Santa Barbara’s three-member ordinance committee on Tuesday approved a news rack ordinance that requires registration, new fees and closer management of the racks on the street.
The vote was 2-1, with ordinance committee chairman Randy Rowse voting no, saying “I am going to say no to stir the pot.”
The proposal to regulate news racks will now go the full City Council for a vote in August.
The new ordinance calls for existing rack owners to pay a $13 annual fee. If the publication is placing their product inside a city-owned rack, the fee would be $18.
All new racks — for a publication looking to start distribution in the area — would cost $236. The city will also require the rack owners to provide regular maintenance of the racks, including painting them a shade of dark green that is uniform throughout the city.
Assistant Public Works Director Pat Kelley said he has 22 years of news rack experience and that “something has to be done.”
He said the publications aren’t really taking good care of the racks.
About 10 different owners have about 600 racks across the city. The new racks will have registration stickers on them with contact information for the owners.
Santa Barbara Independent publisher Joe Cole asked for the meeting to be postponed because he was out of town, but the panel, at the urging of city staff, opted to move forward.
Rowse, owner of the Paradise Cafe, said that he buys advertising in print newspapers and he worries that the ordinance might be putting strain on the industry.
“This seems to be a diminishing industry and I don’t want to crush the life out of what’s remaining,” Rowse said.
Scott Kaufman, circulation director for the Santa Barbara Independent, also attempted to get the meeting postponed to allow Cole to be present, but also said that “we do see the need for this.”
Committee member Cathy Murillo said she wanted to delay the vote to allow Cole to be there, but in the end opted to move forward on Tuesday.
She said the city owed it to the news media to allow them to participate. She also expressed concerns about the $236 new rack fees, particularly Spanish-language newspapers.
“The increase in fees will challenge brand new publications that are trying to get into the market,” she said.
If the ordinance is passed, would publishers would have 90 days to register their racks. If they own more than 30 news racks they would have until July 1, 2016.
Ordinance committee member Frank Hotchkiss said the ordinance is good for the industry.
“I don’t think this is going to make or break any newspaper,” Hotchkiss said.
“If it does, they are in much worse shape than they would ever admit to. This is the city giving them the very best opportunity to sell their newspaper.”