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CPA Asks City to Prioritize Historic Structures Ordinance

February 2, 2019

Dear Mayor Murillo and Santa Barbara City Councilmembers:

Citizens Planning Association follows carefully the progress of changes to our charter, municipal codes and various regulations. We are very concerned about the apparent stall in the progress of the Amendments to the city’s Municipal Code’s Historic Structures Ordinance §22.22. That important code section has no directions about how to create “historic districts,” a specific and technical term.

Since 2013, the City Council has emphasized that completing the Historic Resources section of the ordinance has been a priority to avoid “significant impact on historic resources.” (City Resolution 11-079)

We were pleased to hear Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent say at your recent joint CC/PC  meeting, “you will have a working draft of that ordinance before I leave (on December 21.)” Regrettably, he left with the work on the Amendments, started last September, still apparently uncompleted. Compounding the concern was an exchange on January 9 between HLC Commissioner Bill Mahan and Assistant City Attorney Tava Ostrenger who said the Historic District Ordinance is still a “work in progress.” Mr. Vincent wasn’t able to complete the draft and work with staff on it, she said. She could give an answer on “how it was coming along” in “probably two months when (she) can prioritize all the tasks (in Community Development) that need to be done.”

But, we emphasize, not denigrating other needs, City Council has already prioritized completion of this important work!

The Historic Resources Element was approved in October, 2012; it needs the tools to implement it. An ad hoc committee met twice through May 2017, but with no meetings called since. These volunteers are prepared to continue. Lack of progress causes uncertainty to the various concerned commissions and the interested public, too.

CPA joins with other city organizations and neighborhoods to request as strongly as possible that Council again give direction to staff to complete this important work, drawing on the already established committee to assist in providing Guidelines to protect our historic resources while allowing reasonable developments to move forward without challenging delay because of lack of guidelines and confusion.

The public needs to be involved; council’s priority designation needs to be respected; knowledgable volunteers stand ready. As it is, the historic district part of the Historic Structures Ordinance is like a Tesla, without an engine, beautiful to behold, but….

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