Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 4:37 am | Overcast 49º


City Council Denies Appeal of Milpas Project Over Bulb-Outs

Community debate about curb extensions extends into an hours-long council meeting

A clear ideological split divided members of the Santa Barbara City Council, as well as the public, when an appeal involving a project’s curb extensions came under discussion Tuesday.

After several hours of contentious dialogue, the council voted 4-3 to deny the appeal by Milpas Street businessman Rick Feldman.

Feldman filed an appeal over the curb extensions included in the mixed-use project at 803 N. Milpas St. on the basis that they would hinder traffic in the area. Feldman also took issue with how the public was notified and the project’s parking plan.

In February, the city’s Planning Commission voted 3-1 to support the plans, in spite of Feldman’s public comment opposing the addition of the curb extensions.

Three of the four commissioners behind that decision spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, including Commissioner John Jostes, who had called the appeal “frivolous.”

“While I’m not in favor of bulb-outs ... I am in favor of site design that protects the health and welfare of our community,” he said. The commission ultimately had been in favor of the bulb-outs because of the project’s proximity to two schools, he said.

Feldman said Jostes had taken a “hostile” view toward his appeal, and added that he had collected 500 signatures from people opposed to the curb extensions.

“They’re people that are mad as hell about these bulb-outs,” he said.

Jim Westby, a neighborhood activist and supporter of Feldman, also was at the meeting, and he talked about the pair’s apprehension to technical details of the project.

Showing a slide of a curb extension that had been heavily abused by cars, Westby posed the question: “Is this really safe for pedestrians? We don’t know.”

The city has yet to issue official data on the effectiveness of curb extensions as a safety measure, and both sides have relied on anecdotal evidence to make their respective cases.

Even the safety of the intersection couldn’t generate consensus among policy-makers. Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz defended her position in favor of the extensions, saying two youths had died at the intersection.

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss disagreed, saying there hadn’t been any safety incidents there in the past 10 years, and he asked Schwartz back up her statement with data.

“It only takes a 1½-page letter and $400 to process an appeal,” project developer Jarrett Gorin said. “We got appealed just because our project is consistent with city policy that Jim Westby and Rick Feldman didn’t like.”

Gorin said his company had put out story poles on the project’s property for two weeks, and that yellow notice of development signs had been posted — in addition to newspaper ads and property owner notices.

“If you didn’t even know about the project after all of that, what noticing standard would work?” he asked, saying the council should let his “clients get on with their lives.”

The project’s plans showed the curb extension extending 8 feet into the street at a length of 60 feet, but transportation planner Rob Dayton said that once the project details were taken on by engineers, the curb extensions would protrude out only 3 feet into De la Guerra Street.

About two dozen people spoke during public comment Tuesday, and they were nearly evenly split on this issue.

Comments ranged from concerned to outraged, especially from one rancorous speaker who stormed out of the council chambers after shouting out against the extensions. Another woman said two of her tires popped when she ran into one, and that her lawyer had advised her to sue the city.

Ralph Fertig, president of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, said that people drive more responsibly when they can get a better view of pedestrians, but added that 8 feet for a bulb-out is too wide. Another cyclist during public comment said they were dangerous.

Even those representing the bus community were divided. Two drivers for private bus companies spoke out against the curb extensions, while a representative from Santa Barbara MTD said the group didn’t have a problem with an extension at that location.

Since the project is near two schools, and hundreds of students pass by daily, several people said they felt that the extensions would make it safer for students walking to school.

“We like the fact that you can see the students as they’re crossing,” said Anne Kale, president of the Santa Barbara Junior High Parent Teacher Student Association.

But up on the dais, the views were just as varied.

Councilman Das Williams said he was disappointed to see the issue take such an ideological tone.

“This is a discussion about a small condo project and a sidewalk. It’s not about how socialism is taking over America,” he joked. “I don’t think that improving the safety of our children is social engine.”

Councilman Dale Francisco said he would like to see an independent task force formed to look at the issue and come back for a broader policy discussion, outside of the Milpas project.

“When buses turn onto De la Guerra, they have to swerve already,” he said, adding that he would uphold the appeal.

Williams, Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmen Grant House and Harwood “Bendy” White voted to support the project and deny the appeal. Hotchkiss, Francisco and Councilwoman Michael Self voted to uphold the appeal.

At the close of the meeting, Williams added that if extensions are designed correctly, they shouldn’t extend farther than the parking lane, and that if people run into them, “maybe it’s not the city’s fault. Maybe it’s your fault.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.