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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 3:33 pm | Fair 69º


Santa Barbara Council Upholds Victoria Street Historic Resources Listing

City rejects appeal involving building being placed on potential historic resources list

The Victoria Street building that houses Ca’ Dario restaurant is now on Santa Barbara’s historic resources list, despite opposition from a neighbor.
The Victoria Street building that houses Ca’ Dario restaurant is now on Santa Barbara’s historic resources list, despite opposition from a neighbor.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara City Council shot down a neighbor's attempt to stop a building from being placed on the city’s Potential Historic Resources List. 

The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday, with rookie Councilman Jason Dominguez voting in opposition, to allow the building that stretches from 29 to 37 East Victoria St. to be placed on the list.

The building is predominantly occupied by Ca' Dario restaurant.

Several of the council members were confused by the appeal and the arguments made by both city staff and appellant.

"I am still scratching my head as to why we are here today," Councilman Randy Rowse said. "I am struggling to see what it is that you are really talking about."

The appeal was filed by Virginia Rehling, who lives next to the building. She said the city did not follow the processing steps outlined in the Santa Barbara Municipal Code for listing the property on the Potential Historic Resources List.

Instead of making the presentation herself, she let her son Will provide the argument.

Essentially he claimed that the city did not follow the three steps necessary to name a property to the list, but instead relied on the recommendation of the city's historian and the approval by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

The city's Municipal Code states that there are three methods of which a property may be identified by the city for listing: the use of a historic resource survey; the request of a Historic Landmarks Commissioner; or the use of a historic structure/site report obtained in connection with Historic Landmarks Commission review.

None of those happened in this case. 

Instead, the owners of the building sought the listing to "obtain relief," city planner Jaime Limon said, from building code requirements associated with tenant improvements to the restaurant and building.

Among them was the need for modern fire sprinklers that the building owner opposed. 

If the Spanish colonial building, built in 1922, were on the city's potential list of Historic Resources, then the property owner would have the right to ask the city Fire Marshal to avoid the modern fire sprinklers. 

Olivia K. Marr, an attorney from Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray representing the property owner, said the tenant improvements to the building are a separate matter and that the appellant had no grounds to dispute the listing.

"It feels like abuse; it feels like harassment," Marr said.

Reyling had filed an appeal last summer, withdrew it, then filed another appeal.

Will Reyling, who said he lives in San Francisco, was frequently told not to speak by Mayor Helene Schneider after he exceeded his 20-minute maximum allotted time to speak.

But before his time ran out, he said he was concerned about a loss to his mother's property value.

"There is an actual financial loss from this decision," he said. "The lost property that is suffered as a result of this decision is what happens to the value of a house with something dangerous next to it?"

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss compared the situation to the referees in an NFL game throwing a red flag and that he was "in the booth" and needed "overwhelming evidence" to overturn the staff's decision. He said there wasn't enough evidence to do so.

Dominguez referenced the fact that he is an attorney several times throughout the meeting as justification for why he sided with the appellant.

"When government makes a mistake or when the law is not clear and it is the resident having to fight the government, I become very hesitant," Dominguez said. 

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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