Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ballot measure aims to chop building heights in city


During the city of Santa Barbara’s November 2009 election, voters will likely decide whether to chop the city’s current maximum building height from 60 feet to as low as 40 feet in some parts of the city.
A group called Save El Pueblo Viejo, named after the downtown district that stretches from the beach north to Mission Street, and from Laguna Street to the east and Bath Street to the west, submitted a ballot petition to the city yesterday with 11,252 signatures, nearly double the number required.

The group moved forward with its ballot measure campaign despite an ongoing effort by the city to draft an interim ordinance that would limit building heights. Sheila Lodge, an outspoken member of Save El Pueblo Viejo, said the ballot measure was necessary because it’s impossible to know if the city will do what she believes needs to be done with an ordinance.
“Many of us live here and enjoy living here because of the small-town feel,” she said. “It’s not a small town anymore, but there’s a small-town feel.”
Lodge said the city could adopt the ballot measure as their own and insert several other restrictions, such as guidelines for setbacks and open space. If it remains the ballot measure of Save El Pueblo Viejo, Lodge said it would deal solely with building height.
Lodge cited recent construction projects on Chapala Street as a main motivator behind the ballot measure.
The signatures for the ballot measure were submitted yesterday morning.
Lodge said the only reason there wouldn’t be a height-related measure on next year’s ballot is if too many of the signatures aren’t valid. She said people were so anxious to sign the petition that many didn’t technically live within city limits, though they had Santa Barbara mailing addresses.
“People were generally eager to sign,” she said. “A lot of them would grab the pen out of my hands.”

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