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Santa Barbara Council to Take Up Architectural Board of Review Controversy

Council members could consider removing advisory board members over Chick-fil-A abstentions, beefing up guidelines for panel's actions

The Santa Barbara City Council may make some changes of its own when it considers a Tuesday agenda item about the Architectural Board of Review.

The ABR has been under fire since an Aug. 6 meeting to consider minor changes to an already-approved plan for a new Chick-fil-A restaurant at 3707 State St. At the meeting, some members of the advisory board abstained from voting on the changes for personal reasons.

At the time, Chick-fil-A was at the center of a firestorm of national controversy over an interview company president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy gave in which he expressed support for traditional marriage and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Enough ABR members abstained – for various reasons – at the meeting to delay the advisory board’s vote on the project.

The restaurant’s proposed landscaping and patio changes later were approved by Community Development Department staff members. City officials said the decision was made because the changes were minor and considered consistent with the already-approved designs.

Councilmen Frank Hotchkiss and Randy Rowse sent a memo to City Administrator Jim Armstrong requesting a review of the ABR’s actions, since advisory board members are supposed to review applications based on their merit and not on political considerations.

In the memo, Hotchkiss and Rowse said they want the council to consider removing some of the ABR members and creating an advisory committee to create a code of conduct and improved guidelines for the board.

Members of the public and the City Council have publicly rebuked ABR members for basing their votes on personal or political reasons.

The Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee has urged the City Council not to terminate the ABR members, however, and is asking its supporters to sign a letter or make a public comment to that effect. By abstaining from the vote, the group argues, ABR members were trying to maintain an unbiased review process.

In a Letter to Editor on Noozhawk, members of the Santa Barbara Gay & Lesbian Business Association said Chick-fil-A uses its business profits to fund organizations that are “designated hate groups,” and they asked the City Council not to punish ABR members for bringing attention to the company’s actions.

“We are concerned to see Santa Barbara, which has on its books anti-discrimination ordinances on one hand, welcoming a business that brags of funding groups that bloody them on the other,” the letter said.

In late August, ABR member Keith Rivera resigned after three-and-a-half years on the board, saying he abstained from the vote to avoid a conflict of interest.

In a letter to Mayor Helene Schneider and the council, he wrote: “I stepped down from the Review after final of the 3707 State St. application because I felt the controversy and unprecedented media publicity associated with the applicant at that time could affect my objectivity on the matter before me.”

The Architectural Board of Review item is scheduled to go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

During Tuesday’s afternoon session, which starts at 2 p.m., the City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2012 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. Scroll down the page to view the document.

The council will also receive a presentation from a community group called Concerned Citizens for Safe Passage, which has been working to improve pedestrian and bicycle accessibility of the busy area near the Santa Barbara Mission and Rocky Nook Park on the Upper Eastside.

The group reports that the area is packed with historical and natural resources, but has narrow streets, tight turns, bad visibility, missing or inadequate sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and poor signage.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara Draft Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice


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