Six Santa Barbara restaurants that received multiple notices that their parklets were in violation of city rules found out the hard way Tuesday that you can’t fight City Hall.
The City Council voted to deny the appeals of six restaurants fighting to keep their parklets. The city in April issued removal orders to take down the parklets because they were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“To me, ADA law and accessibility is not something for us to be flexible on,” Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said. “It is the civil rights of community members.”
Harmon looked out into the audience in the council chamber at Vittoria Comin, the general manager of Trattoria Vittoria, 30 E. Victoria St., when she made her comments, stressing that she empathized with their situation.
Trattoria Vittoria was one of three restaurants that fixed their ADA problems after receiving notices on April 17 to remove their parklets.
Comin testified at City Hall that there was a family dispute over ownership and that all of the notices were sent to the restaurant directly.
“The restaurant was in a huge state of disarray,” Comin said.
The city sent its first notice in October, but she said the first notice she saw came in March. She also said that the first notice was hand-delivered to a bartender, and that after she became aware of the problem, it was difficult to schedule a carpenter because they were all busy fixing other parklets.
She asked for leniency.
“Outdoor dining itself is an accommodation for people who are immunocompromised, and taking that away when we worked our hardest to get it into compliance as soon as I got aware of it means that I can’t provide that accommodation to our disabled and immunocompromised patients anymore, and I really think that is a loss we don’t have to have,” Comin said.
Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse said he has known Comin’s grandparents “forever,” but that the city must follow the process.
“It’s the law,” Rowse said. “It’s not something ‘squishable.’ It’s not changeable. It’s something we were sworn to uphold. ADA is the law.”
The vote to deny the appeal and remove the parklet was 5-2, with Rowse, Harmon, Kristen Sneddon, Alejandra Gutierrez and Eric Friedman in support, and Mike Jordan and Oscar Gutierrez in favor of the restaurant keeping the parklet.
The restaurants that lost their appeals to keep their parklets were Ca’Dario, 37 E. Victoria St.; Taza, 413 State St.; Courthouse Tavern, 129 E. Anapamu St.; Folded Hills Winery, 1294 Coast Village Road; Foxtail Kitchen & Bar, 14 E. Cota St.; and Trattoria Vittoria.
The owners must now remove their parklets. They can reapply for new parklets.
The votes were unanimous to deny the appeals except for Vittoria and Taza. Gutierrez supported Taza’s effort to keep the parklet.
Nick Koonce, who uses a motorized vehicle, scolded the council for choosing restaurants over people with disabilities during the past several months.
“At every opportunity, you have chosen to put the financial interests of a few above the civil rights of many,” Koonce said. “These appeals should be the end of the line for those who have tried our patience for too long.”
Koonce said that one out of two people older than age 65 is disabled.
“Odds are every one of you will eventually experience disability at some point in your life,” Koonce said. “I sincerely hope that none of you ever have to fight as hard as I do every day for equal access.”