Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cut First Ask Questions Later

My story on the McCaw by Any Other Name eucalyptus trees, torn asunder in the hundreds by those that should and do know much better, is being contested for import by action the City of Santa Barbara failed to take regarding trees along Salsipuedes Street. Although not as great in number, this is a story of perhaps hubris and arrogance on the part of the applicant; and, indecision and lack of attention on the part of the City.

The Players: Las Vegas developer Hank Hurst bought the Villa Flores Apartments at 601 East Anapamu from the Koonce Family last year for a cool $18 million in an offer they couldn't refuse. With the help of Bermant Development Company (BDC) and landscape architect Katie O'Reilly Rogers (widow of former Supervisor Tom Rogers), I have been told that virtually every interior tree has been removed and it is unclear just how many have been clear cut.

The Rub: Hurst and BDC never received final ABR approval for their landscape plans before they began the demolition of a large section of sandstone wall, the appropriation of an historic hitching post, building an unpermitted wall around the swimming pool at this complex and leaving dangerous pathways for many of the elderly who live here as their only route to their apartment during their preparation for what must be million dollar condos down the line.

With the City Historian standing in front of O'Reilly Rogers' bulldozer with a stop work order, the project went back to the Architectural Board of Review (ABR). I am told that at the ABR, O'Reilly Rogers and Bermant's team failed to mention the trees were cut or any work had already been done in the hearing. City planners sat without comment, leaving neighbors to produce photos of the actual conditions. At the second hearing, they called their unpermitted work a "Miscommunication with the
Gardner". Wow. The gardener has a lot of say -- I guess it's a lot easier to blame it on the hired help (a crew of ten) than to take responsibility.

The Tragedy: The people that live in these 50-year old apartments (99-units) tend to be elderly and it is reported that rents have been raised -- forcing many former residents to leave. New rents here list for $1,400 to $1,900 for a 600-square foot residence with no a/c, pool, parking and dirt sidewalks which I have heard are called "goat paths".

Are applicants treated differently based on who they are rather than what they are proposing? The sad thing is that BDC and O'Reilly Rogers know that they can get away with cutting first and asking questions later. Interesting that O'Reilly Rogers cut her teeth on the St. Francis project where they recently also removed trees sans permit. This is shameful behavior by the
rich and powerful that are imagining their multi-million dollar condos a few years down the line; by the City, for not recognizing this and not making them pay for their arrogance; and, the local press for not covering this like they should --- likely because of who is involved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

you mean these people are removing trees from their properties?

9/08/2007 2:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes and these people are subject to laws. Democracy. Ain't it cool?

9/08/2007 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katie O'Reilly Rogers' bulldozer?

Come on, people. Is this the kind of thing we want to be wasting space and brain cells on?

It's more of Cheri Rae's Kool Aid. Please stop drinking it.

For those of you that think she "tells it like it is" can any of you (or Cheri herself) tell us what her vision of the future is for Santa Barbara and the south coast?

9/09/2007 9:25 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

9:25 AM -- let's be careful here. Cheri is a concerned citizen of many who are concerned about this project....the Kool Aid reference isn't appropriate either as I did my own research on the matter.

9/09/2007 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city planning and zoning people have been so subtly corrupted by the developer powers that be that none of this arrogant special treatment should come as a surprise to anyone.

This is the same department that allowed the creek set back to be breached a while back for a city employee until the neighbors complained. This is the department that granted an inappropriate modification for Helene Schneider. Next???

It is this sort of ongoing city betrayal of the neighborhoods that is going down so badly with this council. It should not be the neighbors job to keep track of all of this.

It is the city's duty to ensure the zoning laws are being followed. Instead we have to protect ourselves from the city own self-generated abuses of our laws. Something is very wrong here.

Why have a zoning code if it constantly gets "modified" by anyone who wants what they want and the city only wakes up if a neighbor finally complains. Otherwise the city just tosses out the zoning codes. That is corruption of the worst kind.

No wonder everyone is cynical about Plan 2030 - a tarted up farce to "listen" to create new rules which the city will then proceed to also ignore and hope the exercise puts everyone to sleep again for a while.

Sure hope there is a clean sweep in the next city council election and we get some people who know and like the rules that are already inplace rather than run rough shod over them and rake in the developer dollars.

Save our city - elect some council people who know how to say NO!

9/09/2007 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note Craig McCaw's recent similar violation next door to Bacara in the County. Any penalties anywhere? One law for the rich, another for us.

9/09/2007 8:35 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

"Are applicants treated differently based on who they are rather than what they are proposing?"

Are you kidding!?

It's ALL about WHO you are in this city. Which is exactly why Marty and her regime is such an easy target for the News-Press.

9/09/2007 9:28 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

anon 819pm: you throw around alot of accusations but of course you don't name any names... oftentimes zoning violations are not noticed until a citizen makes a written complaint. I can tell you firsthand that the folks in the planning department are hawks when it comes to sniffing out violations and they love to nail violators to the wall. It has nothing to do with "who you are" in this town. You conspiracy theorists need to get over yourselves. If there were violations of the code with the unpermitted removal of some trees, those people will be forced to abate the violation or otherwise pay some hefty fines. Don't jump the gun. The city never moves at 100 miles an hour, it's all very slow.

9/10/2007 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time to make the zoning enforcement department a self-sustaining enterprise. They get paid by the fines they charge. That might get them to move that pile a little faster and finally clean up this town.

9/10/2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...


Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,deep breath,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,deep breath.

O.K. I'm done. So....are you really serious?

9/10/2007 10:55 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Isn't that rather libertarian of 6:45 pm bill?

I guess I'm picking on you a bit tonight but why wouldn't 6:45's suggestion work?

9/11/2007 12:18 AM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

Bill, I am serious! What's so funny about a guy who works closely with that department making a statement about how he sees it? I certainly think I may have a better handle on it than you, unless "Bill Carson" is a pseudonym for one of our building inspectors or plan checkers. Go ahead and pick my brain if you like; consider me your veritable "man on the inside." But don't make blanket statements about city staff whom you have never met yet you blindly denigrate with your accustaions of greased up backroom handshakes. It doesn't work that way, believe me.

9/11/2007 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mcconfrontation: how do you explain the city staff members allowing misrepresentations to occur and sitting there without giving the ABR the courtesy of the truth, and forcing the public to represent the reality on the ground? That's not an accusation, that's exactly what happened on August 13 in the David Gebhard room.

9/11/2007 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mcconfrontation: check that last date: it was July 24; August 13 was bad, just not as bad.

9/11/2007 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many of us have been on the wrong end of Planning and Zoning department actions, or non-actions. It is a department sorely in need of a customer satisfaction audit. Let's do it.

9/11/2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

City staff allowing misrepresentations to occur? During the ABR meeting? What exactly do you mean? Allowing the developers/contractors to misrepresent the reality on the ground? If they cut down the trees without permit they will likely be fined, since they can't abate the violation (re-plant the trees). This is the reason the city has these meetings, for transparency. It sounds to me like this ABR meeting served its purpose in that grievances were aired, the truth about the trees was learned, and code enforcement will follow upon inspection.

Look I don't work over there, but I am near there. I don't disagree with anon1026 in that some kind of audit is in order. I've heard people complaining of bad CS by city staff, and I've seen it at City Hall where you pay your water bill. I wonder when the last time some kind of audit was enacted. Maybe now is the time to do it (again).

9/12/2007 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are the kind of people who think it's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission--but then they do neither. Take a look at what also happened at the Wine Cask. Too many developers are doing whatever they want with a great sense of entitlement, and no consequences.

9/15/2007 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I walk by the building from time to time and have seen it for many years. It actually looks better than it ever did. Much cleaner...... I'm glad people still maintain there properties these days. Finally it looks like you have an owner who cares and wants to maintain his/her property.

9/22/2007 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original post "cut first ask questions later", was very misleading. Specifically, the comment "I have been told virtually every interior tree has been removed and it is unclear just how many have been clear cut" was just factually wrong. I do read your posts, and hopefully they are not all this uninformed.

If every tree were cut, I would 100% agree with the post, but you should really do some homework on your posts before making such a comment.

Here's the Rub: Walk by the property. Decide for yourself before you take the post literally. It looks great. Not only that, the owners are making it look much better. The owners are taking care of years and years of defferred issues.

10/29/2007 1:33 PM  

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