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Voters Say No to Measure B

Santa Barbara's controversial building-heights initiative is defeated, but the city's other three measures — C, D and E — win easy approval

Measure B, Santa Barbara’s controversial initiative to lower building heights, was rejected by voters Tuesday, losing by 1,666 votes after falling into a dead heat earlier in the evening.

Bill Mahan, a proponent of Measure B and chairman of Save El Pueblo Viejo, said both sides of the debate should work together in the future.

The initiative garnered 12,009 no votes to 10,343 yes votes.

Many opponents of the measure have said it left out too much, and Mahan said some voters may have found it “simplistic.”

He said the nearly even support for each side proves that the problem of building size needs to be talked about.

The election of pro-Measure B candidates Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Self and Bendy White to the City Council and Dale Francisco’s continued presence will help further discussion of the issue, he said.

“We’ve got four votes to do all of the other things to control the size of buildings like setbacks, open space and smaller units,” Mahan said.

The reconstruction of damaged structures had been a hot topic among both sides, since current city ordinances limit reconstruction of nonresidential structures to current ordinances. If more than 75 percent of a building taller than the 40- to 45-foot limit is destroyed, it would have to be rebuilt to the shorter, current standards.

Voters approved the other three measures on the ballot, which received less attention in the past few months. Measure C will combine the Board of Park Commissioners with the Recreation Commission to form a new Parks and Recreation Commission. Measure D will increase the Harbor Commission from five to seven members. Measure E will reduce the Architectural Board of Review from nine to seven members.

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

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» on 11.04.09 @ 12:03 PM

Mr. Mahan’s spin on the election is flat out wrong.  Is wasn’t 50-50, the measure lost by 1,700 votes.  And if he thinks that Self and Hotchkiss got elected because of their Yes on B stance, he’s partially right, but for the wrong reasons:  B backer Von Wolfie’s $700 grand practically bought their seats.

Time to move on Bill.  Let the next generation take the reigns.  If you and Sheila had put half the work you put into a destructive initiative process into working through the city’s general plan policies, we’d already have better rules in place to shape future building, and the community wouldn’t be so divided.

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:26 PM

Santa Barbara is not a trophy. It does not need a double dose of preservatives to survive the onslaught of age. It needs life and a population that lives. Life means change and Santa Barbara must be able to change and adapt to those living here. That said the sad spectacle of B is gone and now it’s time to get to work before the new crop of liberal empty suits take advantage of the measure’s defeat and starts approving any and everything that comes their way labeled affordable housing. My hope is the pounding the SEPV folks took during the campaign does not turn to bitterness but instead a renewed desire to craft a better plan, one that does not involve turning the city into a mausoleum but instead provides a wise and lasting policy for future growth and development.

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:37 PM

Von Wolfie bought their seats? Ok, so using that “logic” who bought Schneider, House and Bendy’s seats? I must have missed the check in the mail from Von Wolfie to pay for my vote. Maybe I should send him a bill.

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:44 PM

It’s amazing that even though both of these people got their wish, they are still so bitter and negative. You won. Be Happy. Move on.

What a sad thing to use this as an excuse to make personal attacks and try to dictate to Bill what he should do. Just because he has a different opinion than you does not mean he doesn’t care about the city. Enough “would have should have”. MOVE ON!

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:47 PM

Mr. Mahan should stick to what he knows best…btw, what is that?  As an architect and member of the new (and rather ridiculous) Single Family Design Board, one would think that HE may have a thread of common sense left.  Truth is, he doesn’t show it.

Measure B is not the answer. Lower building heights do nothing but increase mass at the pedestrian level and restrict the growth and sustainability of a city that surely will (Mr. Mahan are you listening) GROW over time.  To suggest that this city could grow responsibly while cutting down the ability to have the downtown core support an expanding community is a one-sided narrow focussed OPINION at best.

A measure like this woudl affect MY CHILDREN and his grand-children and their ability to stay and live in this town.  Can’t he not see that a decision such as this would be the wrong legacy to leave?  Apparently not.

How about you listen to the young people who are working their you-know-whats off in this town to simply get by! Keep your narrow minded opinion to yourself and let the next generation decide was is going to be best for them. You won’t even be around long enough to see it, so leave it alone.

» on 11.04.09 @ 12:58 PM

Good try but no cigar.    Developers and the Brian Cearnal crowd have prevailed.  There will be rewards for Cearnal, one of the least talented architects in the town, but a master manipulator of the City process.  If you want a bad project to get approved call Brian. His team of historians and archaeologists will be pleased to sell their souls to him for the crumbs he throws at them.  But democracy is democracy: it is our system and   maybe there will be more sense on the Council that will trickle down to the commissions and staff.  Just keep an eye on Mr. Cearnal.

» on 11.04.09 @ 01:23 PM

Mr. Mahan, should know better than to make a claim that we should now “work together” on this issue. Many of us tried to work with Save El Pueblo Viejo to arrive at a compromise that would address everyone’s concerns before this measure was even placed on the ballot. Mr. Mahan walked away from that compromise. So, shame on him and shame on him for even suggesting that now is the time to come together. That time has come and past and his “Measure B” has only divided this community and prevented an opportunity to come together to arrive at real sustainable solutions for our city’s future. Let’s hope we can all move past the emotional damage caused by this ill-conceived measure and focus on Plan Santa Barbara for the sake of our future generation.

» on 11.04.09 @ 01:26 PM

It’s absurd to even interview Bill Mahan at this point. As soon as he and the other cranky old folks started down this path, he has forever tainted and marginalized himself and even after a nice career in architecture will now be known as the author of “Mahan’s Folly”. What a shame.

It’s time for Bill, Van Wolfswinkel, Sheila Lodge, Gil Berry and the other members of the Blue Hair Gang to ride off into the sunset, perhaps to one of VW’s sprawl developments in Texas? I’m sure they don’t have “high rises” there.

» on 11.04.09 @ 01:46 PM

Now we can prepare a ballot measure for the next election to RAISE building height limits like a nice progressive city. Perhaps 75 or 80 feet?

Oh, you don’t like that idea? Don’t like ballot box planning this time?

Or maybe it would be better to have a ballot measure to prohibit pueblo-colored buildings with red-tile roofs. Now that’s the ticket!

» on 11.04.09 @ 03:08 PM

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Watch for our new “improved” ballot measure!    Coming soon!

The architects were kind enough to point out the minor imperfections, so now we know how to easily get it passed next time.    Thank you very much!

» on 11.04.09 @ 03:10 PM

Santa Barbara and its vitriol is just a microcosm of what our whole country has become - divisive, mean-spirited, ‘us vs. them’, we’re completely in the right and they’re completely wrong, we’ve got ours and want to keep it but you can’t have yours, money vs. the struggle to simply survive, and so on. There is no longer an over-riding sense of community or willingness to “agree to disagree and see where can we meet in the middle”. It sickens me. If a beautiful University town with supposedly intelligent people can even at this level be bought and sold politically and financial influence determines our fates even at this level - it’s a pretty grim outlook for the future everywhere.

» on 11.04.09 @ 03:11 PM

Santa Barbara and its vitriol is just a microcosm of what our whole country has become - divisive, mean-spirited, ‘us vs. them’, we’re completely in the right and they’re completely wrong, we’ve got ours and want to keep it but you can’t have yours, money vs. the struggle to simply survive, and so on. There is no longer an over-riding sense of community or willingness to “agree to disagree and see where can we meet in the middle”. It sickens me. If a beautiful University town with supposedly intelligent people can even at this level be bought and sold politically and financial influence determines our fates even at this level - it’s a pretty grim outlook for the future everywhere.

» on 11.04.09 @ 03:34 PM

It is funny to me that some people call others “wrong,” that measure B was “sad” and “divisive” and caused “emotional damage.”  Maybe it did cause some fragile people to be damaged, but for the community at large at least we had the discussion, and considered the possibilities.  The measure encouraged the dialogue that at some point, had to take place.  I say congratulations are in order for those that defeated the measure for a well-run campaign and congratulations are in order for the architects and citizens that put this measure on the ballot.  Thank you for this “question” this election season, we are a stronger community as a result.  I take heart in the fact that a Texas developer was not able to buy the election, which is the biggest plus of all.

» on 11.04.09 @ 04:18 PM

It ain’t over, all you need to do is a “search and replace” the phrase “lower to 40-feet” with “raise to 80-feet” and re-submit to the voters. Maybe then it will pass.

» on 11.04.09 @ 06:56 PM

BWHHAHAHAHAHAAAAHHAAA!!! Take that yes on B liars!

» on 11.04.09 @ 07:24 PM

And they called it paradise I don’t know why
Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high

Who will provide the grand design? What is yours and what is mine?
‘Cause there is no more new frontier We have got to make it here
They call it paradise I don’t know why You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye

The Eagles

» on 11.04.09 @ 09:51 PM

You have it backwards, Buckwheat,
Measure B was defeated because the No on B folks were the best liars.

I challenge any architect to try and get a 4 story 60 feet building approved now!!! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !

» on 11.04.09 @ 09:58 PM

Bill Mahan is a wonderful civic minded individual who gives tirelessly of his time to this city to make things better. WE should all follow his example. Thank you, Bill for all you do for us.

» on 11.05.09 @ 10:54 AM

I note with a bit of irony Bill Mahan’s observation that there are now 4 votes on the City Council to oppose tall-building projects.  The City Council can only oppose
such projects if someone FILES AN APPEAL, an action that
not a single Measure B proponent bothered to take when
the Chapala One project got approved.

The new council appears to be more conservate than those in the recent past; it will be interesting to see how they vote on proposals to increase downtown density.

» on 11.05.09 @ 10:32 PM

Its obvious that you don;t know much about the appeal process.
It costs a $400 city fee to appeal a bad project.

Just what makes you think it is the duty of a private citizen to pay $400 out of their own pocket to appeal a bad design downtown.  Especially during a recession when they need every penny to make their house payment to avoid foreclosure. Just whose going to step forward and do that. an appellant also has to hire a real estate attorney or an architect to hep them present the appeal. On top of that it takes a lot of time spent by the appellant to study the ordinances and study the plans and write the legal grounds for the appeal and prepare the 30 minute power point presentation.    Just who has that extra 100 hours to spend?  And why should they be the one to have to do it?

If the appeal fee had been fee I assure you that I would have appealed it!

Also it is well known that the city council doesn’t like appeals as it takes up a whole lot of their time.  3 hours each appeal hearing.  so to ‘discourage ” appeals the council denies 99% of all appeals.  It they upheld appeals and denied the project they know they would then be flooded with appeals because there are so many poorly designed bulky projects approved.  Also they hate to go against their own city staff and their own city ABr and their own city planning commission so they deny 99% of all appeals to show support for their own.  Look what happened in the Coast Village Road bulky mixed use project at the gas station. 

On top of that Grant House never say a big development that the didn’t like.

The majority of the council is so happy to get housing projects with a few affordable units thrown in that they approve any project no matter =how big and bulky on that basis.

lastly this town is filled with persistent developers who won;t take no for an answer and drag out their projects for 5 or 10 years and when their project is appealed at the very end of a many years long process they cry like a baby that they have followed the rules of the process and have spent thousands of dollar in city fees and architectural fees over 5 or 10 years in the process and city council has sympathy for that and denies the appeal.

» on 11.06.09 @ 03:37 AM

Nearly every significant project in this town gets appealed. If you think $400 is stopping people from filing appeals your a fool. There are way too many people with way too much time on their hands running through all the data and filing frivolous appeals. It’s the NIMBY way of stopping any type of development for whatever reason so they can stop change and neighborhood organizations like CPA are masters at it.

» on 11.06.09 @ 12:07 PM

It is unnerving sometimes how we can complain about the very government we elect. “Reply” makes a good point and I agree the system is rigged to discourage appeals. But “Young” is also right that however bad the system is there is an unending number of professional system massagers to work it. Having sat through some of these appeals and listened to the petty trivial complains of appealers I can almost understand government’s reticence in hearing them. But you get the government you elect and the system they have put in place is what “the people” want. That is the price of democracy; every idiot gets his voice heard. There is no greater example than last November’s presidential election and the ensuing hangover the country has endured since.

» on 11.06.09 @ 05:54 PM

Young at Heart—-you are the fool for thinking everybody has $400 to throw away on filing an appeal.  Put yourself in their place—-What would you rather do spend $400 on buying your family a new TV set or throwing it away on an appeal filing fee.

You are right in that there are plenty of people with enough time on their hands to file an appeal.  But you are the one who’s stupid if you think all of these people have an extra $400 laying around.  Many are retired and living on fixed retirement income.

You are also the one who’s stupid (and wrong) when you say every major project is appealed.    Out of the last 100 three or four story projects in commercial zones only 5 out of 100 of them have been appealed and that is a FACT. 

The vast majority of appeals are single family residences being appealed by their neighbors.  But there are no neighbors living downtown to appeal those monstrosities on Chapala.  And the organizations have no money in their treasury to pay for appeal fees, and may raise the appeal fee to appeal one bad project out of 100 like Veronica Meadows.

The fact is that the reason nobody filed an appeal on those monstrosities on Chapala is nobody had an extra $400 to pay for the appeal fee.  How else would you explain it with all those people with time on their hands.    I would have appealed them if the appeal fee was, say $50, but I just didn’t have the $400.

So quit calling other people stupid. when it is you who don’t know what you are talking about!

» on 11.09.09 @ 05:10 PM

It is so sad to read about everyone’s effort to stop Santa Barbara from getting worse. Is this really all we can think of?

Has it occurred to anybody that we have it in our might to make Santa Barbara better still, with development and infrastructure projects that change our city for the better? Why is there no discussion, nor mention, about that?

SB is a nice town compared to what is immediately around us, but compared to what the rest of the world does… well, go and take a good look!

Do y’all really think that this the best we could ever be?

» on 11.10.09 @ 11:23 AM

Councilmember Williams has said he would support a 45’ height limit. No doubt that Council member Francisco would; no doubt but new council member-elect, Hotchkiss and Self would. Similarly for “B” co-founder (along with Mahan) councilmember White. House probably would not; it’s uncertain about Mayor-elect Schneider. But there are 5 council members who might well put a new measure on the ballot. And CEC’s Dave Davis, vocal opponent of Measure “B”, is on record as saying he would fight for a 45’ height limit.

» on 11.10.09 @ 01:27 PM

Why dredge this up. 45’ is as ridiculous as 40’ as is the current 60’ limit. Height limits don’t work. They are very limited in their effect and cause more damage than fix. There are much better tools to deal with growth, density, traffic and views than a simplistic limit on a single building dimension. Good God people try, try to be a little more imaginative and quit going back to this archaic and destructive tendency to just flatten everything everywhere. It’s in a word, STUPID.

» on 11.10.09 @ 01:53 PM

Yes, it’s time to thankfully get beyond talking about enhanced building height limitations as though it is the be-all solution.  None of the people mentioned (with the exception of Francisco, Hotchkiss & Self, who apparently aren’t qualified or comfortable discussing urban planning issues) have ever claimed that a simple building height number is a substitute for responsible and nuanced planning.  I’m familiar with their comments, and the context in which they were delivered, and they’ve been consistently supportive of working within the planning process to achieve intelligent solutions.

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