Goleta’s general plan crawls along

“It’s only for a year” was a mantra heard repeatedly in the Goleta City Council‘s discussion of interim general plan policies on Monday night. While the city’s first general plan is not likely to be completed for two to three years, the council provided staff with specific direction on the draft and is likely to approve an interim plan on Mar. 1.

A diverse group from the community offered their input. In fact, just about every developer in town opined on the plan, as did representatives from the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, the League of Women Voters, South Coast Livable Communities, Goleta Valley Beautiful, Goleta Housing Leadership Council, and predictably, community members who have commercial and residential projects in the pipeline.

In the interest of fairness to projects in development — some of which have gone through several years of review — the council decided to exclude them from the new rules and to use Monday’s date, Jan. 26, as the cutoff for projects designated as “in the pipeline.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to change rules in the middle of the game,” said Councilwoman Jonny Wallis, in a position echoed by her colleagues.

The objectives of the interim general plan policies — which are scheduled to go back to the council for final review and public comment on Mar. 1 — are twofold. “We are trying to craft a set of appropriate rules that communicate our expectations to the applicants at the door,” said councilman Jack Hawxhurst. “We are also trying not to take up too much staff time.”

Insufficient staff has been a problem that has plagued the city since its incorporation and, according to Assistant City Manager Luci Romero Serlet; Goleta is still having problems recruiting qualified employees. Regarding staffing the planning department, where applicants have faced significant delays, “Not all of the people that are qualified to be planners find this kind of assignment something they want to get into,” said Serlet. “And contracting isn’t always a suitable option.”

Inadequate staffing was one of the reasons given for the moratorium on approvals of certain development proposals. The moratorium was one of the first actions taken by the council when the city incorporated in February 2002. However, on Monday the council voted unanimously to let the moratorium expire on Feb. 13. “We have accomplished a great deal with this moratorium and it’s time to move on,” said Mayor Cynthia Brock.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 29, 2004.

Moratorium goes, plan proceeds

“It’s only for a year” was a mantra heard repeatedly in the Goleta City Council’s discussion of interim general plan policies on Monday night. While the city’s first general plan is not likely to be completed for two to three years, the council provided staff with specific direction on the draft and is likely to approve an interim plan on Mar. 1.

A diverse group from the community offered their input. In fact, just about every developer in town opined on the plan, as did representatives from the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, the League of Women Voters, South Coast Livable Communities, Goleta Valley Beautiful, Goleta Housing Leadership Council, and predictably, community members who have commercial and residential projects in the pipeline.

In the interest of fairness to projects in development — some of which have gone through several years of review — the council decided to exclude them from the new rules and to use Monday’s date, Jan. 26, as the cutoff for projects designated as “in the pipeline.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to change rules in the middle of the game,” said Councilwoman Jonny Wallis.

The objectives of the interim general plan policies — which are scheduled to go back to the council for final review and public comment on Mar. 1 — are twofold. “We are trying to craft a set of appropriate rules that communicate our expectations to the applicants at the door,” said councilman Jack Hawxhurst. “We are also trying not to take up too much staff time.”

Insufficient staff has been a problem that has plagued the city since its incorporation and, according to Assistant City Manager Luci Romero Serlet, Goleta is still having problems recruiting qualified employees. Regarding staffing the planning department, where applicants have faced significant delays, “Not all of the people that are qualified to be planners find this kind of assignment something they want to get into,” said Serlet. “And contracting isn’t always a suitable option.”

Inadequate staffing was one of the reasons given for the moratorium on approvals of certain development proposals. The moratorium was one of the first actions taken by the council when the city incorporated in February 2002. However, on Monday the council voted unanimously to let the moratorium expire on Feb. 13. “We have accomplished a great deal with this moratorium and it’s time to move on,” said Mayor Cynthia Brock.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 29, 2004.

Screen Shots

Santa Barbara’s spot in the film festival food chain.

Local film geeks are salivating for this year’s film festival, but what about the industry crowd? Exactly what kind of Hollywood buzz is the Santa Barbara International Film Festival generating?

“I think it’s definitely coming into its own,” said producer/manager Andy Cohen, who has been involved in more than 40 films. “Since it’s in Hollywood’s back yard, it feels like a great place to have a film festival. Plus, half of Hollywood lives in Santa Barbara anyway.”

“For people in L.A. it is a must-attend film festival,” said Kim Adelman, who has produced 19 short films that have played at more than 150 film festivals. “At Sundance, people always complain they never get to eat because they’re always rushing from one thing to another. At Santa Barbara you have time to enjoy yourself. … You’re not having to ‘work’ the festival so much … it’s more of an enjoyable experience. Networking happens casually as opposed to maniacally.”

She is a big fan of Santa Barbara.

“These people really love films; it’s not just business for them,” said Adelman, whose book “The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films” will come out in February. “When one of our filmmakers checked in for the film ’78, they said, ‘Oh I love your film’ and quoted some lines back. Totally made his day.”

In terms of ranking Santa Barbara against other film festivals, Adelman labeled it “very respectable,” similar in stature to the Chicago Film Festival.

“In the U.S. there are what I consider to be three different tiers of film festivals,” said Thomas Ethan Harris, founder of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and a film consultant who guided “The Blair Witch Project” along the festival circuit. The top group includes festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Seattle, Telluride and the New York Film Festival.

Top-tier festivals offer exposure for the filmmakers in three different areas. First, they offer the business community. Second, they offer quotable press for the filmmakers.

“The third thing they offer are fantastic public audiences, which are very, very important to actually move a film forward,” Harris said.

The next tier, the community festival circuit, is where Harris puts Santa Barbara.

“I rank it fairly high,” he said, noting it offers very, very good public audiences. “They offer not really quotable press, but regional press … They offer some business community. Santa Barbara does better than most because of where it’s positioned near L.A.”

In general, festivals are on the decline, Harris said. “Financing is drying up. Interest from the business community is drying up. The press has less interest. The one thing that seems to be on the rise … are festivals that take place in a resort town. If the business community (interest) is waning, at least you can get them to come to a beautiful place.”

The film industry itself is seeing a rise of really smart film festivals, of which Santa Barbara is one, Harris said.

“In my eyes, for many years Santa Barbara really tried to look like a mini Sundance. …If it continues to etch out its own personality (in terms of what kind of films it screens), it’s actually in the perfect part of the calendar year with hotels and shops and wonderful restaurants,” Harris said.

“The community film festivals that are going to survive are ones that have a niche and have a really nice atmosphere to offer.”

“These people really love films; it’s not just business for them,” said Adelman, whose book “The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films” will come out in February. “When one of our filmmakers checked in for the film ’78, they said, ‘Oh I love your film’ and quoted some lines back. Totally made his day.”

In terms of ranking Santa Barbara against other film festivals, Adelman labeled it “very respectable,” similar in stature to the Chicago Film Festival.

“In the U.S. there are what I consider to be three different tiers of film festivals,” said Thomas Ethan Harris, founder of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and a film consultant who guided The Blair Witch Project along the festival circuit. The top group includes festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Seattle, Telluride and the New York Film Festival.

Top-tier festivals offer exposure for the filmmakers in three different areas. First, they offer the business community. Second, they offer quotable press for the filmmaker, said Harris.

“The third thing they offer are fantastic public audiences, which are very, very important to actually move a film forward,” Harris said.

The next tier, the community festival circuit, is where Harris puts Santa Barbara.

“I rank it fairly high,” he said, noting it offers very, very good public audiences. “They offer not really quotable press, but regional press … They offer some business community. Santa Barbara does better than most because of where it’s positioned near L.A.”

In general, festivals are on the decline, Harris said. “Financing is drying up. Interest from the business community is drying up. The press has less interest. The one thing that seems to be on the rise … are festivals that take place in a resort town. If the business community (interest) is waning, at least you can get them to come to a beautiful place.”

The film industry itself is seeing a rise of really smart film festivals, of which Santa Barbara is one, Harris said.

“In my eyes, for many years Santa Barbara really tried to look like a mini Sundance. …If it continues to etch out its own personality (in terms of what kind of films it screens), it’s actually in the perfect part of the calendar year with hotels and shops and wonderful restaurants,” Harris said.

“The community film festivals that are going to survive are ones that have a niche and have a really nice atmosphere to offer.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 29, 2004.

Habitat gets land for condos

Building momentum for its first “ground-up” project in Santa Barbara, Habitat for Humanity has secured federal funding to purchase property near La Cumbre Road and will soon break ground on three, three-bedroom condominiums.

“With these funds we have achieved 75 percent of our fund-raising goal,” Habitat Executive Director Joyce McCullough said in accepting a $240,000 loan of HOME Program funds to buy the property from the city.

While the Housing Authority frequently works with nonprofit groups to develop rental housing for low-income people, the Habitat venture at 3965 Via Lucero is a very rare opportunity to be able to provide very low-income people with ownership opportunities, said Simon Kiefer, project planner for the city.

One of the principal concepts of a Habitat project is “sweat equity.” Homeowner families must contribute 500 hours of work toward building their home. They also must have a total family income between 30 percent and 50 percent of the area median income (estimated to be $30,000 per year for a family of four here). In addition, “We will look for families who currently have inadequate living conditions,” said McCullough.

The founding members of Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County — Bill Graves, Sarah Rettinger and Ben Ewart — knew it would be difficult to select a site in Santa Barbara and start building from scratch as a first project, said McCullough. Instead, some of their initial projects were remodeling the warehouse for Surgical Eye Expeditions; building a handicapped-access bathroom for Irene Dorado, who has multiple sclerosis; rehabilitation of Laguna Cottages for seniors; repairing the home of Bob and Mary Gilbert; and conversion of the Banana Bungalow Youth Hostel into a temporary homeless shelter.

Kiefer estimated that escrow on the Via Lucero property would close by the end of February. Groundbreaking will be soon afterward. Architect Vadim Hsu is just about ready to go to the Planning Commission for approvals, said McCullough.

“It should all dovetail nicely,” she said.

People can get involved right away by sending money or helping to coordinate community meetings for potential homeowner applicants.

“We’ll have building opportunities available once the site preparation is completed,” said McCullough, who can be reached at 692.2226.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 22, 2004.

City updates neighborhood guidelines

In July the Santa Barbara City Council debated whether to update neighborhood preservation guidelines. On Tuesday — in a striking example of the difference three new faces on the City Council have made — the question was how.

Individuals, as well as representatives from neighborhood associations, the League of Women Voters and the Citizens Planning Association all spoke in favor of going forward with the update.

“Good planning is fostered by comprehensive planning. With the major changes going on in the city, the push for affordable housing, the update of the Housing Element, the Demolition Ordinance, etc., it’s extremely important that the NPO be properly updated at this time,” said Naomi Kovacs, CPA’s executive director. “It’s one of the principle ordinances, if not the most important one, affecting our single family neighborhoods.”

The most debated point in the NPO proposal was the steering committee. Staff recommended a team of representatives from the City Council and related commissions, however the public disagreed. “We believe that some neighborhood representation is better than none,” said Sylvia Glass of the Grove Lane Neighborhood Association.

“An NPO ordinance committee without public representation from the neighborhoods would be perceived as a slap in the face to the neighborhoods,” agreed Councilman Das Williams.

In a rare disagreement with staff proposal, the City Council voted unanimously to expand the steering committee to include two representatives from the Allied Neighborhood Association. They will join Council Members Brian Barnwell and Helene Schneider in leading the NPO update, along with representatives from the Architectural Board of Review, Historic Landmarks Commission and Planning Commission.

In addition, the council unanimously approved a $35,000 consulting contract with RRM Design Group and an additional $10,000 in related expenses (reduced from the original $85,000 proposal). The work will start with a series of neighborhood “visual survey” workshops to determine the dominant aesthetic and size of the majority of homes in each neighborhood.

“There are times when the use of a consultant is the most economic and efficient way to proceed. It is the financially sound decision to make,” said Councilman Roger Horton in approving the expenditure.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 15, 2004.

Veterans voice frustration over shift to Santa Maria

We’re all familiar with the inconvenient HMO requirement to consult with a primary physician before seeing a specialist, but what would you do if that specialist was 70 miles away in Santa Maria?

Scream? Rant? Cry?

That’s precisely the reaction of the more than 150 veterans who gathered Friday to voice their concerns about the Veterans’ Administration plan to shift the majority of its services to a clinic being built in the North County.

“What kind of a message are we sending to our 160,000 troops that are serving in Iraq? … The fact is that you have made a promise to our generation. Keep it,” said Vietnam veteran Bob Lewis.

Its leaky roof and inadequate facilities aside, the VA clinic at 4440 Calle Real received kudos from veterans who expressed concern that a clinic in Santa Maria would compromise their care.

“The clinic has done so much to help people,” said Bert Brounstein, a disabled Vietnam veteran who underwent 18 operations in other VA facilities he compared to prisons, before coming to Santa Barbara specifically for the high quality of care.

For approximately 10 years, $6 million in federal funds have been allocated for facility improvements in Santa Barbara. However, VA administrator Charles Dorman said the agency has not been able to find a suitable site, despite working with Moreland Corp. for the last decade.

There was talk of using part of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital for the VA, but it never seemed to go anywhere, said Cottage Health System spokeswoman Janet O’Neill. (Goleta Valley hospital vice president) Diane Wisby sent a letter to the VA in October to discuss the hospital’s willingness to discuss options, said O’Neill.

“We were interested and we’re certainly still interested,” she said.

Some veterans expressed interest in fund raising to try to keep the VA services here, notably Larry Crandell, who has helped raise millions of dollars for local causes.

“If it’s just a matter of money, give us a chance to raise some money so I don’t have to go 70 miles to get services,” said Crandell.

The choice of Santa Maria over Santa Barbara is a monetary decision, said Dorman, who urged disgruntled veterans to contact their elected representatives.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 14, 2004.

Cheap Thrills

We may scrimp to live here, but it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our rich lifestyles. From free concerts in the park to meal deals to wine buys to thrift shop clothing specials, Leslie Dinaberg can help you live well, beyond your means. FREE!

 

Cheap Thrills By Leslie Dinaberg, South Coast Beacon

I knew it was going to be a good day when the woman in front of me in line at the new Starbucks in the Fairview Center Vons (175 N. Fairview Ave) said she had a 2-for-1 coupon and wanted to treat me to coffee. It’s good karma to start your day with a random act of kindness from a stranger, particularly when your assignment is to drive from Gaviota to Carpinteria to see what you can get for free.

Free latte in hand, off I went on Highway 101 toward Gaviota. I gave some serious thought to picking up a hitchhiker I saw just past Winchester Canyon. After all, giving someone a free ride would certainly fit in well with my story. But screaming visions of headlines like “Journalist Gives Life in Quest for Story” got the best of me. Sorry, dude.

It’s a long drive. People who commute from the North County must really love their houses! I’ll take my “five minutes away from everything, cozy little rental” any day.

Finally, I pull into the Gaviota rest area. It’s too cold and windy to enjoy my favorite free newspaper (ahem … The South Coast Beacon) outside, so I check out the rest stop. Did you know that Gaviota is Spanish for seagull? Apparently in 1769, soldiers killed a gull here. I wonder if a similar thing happened in Mammoth?

I ask the janitor for some free advice about what there is to do around Gaviota. I think he gave me directions to Gaviota State Park, but it was really hard to understand his English.

I check out the rest stop restroom. It’s clean, with plenty of toilet paper and soap. I approve. Clean restrooms on the road are something I would willingly pay for if only I could guarantee them. I’ve often thought about writing a book about recommended restrooms along Route 66.

I fantasize telling Oprah about the inspiration behind my bestselling Restful Restrooms as I drive south to Gaviota State Park. It’s beautiful here, but parking is $8. The 12-year-old ranger tells me there’s free dirt parking above the campground and hands me a free trail map. “Trespass Trail” sounds tempting, until I look down at my shoes. Maybe another day.

Next stop Refugio State Beach, also $8 parking. “Is it legal to park on the road?” I ask another 12-year-old ranger. “As far as I know, they don’t give tickets,” he offers. The beach is beautiful. I could stay here all day if I didn’t have so much ground to cover.

On to El Capitan State Beach, where I spent many fun high school weekends. The 15-year-old ranger gives me a 15-minute courtesy pass; otherwise parking is $8. I check out the store. Just the camping basics: firewood, pork rinds and wine coolers. I pick up a free copy of “the RV travel magazine of the West,” and go check out the beach. It’s smaller than I remember, but still pretty, with much more of a rugged Northern California look than the Santa Barbara coast.

Eager to begin work on Restful Restrooms, I check out the loo. It’s gross. This is exactly what I hate about camping. The floors are wet, the mirrors are made of scratched-up tin and it’s super cold. I wouldn’t think of setting foot, let alone derrière, inside.

Next stop is Haskell’s Beach, right next to Bacara Resort & Spa (1801 Hollister Ranch Road). Despite all the complaints about access from Goletans, this was the easiest beach to get to, had plentiful free parking and by far the best bathrooms this side of Gaviota.

For old times sake, I stopped by the Plaza Shopping Center (7127 Hollister Ave.), where The Beacon used to be headquartered. At the Ellwood Post Office, my son usually gets free rubber stamps on his hands but all they had for me was a free moving guide and some priority mail envelopes. Near Mojo Coffee I picked up some free magazines, Vision: Catalyst for Conscious and Living, The New Spirit. Wow, has Goleta gone New Age since The Beacon moved downtown? On to Albertsons, where I got free samples of Lubriderm Lotion (with premium oat extract no less), Neosporin and a free wedding advice booklet from the deli.

I also noticed that the Laundry Basket offered a free dry with two washes. I thanked goodness — once again — that I have a washing machine. Most of the big fights in my marriage have involved the laundromat.

With my stomach starting to grumble, it’s on to Costco (7095 Marketplace Drive) for what my dad likes to call “the cheapskate special.” You have to be a member to get in. Just for kicks, I pulled out my Blockbuster card. The attendant didn’t even blink as she waved me through.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? A 10-minute walk through the food section netted me free samples of Jennie-O-Turkey with tequila-lime marinade, chicken penne pasta Mexicana, a Tyson breaded chicken patty with Tony Roma barbecue sauce, frozen waffles, spinach and mozzarella tortellini, Chai tea, both green and regular, and crackers with jam.

If you bring a date you can hang out in front of the big screen TVs for dinner and a movie. Just don’t expect to ever need that Albertsons wedding advice booklet.

Still feeling thirsty I walked across the parking lot to Mika (7020 Marketplace Drive) for a free sample of the tea of the day. For the same price (zero), the Jasmine Exquisite Flower was a vast improvement over the Costco Chai.

Feeling kind of Zen-like after all that tea, I toyed with getting a free initial consultation from Restoration (7398 Calle Real), which bills itself as “natural alternative health care” and specializes in colonics, body detoxification, system and organ cleansing, weight loss and total health restoration by Dr. Gerry Thompson, N.D. Not knowing what “N.D.” stands for (Not a real Doctor?), I decided to pass.

I swung by the Goleta Public Library (500 N. Fairview Ave.) to see if it had Sue Grafton’s new book, R is for Ricochet. It was there all right, but with 285 names ahead of me on the “hold” list, she’ll be up to Z is for Zealot by the time they get to me. Instead I picked up a few Walter Mosley mysteries (Black Betty, Blue Light) and wondered if if he’d run out of colors before Sue ran out of letters.

Knowing I still had a long journey ahead, I inflated my tires with free air from Fairview Shell Auto Center (55 N. Fairview Ave.) then had my glasses adjusted for free at Goleta Valley Optical (5124 Hollister Ave.).

I had more ground to cover at La Cumbre Plaza. Seven minutes later I sampled lipsticks at the Lancôme counter at Robinsons-May (3805 State St.) and contemplated a free makeover. Weighing my afternoon options, I decided to pass on the makeup and instead stopped by See’s Candy (a girl’s got to set priorities) for a free sample of a milk chocolate Bordeaux. Then I was on to McDonald’s (3940 State St.) for a free pixie-sized kid ice cream cone. Ooof, any more free food and I’ll have to go back to “Not a real Doctor” for colonic consult.

Back on the 101 South. Why is it that almost any time of day, there’s still a slowdown where the traffic lights used to be, even though Caltrans removed them in 1991 — making it a free freeway. By the time I got to Summerland I was ready to stop at The Nugget (2318 Lillie Ave.) for Restful Restrooms research purposes, and of course, the free popcorn.

Next it’s on to Carpinteria State Park. The 100-year-old ranger counsels me to avoid the $8 parking fee by going to nearby two-hour free street parking on Linden Avenue. I stroll along the beach for a while. It’s afternoon by now, and decidedly more crowded than my earlier excursions north of Goleta.

More free advice: a woman says there’s a Farmer’s Market “downtown” that afternoon, so I go on over to get delicious, free samples of strawberries, peaches, avocados and that small town Carp flavor.

There’ also the Coffee Grinder (910 Linden Ave.) where they had free wireless Internet access. Since I was laptopless that day, I passed.

Next stop was the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History (956 Maple Ave.) a terrific free museum where kids of all ages can actually get up close to, or even touch, most of the exhibits, including playing a player piano.

On the way back to the office I stopped by Metro Comics (6 W. Anapamu St.), where it wasn’t free comic book day anymore, but there still were leftover Archie’s to give away. Later that night I astounded my son with my knowledge of the ins and outs of Riverdale High, while enjoying the background jazz of the Lao Tizer Band, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department’s free concerts at Chase Palm Park. Of course, I used my annual waterfront parking permit (a bargain for any regular beachgoer at $60 a year) and saved the $3 parking fee.

Tired from my long day of penny-pinching, I handed the reporter’s notebook and pen I stole from my office to an energetic intern, Micah Barber, who planned to explore the South Coast’s free nightlife.

If I could actually do this free thing every day, maybe I could save up enough money for a down payment on a one-bedroom shack in Goleta — by 2050.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon