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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 1:54 am | Fair 46º


Letter to the Editor: Questions About Santa Barbara County Association of Governments

An Open Letter to Chairwoman Janet Wolf and the Board Members of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments:

In response to 2016 SBCAG decisions, Cars Are Basic, Inc.TM has serious concerns over both application process, and allocations of funding by your organization.

Cars Are Basic, Inc.TM questions the process by which SBCAG is funding transportation projects within the  multiple agencies in the County, and this letter addresses recent actions within just one city as example.

If your actions are "requirements" (if you prefer Mandates)  by Sacramento (State Legislature and law) then it needs to be posted at the top of each and every "Project" that the State is forcing categories upon Counties and Cities, while roads and streets crumble.  Not buried in the document body of "background" of the actions.  This will be clear to any inquiring person or institution demanded spending justification.

It was recently disclosed there was a significant issue of openness with the District Attorney office.  The Court stated the D.A. must support "clear statutory requirements for civil discovery." As we understand this, all government and cities must be held to the same standard.  Here are just a few projects within the City of Santa Barbara as classic examples of very questionable funding and public notifications.

Regarding the issue of the Cliff Dr. Las Positas roundabout, CAB feels the City of Santa Barbara has engaged in serial abuses of procedure and open operation of law.  For two and half years Cars Are Basic, Inc.TM requested information on the procedure of planning and the Environmental Impact Report (or Negative Declaration) regarding the above roundabout project.  The City deflected to their Kittleson Report which was a scoping project and "not" the final engineering design of the "project" as required under CEQA.

This "project" is within the Coastal Zone, as designated under the California Coastal Act.  It is also within the Tidal Wave Zone as designated by the City of Santa Barbara and the State of California.  It was not until mid 2015, under a demand by CAB for a California Public Records Act (CPRA), our repeated requests for supporting documents of the decision making process, that the city reluctantly responded and we received enough documentation to start intelligent understanding of what was happening.  We requested the location of the EIR

(2014-2016), and the City never produced that document.  As of this date 6 November 2016 the City has not provided Cars Are Basic the requested "official Negative Declaration" and "supporting documentation" alluded to in its last email, sent by project head A. Shue, May 2016.  Yet your organization has, according to the City of Santa Barbara, provided funding to proceed.  How is that possible since the City has been unable to provide CAB the official "project" Negative Declaration, and its justification for that declaration which must include the California Coastal Development Permit (it must mean SBCAG does not have it)?

There is then the unusual coincidence of the controversial Milpas Roundabout where neither the California Coastal Commission or the City of Santa Barbara could produce a stamped and approved Coastal Permit application.  CAB made the point that the City of Santa Barbara had exceeded its time for approval and a de novo application process would have to be done.  CAB questioned the CAG action in funding a "project" without that vital document in hand.  Mysteriously the permit suddenly surfaced over two months later.

CAB states this is a ongoing and repeated pattern of deflection in violation of open and honest operation under the law.  This is clear in other projects .  CAB questions why SBCAG continues funding Santa Barbara City since we have brought these issues before the board for over fifteen years?

The City of Santa Barbara allowed un-agendized committee votes on portions of the Bicycle Master Plan, and has not disclosed in public documents the "full extent" of a $51 Million Public Works "Project" called the Bicycle Master Plan (a project under CEQA).  -Government Code section 54959-  Yet the Mayor and your Staff member (a SB Councilman) have clearly stated SBCAG will be asked to fund this master plan.

The City of Santa Barbara has engaged in false and misleading propaganda related to the building of Bulbouts (curb extensions) by making statements that they have "studies proving" Bulbouts make pedestrians safer.  Under threat of law suit related to a CPRA disclosure, the City Public Works Director, was forced  to admit her and staff statements were unfounded and they had no such studies or statistics.

At your September 2016 meeting, CAG approved Bulbout Projects requested by the City of SB, and SB Staff continues to state it is for "Pedestrian Safety" (A. Shue City ABR).  Where is the statistical evidence to support it?  Where are the studies to support it?  Again why are you funding and your Staff supporting Bulbouts?  How was a last minute change to a Consent Calendar allowed without supporting documentation?

There were two serious pedestrian vs. vehicle accidents in downtown Santa Barbara in 2016, where Bulbouts have been in place for years.  The City of SB design justification has been safety.  By design these two accidents should not have happened!  Yet SBCAG funded within the City of Santa Barbara (N. La Cumbre & N. Alamar) two intersection projects less then six months after the most recent accident mentioned above. The funded projects consist mainly of digging up curbs and street asphalt to build Bulbouts thus the majority of the cost!  Yet the City has been advised by transportation staff of the excellent results of Flashing Crosswalks installed on heavily driven Milpas Street and multiple blocks on State Street prior to the September funding by CAG.

Just because money is available does not mean the CAG should approve spending.

Cars Are Basic, Inc.TM strongly urges SBCAG to reconsider how it is approving projects and, to "require before application by any agency to have irrefutable statistical evidence" proving their case when requesting transportation funding.

On behalf of the Cars Are Basic Board,

Scott Wenz
Cars Are Basic board president

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