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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Mayor Randy: SB Council Members "Subverted the Process" in Caving Into Pressure on Dining Fees

On a new "Ask the Mayor" episode, Randy Rowse returned to Newsmakers TV on Friday, still fuming about the capitulation of his City Council colleagues to political pressure from downtown restaurant owners over the scale of outdoor dining fees.

"They subverted the process," said the Santa Barbara mayor.

Led by District 1 representative Alejandra Gutierrez, the council last month not only upended months of work by a special committee and City Hall staff, but also cast aside hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue by flip-flopping on a previously agreed-upon schedule of fees, to be paid by restaurant owners who have erected outdoor dining parklets on State Street.

The restaurants were given the right to build the haphazardly-designed and entropically-placed structures on State Street at the height of the pandemic, totally free of charge for the public right-of-way. In the face of an aggressive campaign by the businesses, five members -- Oscar Gutierrez, Meagan Harmon, Mike Jordan, Kristen Sneddon and the aforementioned Alejandra - on April 25 approved a token $2 per-square foot fee -- months after council first had approved a $3 to $12-per square foot sliding scale in January.

In a free-flowing interview with KEYT's Lily Dallow, Noozhawk''s Josh Molina and the genial host, Santa Barbara Mayor Rowse also discussed a series of other critical issues that have emerged from City Hall recently, including:

  • The city's controversial - and expensive - crackdown on residents renting out to visitors, in violation of restrictions on short-term rentals. (Making the case on law enforcement and fiscal grounds, he demurred on the more questionable claim that the effort would increase the availability of long-term rentals for tenants, and suggested perhaps the entire STR policy should be revisited).

  • The hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities the city faces as it moves towards passing a new budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. (Saying the burden may be eased as older workers retire, he said the liability is dependent on unknowable investment returns may ease as younger public employees, hired with less lucrative pension benefits, replace them).

  • The shortage of rental housing to accommodate middle class workers, including cops, firefighters and teachers, as well as the families of longtime residents and others who want to live here. (Citing "Santa Barbara: An Uncommonplace American Town," former Mayor Sheila Lodge's history of city planning and development, he noted that local officials have been coping with a "housing crisis," at least since the 1930s).

Plus: The latest on those unfilled sworn officer positions in the SBPD; commentary on noise complaints about the airport; his take on what the Nina Johnson lawsuit says about City Hall morale; and Randy's reaction to the harsh and personal attacks he hears in public comment from one particular restaurateur.

All this and more, right here, right now on Newsmakers TV.

You can watch "Ask the Mayor" via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. The show airs on TVSB, Cox Cable Channel 17, at 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9-FM, broadcasts the program on Mondays at 5:30 p.m.

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