly modify our home for my elderly, disabled mother. My heart goes out to those residents, and I sincerely apologize if I offended anyone.

For years I have received comments that the foothills are a high fire zone and more housing would be deadly in case of a fire. I totally agree and have voted to not build more in that area. People have asked me if it’s appropriate for a vulnerable demographic to live in a deadly area. I knew the answer, but people wanted me to ask. The City Attorney answered my question, and no one commented on it further; it was not a motion or resolution.

I’m on your side, Mr. Carbone. I’ve consistently spoken out and voted against developing more homes in high fire areas.

If you would like to discuss it further I am totally open to it: —Oscar Gutierrez, S.B.


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