Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Monday, February 25, 2008

What about De la Guerra Plaza?

Over the weekend, there was a somewhat heated discussion started by Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega -- which at one point caused me to not publish a comment for name calling. Let's keep a more civil conversation going with a couple points: is it right for the News-Press to use their editorials as a bully pulpit? or is there an inherent conflict that has more to do than with history? Does money to remodel the Plaza keep funds away from fighting crime and how might the two priorities be related? Here's how Uncle Don started it all:

Good morning. I was at the Plaza de la Guerra discussion before the Planning Commission. I was the second public speaker out of the chute. You can watch it on City TV by going to the Planning Commission part of the City website.

Basically, (and I hope we can discuss the value of the restoration plan for the Plaza), after many years of discussion, 84 years to be exact, we have finally come to the moment when perhaps we might complete what was left unfinished Plaza project in 1924.

The Plaza has become a creeping parking lot and as one planning commissioner put it, "a Plaza has become an alley". The Plaza is in bad shape. SUVs and traffic have made the Spanish Plaza disappear under double rows of parking and thereby taken away one of the sacred spots of Santa Barbara.

For the last few weeks the Newsupress has been running a series of letters on closing State Street and editorials entitled by such yellow journalism (It's a good thing Travis and Wendy don't want to start a war with Cuba!) headlines as "Rallying to save De la Guerra" or "Tearing out the Heart of Santa Barbara," "Ruining Santa Barbara History.." and other such apparent falsehoods. Today Travis has gone the next step and declared "off with your head" to a Planning Commissioner who is sympathetic to the restoration and invented a scandal to go along with it. He's like Robespierre, shouting "off with their heads" and sending them to the Guillotine.

At the meeting following me at the lecturn, was big bad Barry, the hammer, lawyer extraordinaire, who, all the while dressed in natty pinstripes (no taste these lawyers), came up to the public podium and threatened the Planning Commissioners and anyone who dared think of this Plaza restoration as a good idea. With a dash of hutzbah, he also demanded extra time at the podium. He clearly thought of himself as more important than any of us mere civilians. What a guy! I felt like I was in Rennaissance Italy with the representive of the Malatesta family.

So what's the problem? It's clear the Newsuppress wants its parking places on the Plaza in front of their building but they don't own them, they're part of the Plaza.

It escapes me what the business problem is for them, since the Newssuppress has a large parking lot next to the Plaza, and people would only have to walk an extra ten feet to do their business with the Newspress.

Meanwhile, paranoid and out of his mind Travis, has written in ink in his paper, that this restoration project is all a plot to punish the Newsupress by a cabal of city insiders.
It's crazy folks.

Now I worked on this restoration of the Plaza for a long time and know a lot about it. (If you want, we can discuss the plan). I practically lived on the Plaza for thirteen years. And I want to tell you when Charles Storke had the Newspress, he was for the Plaza restoration. When the New York Times owned the Newspress, they were for the restoration, and even helped out in many ways.

Now times are different, Wendy is here. She sends the nasty lawyer to speak her thoughts at a community discussion. And her editorial writer, sets up a false campaign to link closing State Street with the Plaza restoration, writes poisonous and false information editorials, and calls for the head of a planning commissioner who dares to think otherwise than what Travis and Wendy want.

Needlesstosay: Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga is very upset.


Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga said...

Thank you niece Sara for restarting and putting into focus a further discussion on Plaza de la Guerra. I appreciate it.

I only seek a civil discours on this issue which I consider a vital one for the community. I would be happy to discuss elements of Mr. Campbell's plan, or any elements in the history of the Plaza. I believe my position represents a legitimate section of the community.

So thanks again Sara, and let the conversation begin.

Don Jose who gave the Plaza to the community in 1853.

2/25/2008 6:26 AM  
Anonymous Throw the bums out said...

Let's get real. The plaza and downtown long ago stopped being the heart of the city. The bums have taken over downtown and no local people even want to go down there.

There are so many important projects in this town the city has neglected for decades, this little hissy fit they are throwing at the NewsPress via the parking shutdown on Dela Guerra Plaza is disgusting.

Don't spend another dime on downtown until you clean up the vagrants first. Bring back the "Hosts" tourist patrols before you lose downtown to the tourists too, who are increasingly appalled at the assaults on them by this growing army of bums.

Old people refuse to even think about coming down town because of the aggressive, predatory stalking and begging reserved for just them.

Get out of your offices city council and walk up and down State Street at least once a day and then get back to me about creating another bum magnet downtown.

2/25/2008 7:20 AM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

For every complaint about bums and vagrants downtown, additional suggestions should be added for what LEGALLY can be done to get rid of them.

Complaining about the problem is easy, offering feasible and legal solutions is harder.

What is it going to be?

2/25/2008 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

I take it Mr. "Throw the bums out said" that you feel that a Plaza restoration would worsen the plague of undesirable people you abhor.

I feel the contrary. It seems to me that the individuals hang out where bushes, parked cars, and neglected infrastructure dominates. Some of the local homeless are not the people you imagine. I remember getting to know some of them on the Plaza and inviting them to come and play chess on the benches in front of the Casa. I laid down rules. They are part of the community too.
I gave respect. They gave respect.
It was a bit like setting up a "neighborhood watch" program. I looked out for them. They looked out for the Casa. Some of the people who have elected to have a homeless lifestyle are really quite intelligent and have interesting stories. And what better place to tell them, then on the Plaza where the POLIS is supposed to talk. Perhaps you remember a man called Diogenes who hung out on the Athenian Plaza! Or how about those cynics!

The real problems are vagrant newcomers and people deranged from drugs or mental problems. I believe your idea for the old "Host" program is a good one. Perhaps also the bike patrol of police officers. The presence of happy, conversing citizens, will dominate everytime, if you ask me.

Can a restored and beautified area become a magnet for the unwanted?
Or will a restored and beautified area be a magnet for the civilized?
I am betting that civilization beats barbarism every time. What kind of a world are you proposing there "Mr Throw the bums out."

2/25/2008 9:19 AM  
Anonymous xyz said...

Several planning commissioners urged that little or nothing be done without the NewsPress and the City working together on an area that abuts and benefits both.

It's about time to get over the hatred of the N-P, not to argue to go in the other, supportive direction, but simply not be reactive to everything that its editorial writer writes. (That said, it's a sorry thing for a local paper - see today's front page with nothing about the large waves yesterday and their effects....)

The PC as a whole was not supportive of this elaborate plan at the concept hearing. With all the needs in this city how can anyone seriously think that spending money on beautifying the plaza is a good thing, especially when one of the major abutters and apparently other property owners nearby oppose the project!?

I didn't see the public comment section so I don't know who DJdlG is, but I'll rewatch. ...Again, just because the NP is against or for a project means nothing more than that. I have not read their editorial screeches but it sounds as though from what you write as though they are right on at this time.

2/25/2008 9:37 AM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...

The Plaza Project has some good points, however a good point has been raised in terms of the fiscal timing in the previous thread. When we all know that a budget mess is coming, wouldnt it be more prudent to shelve this type of item until the looming fiscal crisis is averted? And not just this project but probably many others. We have approached the time where its not what the city wants but what we actually need that should take priority.

When city hall needs to be making tough choices shouldnt they (and all of us) be looking at what we absolutely need rather than what would be nice? That would be the type of political courage the council owes. It goes beyond the newspress mess and blue lines and all of the other distractions that seem to cloud local politics.

While its fun to argue over this stuff the current climate seems to be calling for real leadership and neither the News Press or City Council seems to realize that.

2/25/2008 10:10 AM  
Blogger Greg Knowles said...

I like the idea of the "Hosts". I did not know they had gone away. I also like the idea of revitalizing the downtown area, including the plaza. If the Newspress has to make some concessions that is just how it is.

2/25/2008 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Old Person Who Likes Downtown said...

No local or old people ever go downtown any more.

Really? Please elaborate.

Reinstating the tourists Hosts is a good program, though. It was formerly paid from the police budget, which naturally is now funds redirected elsewhere until every at-risk youth never ever thinks of grabbing a knife.

2/25/2008 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Spitfire Squid said...

The panhandlers don't bother me as much as paying for parking to access places like the library, museum and courthouse. Civic leaders seem too focused on attracting tourist dollars. I may live in Santa Barbara but I'm spending more of my time and money in Goleta.

2/25/2008 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

I would like to make a comment about fiscal restraints. I think these comments, noting the necessity of wise budgeting, are worthy considerations.

Please keep in mind that we are discussing Redevelopment Agency funds and these funds have very tight restrictions on their use. They are not a slush fund for the Council. They are tied to a map that is associated with the bonds that were emitted.

Redevelopment money is used in various ways, and in theory, the use of these funds should come back to assist the city through an increase in the tax increment that the improvements in the area would engender throughout this bonded area of the City.

These funds have been used most often to build parking structures downtown (recently you might think of the huge expense of the Granada Parking Lot!) and also in making the Granada Theater into a Performing Arts Center. There are other less expensive worthy projects (I think the downtown toilet facility next to Borders was at least partially funded by Redevelopment Funds). There is a history to the use of these funds. Some good stuff has happened.

Every year, there is a public budget process for the Redevelopment Agency where budget priorities are established. It's always an interesting experience participating in this process.

Where we are with the Plaza is that for years and years we have been trying to get this taken care of.
We are just now in the final stages of figuring out what to do exactly, how to define the project. This process is getting more and more concrete. But no vast sums of money are disappearing down a "Plaza Sinkhole." It's slow going and a slow process. It needs to be done right. The funds to implement the project cannot be allocated until we all agree on the scope of the project.

Most everyone agrees something must be done--even Travis and the Newspress. I am disappointed in the fact that all of you don't see how "Santa Barbara" this project is--and how our downtown identity is tied up with a properly functioning Plaza. I guess you either get it or you don't. Most preservationists get it.

With respect to the Newspress. As I said earlier, I don't understand their furious opposition. The parking places in front of their building do not belong to them.
They have a parking lot within feet of the Newspress building. I just don't see that this is going to have an adverse business impact on the Newspress.

To the contrary, I think removing parking in the loop will have a large positive effect on the restaurants on the West Side who would be able to open out onto the Plaza with their tables. That would certainly make me more likely to eat there. It will be nice and sunny.

The new diagonal parking to run along the new, one way De la Guerra Street (which direction to go with the one way,east or west, is one of the items in the present debate or call it a "tweak" that will be necessary),...finally this means that almost all businesses will have INCREASED parking next to their place of business. Ordinarily that should please Maine's Antiques and Rickard's building on the corner. The City has offered to open up some public spaces in their parking lot next to City Hall. So what's the "PARKING" problem?

There isn't one. And it's time we think more about the Pedestrian side of the equation anyway.

This project is not a large financing problem and parking is not a problem.

But please keep telling me your concerns or ideas.

2/25/2008 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Sammy said...

I agree, it would be great to bring back the hosts, and I also think De La Guerra Plaza needs some serious TLC...I'm a local, and I do go downtown!

2/25/2008 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Turf War said...

Beautify the parks on the East and Westside first,long before sinking money into DLG Plaza.

Should be easy, because there are so few of them over there. No wonder gangs hang out on State Street.

DLG Plaza should be the lowest priority until there are more fully functioning parks in both the East and Westsides.

2/25/2008 7:37 PM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...

Don Jose:

Thanks for your informative response in regards to the funding for this, I think part of my initial response is based more on my dismay of the city councils priorities and constant spending when it would seem we should be cutting back on spending and establishing real priorities. However I do agree with you that this would be a worthy project that stands a greater likelihood of increasing the downtown experience for everyone in the city. And I commend you for your obvious (as evidenced by your informative) willingness to get involved through giving your time to be involved and pay attention to the proccess.

It is also likely that by making the plaza more vibrant it would draw a greater portion of the population and might possibly drive out some of the more disreputable elements who frequent it these days (and I dont just mean travis)

I would ask if you had any thoughts if the recent downturn in municipal bonds due to the overall economic situation will have a effect on redevelopment funds for the next few years? Perhaps less grand projects than the Granada might be in order for the next few years.

2/25/2008 10:40 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Tax money is tax money. To suggest that it's okay to waste money on a DeLaGuerra Plaza re-do because it's only Redevelopment money is irresponsible. Redevelopment money should be spent to remove blight, which is where it was originally intended to be used. Perhaps djdlgyn should re-read the purpose of the R.A.

I'll refrain from name calling (sometimes I'm prompted to call a duck a duck), but allow me to reiterate my comment that to spend any tax dollars on DeLaGuerra Plaza, while we have other more important pressing issues, is a very bad idea.

2/25/2008 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Please Keep Up In Class said...

No one should comment here about finances until you know what the Redevelopment Agency is and how it is financed and for what and where it can spend the funds.

This is becoming as nonsensical as Fess Parker exchanging his "youth hostel" hotel requirements for cash donated to the city police.

2/25/2008 11:48 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Who can argue with a crazy Uncle?

I'm with DJ on this one. The plaza should be renewed as it is something shared by the whole community. As to the lost souls...

When you walk through the Garden,
Kinda watch your back
Well I beg your pardon
Walk the straight and narrow track
If you walk with Jesus,
He's gonna save your soul
You gotta keep the Devil
Way down in the hole

He got the fire and fury
At his command
Well you don't have to worry
If you hold on to Jesus' hand
All we'll all be safe from Satan
When the Thunder rolls
You gotta help me keep the Devil
Way down in the hole

2/26/2008 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Good morning. To answer Bill Carson and Westy, I would just note a simple thing.

Redevelopment Funds are highly restricted in their use. (I already said that!) but essentially, you can't use them for projects outside the downtown map that describes what the bonds are for. That means roughly an area from State Street and Sola down to the "T" made by Cabrillo Boulevard (for example, note the redevelopment project to repair Cabrillo's sidewalks). On the East and West of State Street, the authorizing map is no wider than Anacapa to Chapala.

So any Park restoration projects on the Westside or Eastside cannot be funded by Redevelopment Funds as far as I know. They would have to be funded by other funds. I say this not to discourage thinking about these projects but just to clarify what Redevelopment Funds can be used for.

2/26/2008 6:33 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Redevelopment funds can pay for affordable housing (within the district boundaries).

Take your pick...a revamp of DeLaGuerra Plaza, or funding the costs of affordable housing.

Here's your test: Which is more important to the community?

2/26/2008 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Bill Carson: How are you this evening? I'm watching the debates as I write. I would kind of like to stay focused on explaining the details of the restoration of the Plaza because the newspaper hasn't helped the public understand the importance and details of the project. I'm sitting here writing trying my best to perform this service as best I can.

Let's start by noting that the cost of the Plaza restoration is small potatoes compared to building affordable housing. And the Plaza project has been waiting for 84 years now.

But you seem to want to talk about affordable housing, so here's my take on this subject. I don't think city government, state government, and especially the Federal government are very good at building and managing housing. I have very little reason to believe our City Government here in Santa Barbara could build and manage affordable housing successfully. I could go on a lot about this subject and from various points of view. But for me that's my conclusion. Don't do it.

However I do believe that incentives in the planning process can help provide more inexpensive units for the public.

Let me point out instantly that the City has done some good things with the infirm and aged at a couple of spots, there's homeless help, and retirement apartments of note. Perhaps a few units regionally developed could help create more affordable units. But there is no government solution to the problem of housing. I should add, that I have seen them do a couple of fix-up projects that aren't bad and have helped needy neighborhoods.

I'll start to believe we are going to get some well-managed affordable housing when when I see Fess Parker build his so called "required" youth hostel...I'd like to see that. It might take some pressure off the Plaza and those who hang out there.

God help us if the City takes up developing whole cloth housing projects --from land, architecture, to building, and managing. You'd have to outsource most of the design and operational functions anyway, so it might as well be private. And could the city process designed to control city development provide true objective review and oversight of its own projects? Currently, the public political atmospherics seem so negative and poisonous in relation to anything the city does, that any development the City undertook would get creamed from the get-go.

And the money left in the Redevelopment Bonds is too little and perhaps not really what redevelopment is supposed to be about. Redevelopment could help with some infrastructure, some this and that, but it's not the solution.

I think City College and the University have got to something about student housing.

I hope I have directed myself to your question.

2/26/2008 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Bill Carson: On last thought comes to mind. (I bet all of you doubt that!).

Think about the example of City designed Granada Garage development. Do you know how much money that cost? And do you know what happened? There's your example of City development!What do you think would happen if they were into Affordable Housing?

I don't think you want to turn loose the dogs of City inspired development loose inside the City too often. We'd all go broke. Oh what I could tell you about the Granada garage!

2/26/2008 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Numbers Guy said...

Safer street lighting can also be funded by RDA money, so your extortion choice between the plaza or more low-income housing is bogus. The city needs better street lighting in the RDA area more than anything.

RDA money can also be used to underground utilities which was recommended by the last city General Plan and never one, and one zillion other projects as past RDA funding allocations have shown.

2/26/2008 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Numbers Guy:

Please tell me where in the Redevelopment Agency area that utilities aren't already underground?

2/27/2008 6:03 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Numbers Guy:

By the way, steet lighting around the Plaza and on De la Guerra Street is a major component of the Plaza restoration project. So in that sense project is taking up your priority.

2/27/2008 7:59 AM  
Anonymous KidsWorld - Westside Story said...

RDA money was commited to the ratty little playground at the Westside Center which is the only open green space for kids in this side of town. But nothing happened and it is still ratty, full of goher holes and grafitti.

Clean this up first before DLG Plaza. Somehow the creek and the ratty little park were included in RDA allocations a few years ago. What happened?

2/27/2008 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Numbers Guy said...

Don Jose,

You definition of RDA boundaries is inaccurate. There are a lot of RDA streets with no underground utilities. It is not just the narrow area you previously described. Let's dicuss facts; not attitudes.

2/27/2008 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Hey Numbers Guy! I am learning something. The Redevelopment Agency used to have the smaller boundaries I described. I went to the site you indicated and studied the map and it is significantly larger than it was when I was in the trenches about 2000. I suspect that the boundaries have been enlarged and new bonds emitted since my time. So I stand corrected. I will have to call Dave at the Redevelopment Agency to find out what happened.
There are a lot more areas opened to using these funds than what I remember.

So "numbers guy" I am wrong. So the Westside does seem to be in there and much more along the waterfront than I remember.

2/27/2008 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Gaucho Grouch said...

Don Jose, you are getting a bit off on your facts.

UCSB has been building hundreds of housing units, fighting tooth and nail for each one of them, but they are doing it. And they want to do a lot more, if the community would stop getting in their way.

So what is your problem with all the new UCSB dorms and grad student housing besides spreading misinformation, Don Jose?

2/27/2008 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

I should also note for 'Mr. Numbers Guy' who made me do my homework that 20% of funds in the Redevelopment Agency tax increment revenues must be devoted to affordable housing use.

I believe the projects I mentioned above remain the accomplishments for this dimension of City policy and that the order of magnitude of funds available still is small potatoes relative to what kind of budget a significant project would require.

So I have learned (thanks to Numbers Guy) that the bonding map is now very large. That 20% of the budget must be devoted to the category of affordable housing. I read as well, I think, that the order of magnitude of funds available is $3 million dollars (not much in Euros!).

I saw that the dreaded Transit Center is still high on the priority list. For me, I still don't understand why we don't put the Transit Center where the Train Station is.

And lastly, if you think about it, probably all this discussion is a mute point anyway--because the State of California is flirting with financial disaster, and probably just like last time this happened, the State will reach down and take away the Redevelopment money anyway.

Given this state of things, the new larger view of the map, the number of projects potentially available, the provisions for a budget disaster, and a community that doesn't get the Plaza restoration project or even 'the Plaza idea', I doubt that in the next hundred years this project will get accomplished. And so it goes in Santa Barbara.

2/28/2008 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Hey, I noticed another shot from the Newsupress about the Plaza today. More strategy to keep the Plaza restoration from happening. This time Travis has turned his attention to another so-called City Hall scandal. Here it is:

Opinion: They call it the City Hall shuffle

"What's the City Hall shuffle?

It's not a dance created by the city administration, finance, city clerk or some other department in the building. In fact, there's nothing fun about it.

The existence of the City Hall shuffle came to light in an off-handed remark by a city staff member at last Thursday's hearing on a proposal to waste money on a radical makeover of De la Guerra Plaza.

This was the Planning Commission hearing at which residents, business owners and property owners lined up to blast plans for a costly reconstruction that ignored the plaza's history.

Some city officials want to create a dead space devoid of greenery. They also want to remove all parking from the plaza's looped roadway and shut the roadway to traffic, except for commercial deliveries during limited hours.

The plan, literally and figuratively, will cut off some access to City Hall.

Members of the City Council all enjoy free parking in spaces in a lot just steps from City Hall's front door. But they want to make it harder for you to attend council, commission and other meetings, register to vote, and pay bills at City Hall.

The plan to close off the plaza, as well as a related move to shut down De la Guerra Street between State and Anacapa streets to traffic, symbolizes an isolationist and insular nature of our city government that's been increasing since 2002.

Removing the park from the plaza would put an end to one location of the City Hall shuffle, though.

The shuffle, it turns out, is the practice of city workers running out to move their cars every 75 minutes to avoid parking tickets. This is how some city employees -- paid for by your tax dollars -- are spending their work days?

The city's self-hyped plan to get workers out of their cars and on the bus apparently has some problems.

Amazingly, one city staff member has seemed to suggest that removing the parking in the loop could be a way to get city workers to put in a legitimate workday. These workers, of course, probably would just scout out other 75-minute spaces to take up throughout the day.

Setting aside this fact, though, the city doesn't appear to mind punishing everyone by taking the parking away all the time to help stem the City Hall shuffle.

Here's another idea: How about cutting back on City Hall's bloated staff and giving the remaining employees more to do so they aren't worrying about watching the clock to see when every 75 minutes rolls around?

The shuffle, it turns out, is the practice of city workers running out to move their cars every 75 minutes to avoid parking tickets. This is how some city employees -- paid for by your tax dollars -- are spending their work days?"

What a guy!

2/28/2008 8:15 AM  
Anonymous DLG Watcher said...

I heard thyis opinion piece was taken down from the News-Press web site -- what gives?

2/28/2008 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Numbers Guy said...

Don Jose, keep up your fact checking. Dave G is no longer RDA chief, he got kicked up (or demoted) to Paul Casey's Community Development chief position just in time to take over SB Plan 2030.

But sit down when you read this, I agree 1000% the transit center should be at the train station. The city is crazy to not push this and use eminent domain to get their hands on the surrounding properties.

But noooooooooooo, they dump a kiddie museum down there instead foreclosing even the possibility of proper use of available land surrounding the train station.

The kiddie museum would be far better situated where the bus station is presently back up in the historic arts district of town so kiddies could go to the library and art museum as well.

Don Jose, if you could arouse yourself from your slumber and get back on all cylinders, I'd vote for both you and Bill Carson to be new council members. You two fight it out to be our next mayor.

2/28/2008 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Numbers Guy: Good morning.

I know about where Dave G is and the changes. But he would know what happened in the past regarding the map and the emission of new bonds right?

I know about Paul Casey too. What I don't know is why these rotations happened. I know there was a retirement. But I felt there was more to this story than just that.

And Groucho Grouch: Boy do I know about all that building at UCSB! They don't have to undergo any City Review Public Process nor does City College. Students have a great effect on affordable housing downtown.

But if I was able, my big hope and desire would be the implementation of a tweaked (slightly improved) Campbell plan for Plaza de la Guerra. For me it's about Spanish authenticity and civilization.

The kiddie museum as you put it, floats from place to place--once it was part of the great Granada Parking Garage Empire.

A good day to all of you on blog a barbara.

2/29/2008 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

WOW! Big News on the Plaza this morning! You heard it first here with the story on the subject on "Blog of Barbara of Big Bad Barry, the lawyer from pin-striped hell, who works for 'Malatesta' Wendy, where he threatened to sue the Planning Commission at the Plaza OPEN hearing. And NOW he's doing it! Here's the announcement in the Newsupress:

* * * * * * * *

February 29, 2008 12:00 AM

The parent company of the Santa Barbara News-Press on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Barbara and its Transportation and Circulation Committee alleging they violated the state's open meetings law by attempting to limit access to proceedings concerning a proposed redesign of Plaza de la Guerra.

The lawsuit, filed by the Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noel LLP, on behalf of Ampersand Publishing LLC, alleges that the city council and the Transportation and Circulation Committee, as well as several individual members of the committee, violated California's open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, because the agenda of a Nov. 8, 2007, meeting of the committee did not include the proposed Plaza redesign as an agenda item, but it was nonetheless discussed.

The controversial redesign proposal would close the Plaza to parking and auto traffic while adding amenities such as picnic tables.

Specifically, the lawsuit states that committee member William Boyd "made several recommendations regarding the proposed redevelopment" during an agenda item titled "Committee Member/Subcommittee Comments" and also distributed the recommendations in written form at the Nov. 8 committee meeting.

Additionally, the lawsuit states, committee members David Pritchett and David Tabor, during the ensuing five- to 10-minute discussion, "noted the negative reaction of the public at the library meeting, chalking it down to heavy advertising by Plaza opponents.

"They also discussed ways in which local business opposition could be appeased, and commented that the News-Press should handle its parking needs on its own property."

The Plaza includes several parking spaces that front the News-Press building and are used by people doing business with the paper.

The suit points out that "the News-Press has attended every noticed meeting on the Plaza plan, and strongly disagrees with the TCC's views" concerning Plaza de la Guerra, which is faced by both the News-Press building and City Hall.

"But because the News-Press did not receive notice of this discussion, it was unable to put the record straight. Had it received such notice, it would have attended the meeting; challenged attempts to reallocate parking in other areas as inadequate, challenged the Committee members' characterization of opposition to the Plaza as resulting from heavy advertising; refuted the contention that the News-Press must address parking on its own property; and opposed attempts to get the project approved despite public opposition."

The News-Press sent a letter to City Attorney Steve Wiley complaining of the alleged Brown Act violation and demanding that the committee be notified that it violated the law and that further violations cease and that the city acknowledge the violation's occurrence, but received no reply, the suit states.

"There exists an actual and present controversy between the parties in that the City contends that the TCC may initiate discussions on the Plaza with no further specification on the agenda than 'Committee Member/Subcommittee Comments,' " the suit states. "The News-Press contends there must be specific mention of the Plaza in the agenda so that opponents have fair notice of such discussions and/or actions on the Plaza. As an interested resident and the owner of a parcel adjacent to the disputed property, the News-Press is entitled to a judicial determination of its rights with regard to the above-described meeting."

The paper seeks a declaration that the Nov. 8 discussion of the proposed Plaza de la Guerra redevelopment "was inadequately noticed and that specific notice to the public is required before future similar discussions by the TCC or other City legislative bodies of the Plaza," and "a permanent injunction enjoining defendants from discussing or acting on the Plaza redevelopment without adequate notice," the suit states.

The plaintiff also seeks recovery of reasonable attorneys fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit's introduction states that the action against the defendants "seeks to ensure the public a voice in the future of historic Plaza de la Guerra, and the News-Press from unfair targeting by biased city officials."

It also states that Mr. Pritchett has organized rallies against the News-Press and "wants to redevelop the Plaza so as to facilitate more of them" and that Mayor Marty Blum wants the redesign so that she can avoid running into opinion page editor Travis Armstrong in the Plaza.

The suit states that the News-Press "is also concerned that the City is pushing the project," despite widespread public and local business opposition, "to retaliate against it for its outspoken criticism of City Hall."

Mayor Blum disputed any allegation of retaliation on her part.

"I've been elected to represent the people of this city, not to retaliate about something I don't even know what I would be retaliating about," she said. "I have a very busy job and don't spend it plotting to retaliate about something."

As for the allegation that she wants the Plaza redeveloped so that she can avoid Mr. Armstrong, some of whose editorials have been critical of city officials, policies and proposals, including the Plaza de la Guerra redesign, she said she doesn't remember saying it and doubts that she ever did.

"If I did say it, it was a joke, but I don't remember saying anything like that," she said.

Asked for her response to the specific allegation that the Transportation and Circulation Committee violated the Brown Act, she said she wasn't present and didn't know if a legal line was crossed.

"The Brown Act does require that we put things on the agenda that we want to act on, but you can have reports from individual members of the board and commission and it sounds like that's where they talked about (Plaza de la Guerra). I don't know if they went over the line of having to put it on the agenda or not."

A late call to the office of Mr. Wiley, the city attorney, was not immediately returned."

2/29/2008 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Readers of Blogabarbara:

Here are the key astonishing paranoid reasons mentioned in the suit:

"It ... states that Mr. Pritchett has organized rallies against the News-Press and "wants to redevelop the Plaza so as to facilitate more of them" and that Mayor Marty Blum wants the redesign so that she can avoid running into opinion page editor Travis Armstrong in the Plaza."

The suit states that the News-Press:

" also concerned that the City is pushing the project," despite widespread public and local business opposition, "to retaliate against it for its outspoken criticism of City Hall."

As for myself: I have been working on and thinking positive about the Plaza since before Wendy owned the Newspress and so has the City and the City's committees. The Newsupress is trying to "tape shut" the mouths of community members now. Where have we seen this before?

2/29/2008 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Plaza Girl said...

Put your pants back on guys, suing to enforce the Brown Act is not suing the individuals quoted to help establish nefarious intent.

It is only suing to correct putative open meeting law and basically results in a meeting redo, if found in violation. This time with proper notice and proper agenda for items under discussion.

2/29/2008 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Plaza Girl: Good afternoon. Why does the newspaper go to these community open discussions on the Plaza and let their lawyer do the talking?

Is that some new interpersonal dimension for friendliness I missed out on?

I kind of think it sets a negative tone (He's not Barry, the Hammer, for nothing!) and puts adversity into what could be consensus conversation. Do you like fights?

Steve Ainsley of the old Newspress used to walk right up to the podium and have his say. I am kind of old fashioned this way, I guess...

2/29/2008 3:19 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Here's an article you'll might find pertinent. I grew up in LA and watched this all unfold.

I also recently spent some time in Tokyo and can concieve of the entire LA basin filled with high rises and shoulder to shoulder citizenry. It can happen.

What is going down, right now, in Goleta Valley will impact all of this coastal area and mostly has to do with these same principles being espoused in L.A. planning circles.

One only has to listen to the budget meetings to know that the county and cities are scrambling for revenue.

I just watched the SB BOS budget workshop. Carbo backpedaled away from the cuts so fast I had to laugh. "Let's move on to revenue generators..." (Don't worry, we'll be saved by parking fees at the beach)

3/01/2008 5:37 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

SA1 Good morning. When ever I write your name, I think of SAM missiles. Curious.

I'm with you on the dangers of too much density. But let's note that the Plaza is an amenity to combat the ill effects of density downtown. It is a soothing respite from the canyon of State Street.

Cars driving about and parked vehicles add to the sense of danger, clutter and compression in an overcrowded urban environment. They smell bad and emit dangerous fumes.
Get them out of the loop of the Plaza!

3/01/2008 6:07 AM  
Anonymous PlazaFountain said...

Yes, the News Press is paranoid. But also, yes, the Transportation and Circulation Committee violated the Brown Act. Hopefully committee members have had a refresher course, and that will fix the problem.

3/01/2008 10:33 PM  
Anonymous sa1 perdido said...

"When ever I write your name, I think of SAM missiles. Curious."

Even curiouser...most people remark that I remind them of a loose cannon...

3/02/2008 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Truth-in-Blogging Act said...

How does PlazaFountain know that this Committee "violated the Brown Act"?

Was PlazaFountain there to see the whole meeting?

Did that Committee engage in a report or discussion any more revealing that routinely occurs at most other city board meetings?

3/02/2008 10:57 PM  

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