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Santa Barbara Council Extends Funding to Struggling Rental Housing Mediation Task Force

Council also designates the Granada building’s façade, Cottage Hospital’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree and a hacienda-style home as city landmarks

The Rental Housing Mediation Task Force was a victim of lowered community development block grant funding this fiscal year, and on Tuesday the Santa Barbara City Council voted to give it enough money to get through December, with more being conditional on a favorable review.

RHMTF mediator Leesa Beck said Tuesday that the group doesn’t need the city’s money for the other half of the year, since it received about $37,000 in funding from the City of Goleta, grants and donations. It does need the city’s support and funding in the years ahead, though.

Many community members urged the City Council to keep supporting the program even as community development block grant funds diminish, since it most likely couldn’t exist completely independently. Beck said the city’s support keeps the program neutral in its mediations between tenants and landlords, and gives it credibility.

The Fund for Santa Barbara, which rarely gives grants such as this for operating costs, gave $5,000 because of “how irreplaceable it really is,” Executive Director Geoff Green said, adding that the program couldn’t operate so efficiently — and on so little money — without being attached to the city.

The program has a 95 percent success rate and serves about 1,000 people annually. Sixty percent of Santa Barbara’s residents are tenants, and Beck said the RHMTF works closely with dozens of other agencies to serve the community in need.

. . .

The Granada Theatre building’s façade, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree and a Mexican hacienda-style home on Ontare Hills Lane were designated city landmarks by the City Council on Tuesday.

The council unanimously approved the Granada building’s iconic brick and tile façade and Cottage Hospitals’ oldest piece of landscaping — the “baby brother,” as senior planner Jaime Limon called it, to the well-known Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Montecito and Chapala streets.

Tad Smyth, property owner of the Frederick H. Booth House at 105 Ontare Hills Lane, objected to the designation, saying it had no historical significance. It was built in 1939 with a steel-reinforced concrete frame and adobe on top, to copy the hacienda style.

County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission member John Woodward agreed with Smyth.

Retiring urban historian Jake Jacobus said the home is a modern interpretation of a style that’s 100 years old, and the landmark status doesn’t mean Smyth can’t alter the home.

“We can’t guarantee the next owner will have taste,” he said, only half in jest, reminding the council that structures of merit and city landmarks require more oversight before alterations are made. He added that oftentimes land in Santa Barbara is seen as more valuable than the house sitting on it, so demolitions are a concern.

Smyth’s objections resulted in a 4-2 vote, with Councilman Frank Hotchkiss and Councilwoman Michael Self voting against the landmark designation, and Councilman Randy Rowse absent.

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.

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