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Local News

Santa Barbara District 4 Candidates Higgins, Sneddon, Scafide Talk Housing, Homeless, State Street

Three hopefuls are vying to represent neighborhoods in East San Roque, the Upper East, the Riviera and Eucalyptus Hill

The three District 4 Santa Barbara City Council candidates participated in a forum Tuesday night, less than a week before the city mails out ballots to voters. From left are Jim Scafide, Kristen Sneddon and Jay Higgins. Click to view larger
The three District 4 Santa Barbara City Council candidates participated in a forum Tuesday night, less than a week before the city mails out ballots to voters. From left are Jim Scafide, Kristen Sneddon and Jay Higgins. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

With less than a week to go before the city mails ballots to voters, the three District 4 Santa Barbara City Council candidates convened to discuss their views on a proposed 1 percent sales tax initiative, the state of downtown Santa Barbara, affordable housing and other issues.

Land-use planner Jay Higgins, environmental scientist Kristen Sneddon and attorney Jim Scafide are all vying to become the city’s first District 4 council member. The area includes neighborhoods in East San Roque, the Upper East, the Riviera and Eucalyptus Hill.

The event was held at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara and hosted by the Santa Barbara Independent. The paper’s news editor, Tyler Hayden, moderated the forum.

“What I do bring that distinguishes me is an entirely different perspective that I believe is sorely needed on City Council,” Sneddon said. “I bring a different perspective of what is possible in our city, and a balanced viewpoint that I think would be beneficial on our City Council.”

Sneddon touted her credentials as a mother, a volunteer at Peabody Charter School, and as a part-time teacher at Santa Barbara City College. She noted that the community room at the church where the forum was held was also where her children attended preschool.

“I have lived in this community for 30 years,” she said.

Most of all, she described herself as an environmentalist, and someone who could bring a progressive, science-based perspective to the council. She said the city should pursue solar, natural gas and wave energy.

“We have a lot of options for energy that are not being explored,” she said.

Sneddon said she supports the city’s 1 cent sales tax initiative that is on the ballot and wants to provide more unique, experience-driven stores for locals to help re-energize State Street.

She showed her old school knowledge of the city, referencing Piccadilly Square a blend of small, locally owned shops, before it was eventually replaced by Paseo Nuevo. What’s old may become new again, she said.

She believes the city should build housing for working families, and reconsider the average unit-sized density program, which allows developers to build high density rental apartments on small lots.

“I would like to take a pause on the AUD program,” she said. “I am very big supporter of affordable workforce housing, but in many ways the AUD program works against that goal.”

Higgins pointed to his time on the Planning Commission, and his understanding of what it takes for a developer to pull a permit. Higgins said the best way to ease the affordable housing problem is to build more housing.

“We really just need to increase housing supply and choice,” Higgins said.

He paused a bit, however, on building housing in the downtown commercial core, an idea that nearly all the candidates, including the mayor’s race, are supporting.

Higgins said he doesn’t believe the high cost of land, and the amount of renovations it would take to turn Macy’s into housing would allow a developer to make money.

“I am not convinced housing belongs on State Street,” he said.

He said the best model for building affordable housing is Habitat for Humanity’s work. He also praised the work of the Santa Barbara Housing Authority for building successful affordable housing projects.

He said he would bring careful decision-making to the council, the kind that he said he has shown on the city’s Planning Commission.

“I like to think of myself as the issues candidate,” Higgins said. “I have a track record from being on the Planning Commission. That comes with a voting record.”

Higgins does not support the sales tax increase as it currently is proposed for the ballot. He would like to have seen the money officially linked to specific projects, to provide accountability.

If voters pass the tax, the money will go toward general infrastructure, but would not be tied to any specific projects, such as building a new police station.

Scafide cited his time as a councilman and mayor of East Liverpool, Ohio, as proof that he knows how to accomplish things.

“I am intimately familiar with the operations of cities,” he said. “I have that experience. As the mayor, I revitalized the downtown area. I attracted businesses to the city.”

Scafide also pointed the blame at the county government for Santa Barbara’s homeless problem.

“This is a problem because it is not being handled at the county level,” Scafide said, adding that the city should pressure the county to make changes.

“We owe it to them to press the county to provide street-based services,” Scafide said. “The City Council has to get the political will to address the problem.”

Scafide capped his comments by saying he would be a responsive council member.

“Democracy begins here,” Scafide said. “This discourse starts the process of engaging and allows for the rebuilding of this district. If elected, I will hold weekly meetings throughout the district so that we can have an open conversation about what is going on.”

Scafide backs the sales tax, known as Measure C, and supports housing in the downtown core.

He also said the city needs to plan its roads and streets for bicycles.

“We have to shift away from a car-based system and into an alternative transportation system,” Scafide said. “We need to reduce the number of cars on the road.”

The city will mail ballots on Oct. 9. The final day to vote is Nov. 7.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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