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Bendy White Turns Planning Prowess to City Council Race

Longtime Santa Barbara planning commissioner sees the budget as the city's top issue

After 14 years serving on the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, Harwood “Bendy” White filed papers Monday declaring himself a candidate in November’s city council election. White said he’s thought for years about seeking a seat at the council dais but has always been too busy, running his own land-use consulting business and working on personal building projects.

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City Council candidate Harwood “Bendy” White calls Santa Barbara “a miracle, and it’s taken good luck and 100 years of visionary planning.” (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

But now, White, 62, says he’s ready to enter the race, and cites a plethora of public experience: he served on the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission 35 years ago, and before his current stint as a city commissioner, served on the Water Commission, which boasts one of the largest budgets in the city.

“What we found there was some real turmoil,” he said of his water commission tenure, during which he was instrumental in starting a new master plan for Santa Barbara’s water system.

“Public policy is core to my way of looking at the world,” he said. “I’m doing this because I want to serve the city, and I want to help out.”

What’s one of White’s biggest issues?

“Budget, budget and budget,” he said. “It’s going to take a concerted effort to come out of this, not just next year, but the year after.”

The city is facing a nearly $9 million deficit, at a time when the county and state budgets look frightful. White has been self-employed his entire career, he said, experience that may benefit his approach to would-be city spending.

Another of White’s priorities is preserving Santa Barbara’s character.

“Santa Barbara is a miracle,” he said. “And it’s taken good luck and 100 years of visionary planning.”

White is a board member of Save El Pueblo Viejo, a group that gathered more than 11,000 signatures to place on the November ballot an initiative capping building heights at 40 feet.

Several of the projects that Save El Pueblo Viejo objects to, such as the Chapala One condominiums on Chapala and Gutierrez streets, came through the planning process while White was on the commission. The projects were allowed because of city zoning ordinances, but the result was what White called “development that was out of character with the city.”

“These projects don’t contribute back to the community with attainable housing, much less affordable,” he said.

In the race, White joins Councilman Grant House, who is seeking re-election, and challengers Lane Anderson, Dianne Channing and David Pritchett. Councilwomen Iya Falcone and Helene Schneider and entrepreneur Justin Michael are running for mayor.

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

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