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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 12:03 am | Fair 45º


Activist Files Lawsuit Against City of Santa Barbara Over Public Records Request

Escalating the feud between Anna Marie Gott and City Hall, the affordable housing activist has filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Barbara over her public records request.

Attorneys Geoff Conner Newlan and Marcus Morales filed the suit on Gott's behalf last week.

Gott asked for documents she says the city has not supplied.

Some were requested to support her appeal of a vacation rental conversion at 402 Anacapa St., which will go before the city of Santa Barbara on Tuesday. 

The compliant describes Gott as a 5th-generation Santa Barbara county resident and advocate for affordable housing. 

"One of plaintiff's major initiatives in favor of affordable housing has been to investigate the ongoing threat of the city of Santa Barbara's ordinances and their application to hundreds of affordable rental units to conversions to luxury vacation rentals using platforms such as Airbnb," the suit states.

"Plaintiff's efforts have resulted in a new awareness in Santa Barbara of how much Santa Barbara's rental housing supply has been effectively 'lost' due to the efforts of some landlords to remove rental units from the housing supply in order to operate vacation rentals and better oversight surrounding the conversion process."

Gott has waged war with City Hall in recent months over a variety of topics ranging from vacation rentals and the city's controversial average unit-sized density incentive housing program to downtown parking standards and the city plans for economic development.

She is an outspoken critic of Mayor Cathy Murillo and incoming councilman Oscar Gutierrez

The lawsuit details the sequence of events of Gott's record's request, including city's staff response.

Essentially, Gott made broad requests using keywords to define her search. For example, in a Thursday, Feb. 15, records request, she asked for electronic copies of all emails, text messages, voicemails (voice to text emails) and documents between, to or from: (Mayor Cathy) Murillo, (Eric) Friedman, (Randy) Rowse and (Gregg) Hart from Jan. 9 through Feb. 15. 

She requested all emails and documents from Murillo, Friedman, Rowse and Hart going to/from the following domains: aiasb.com and cearnal.com.

In addition, she wanted copies of all communications directed to or from all city attorneys that are not privileged with the following keywords: AIA, AIA design charrette, design charette, Average Unit Density, AUD, Cearnal, Thompson, Schwartz, Campanella, impact fees, inclusionary, inclusionary housing..."

In another request, Gott asked for copies of all direct messages or emails to or from Murillo, Friedman, Rowse and Hart from any of their social media accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) which they use or constituents use to contact them.

"I would like to point out that each cell phone is likely to have an automatic backup file and that these files should be reviewed, as well as any visual voice mail, which should have extensive storage," Gott wrote.

Gott added more keywords to her request in subsequent emails. 

The city multiple times responded that it would need more time to provide the "voluminous" records request. 

The city attorney or city administrator's office did not respond to Noozhawk's questions about the lawsuit. Goverment entities typically do not give comment as it relates to pending or current litigation.

In her suit, Gott is asking for the city to provide the documents and to pay for her attorney fees. 

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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