A healthy cross-section of downtown interests — including architects, business owners, construction managers, and private consultants — have joined forces with the city’s planning staff to streamline and improve Santa Barbara’s famously onerous permitting process. Over the course of four lengthy meetings, the group has methodically hammered away at the snags that trip up and delay projects moving through the approval pipeline. Everything’s on the table — land-use rules, density requirements, parking policies, the appeals process, and so on — as the city works on identifying areas of improvement and those in the private sector learn about the functions and constraints of their local government.
Community Development Director George Buell said he’s particularly focused on making his department more efficient, accountable, and better outward communicators, and he’s encouraged by the group’s progress thus far. “I would describe the meetings as very productive, very helpful,” he said. Plum Goods owner Amy Cooper and other members wholeheartedly agreed. “I feel like we’ll be able to make changes that have big positive impacts,” Cooper said. “I really do.” At the same time, Nina Johnson, a senior assistant to the City Administrator, is now considering proposals to hire a consultant to develop a strategic State Street plan, which would include an economic development element. She expects to present options to the council in January.
By Paul Wellman (file)