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.

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