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Local News

Santa Barbara Council Votes to Support Less-Restrictive Open Meeting Laws

In revising city's legislative platform, majority of council agrees that aspects of Brown Act severely limit decision-making

In revising Santa Barbara’s legislative platform, the City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to support less-restrictive open meeting laws.

The Ralph M. Brown Act of 2001 prohibits legislators from meeting outside a public meeting with a quorum — or the number of people required to take action in that governing body.

City Councilmen Dale Francisco, Frank Hotchkiss and Randy Rowse and Councilwoman Michael Self voted for language to oppose legislation that “discourages communications among governing body members through unproductive restrictions” and to further restrict actions that can be taken in closed session.

Francisco said the requirement to post timely agendas is important, but restricting legislators from meeting privately is a severe limitation on decision-making.

“That is the point at which the Brown Act becomes absurd,” he said, adding that no law, by itself, creates good government.

Previously, the city has supported the Brown Act and encouraged the state to abide by the same open meeting rules, and the three dissenting members said it was an important issue.

“It takes longer and it’s not as pretty — this is an example of the detailed stuff that needs to happen — but at the end of the day, transparency is paramount,” Mayor Helene Schneider said.

All seven members of the council agreed on the rest of the platform, which outlines their stance on state and federal policy issues affecting the city. They support legislation protecting local revenues, increasing the number of hospice beds in the county, and requiring funding for any state or federal mandates.

The City Council also transferred all Redevelopment Agency properties to the city, which must be done before it expires in August 2015. The RDA owned 35.5 acres of property within the Central City Redevelopment Project Area and brought in more than $275 million in tax increment revenues from its creation in 1972, according to city staff.

RDA Director Brian Bosse said there will be no financial or operational impact of the transfer.

Also on Tuesday, an appeal of the Fresh & Easy Market at 336 N. Milpas St. sent the project back to the Architectural Review Board. The 12,000-square-foot, one-story building will be developed after some existing structures are demolished.

Staff planner Jaime Limon recommended that the project be allowed to continue, but neighbors said they were never notified about the project’s development and have issues with the design.

Fresh & Easy representatives said $4.3 million has already been spent on remediation measures to comply with planning requirements.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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