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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

SB Authors: Trailblazing Ex-Mayor Sheila Lodge Pens a New Urban Planning History of Her Town

Updated: May 22, 2020

Few, if any, are as steeped in the history, growth and design of Santa Barbara as Sheila Lodge, the longest-serving mayor in city history, and the first woman ever to hold the office.

As an elected official and community advocate, Lodge has been a dynamic figure in Santa Barbara's policy and political debates for more than half-a-century, her twelve-years as mayor, from 1981-93, bracketed by long service on the City Council and the Planning Commission, where she sits today.

Now she has combined her personal experience and involvement in the city's never-ending, alway-passionate community conversation and controversy about architectural and development issues with original archival research to complete "An Uncommonplace American Town: Urban Planning History in Santa Barbara - A Personal View."

The 50-page monograph, illustrated with historic and contemporary photos and maps, with original source footnotes, is to be published in an upcoming edition of Noticias, the journal of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. She writes:

What is it about Santa Barbara that has made its residents so concerned about the development of the town? What has made Santa Barbara what it is?

The answer lies in part in the city’s beautiful setting between the mountains and the sea, one of the most temperate climates in the world and many strong minded individuals and government officials who cared deeply about this place. They fought against the commonplace.

At our invitation, Sheila checked in with Newsmakers this week to talk about the project, and for a conversation about how today's urgent City Hall discussion and debates about Santa Barbara's future echo many concerns voiced and disputed back to the 19th and 20 centuries - from the shortage and high cost of housing, to population growth outpacing water and other resources and the inextricable tie between the city's economy and its unique aesthetic.

She notes in her history that the first formal plan for Santa Barbara was crafted in 1909;

"That same year the Santa Barbara Civic League was formed by concerned citizens. Noted planner Charles Mulford Robinson was engaged by it to prepare a city plan, the city's first. In his report, Mr. Robinson commented on the extraordinary beauty of the town's setting and on the fact that the health of the city's economy depended on the enhancement of its attractiveness. This very important connection would be noted in the future."

You can watch our interview with Sheila Lodge by clicking below. The podcast version is here.


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