The Carpinteria City Council declined to take action on the Surfliner Inn project at its meeting on Feb. 22, ultimately deciding to wait until a more concrete plan for the controversial project is available before deciding whether to put the project up for a public vote.
During the meeting, the council discussed alternative options for allowing for additional public feedback on the project, which has received backlash from Carpinterians. The council is currently in the process of developing a DDA and ground lease for the project.
Earlier that evening, Vice Mayor Al Clark put forward a motion to move ahead with a public vote on the matter; no one seconded the motion, and it failed. The council then moved to file the report without taking further action.
The council’s legal counsel, Mack Carlson, went over several options with the council regarding how to allow for further public input, including hiring a consultant to conduct a public opinion poll; conducting public workshops; and putting the issue on the ballot for Carpinterians to vote on.
Carlson explained that the election, if held, would have to align with the general election in Nov. 2022 or be conducted through a special election. To pursue a special election would cost approximately $70,000, not including staff time or legal costs, Carlson said, as opposed to approximately $10,000 during the general election.
Clark inquired about the cost of a vote-by-mail election, and Carlson said it is estimated to be the same amount as a special election. “It’s somewhat premature whether or not an initiative or referendum might apply,” Carlson said. “The proposed Surfliner Inn project may or may not result in an action that is subject to referendum.”
Clark challenged the report provided at the meeting, stating the report was “inconsistent with the motion I made” at the last meeting to “provide options about elections, not elections and other options.”
“I find the other opinions to be distracting,” Clark said. City Manager Dave Durflinger apologized to the council for any misunderstanding.
Nearly 100 people wrote into the record for the public comment portion of the Surfliner Inn item. The majority were in favor of putting the issue to a public vote. Some, such as Carpinteria resident Janet Steen, called the cost of the election a “small price to pay.”
“I request that the mayor and City Council provide an opportunity for an advisory vote. Shall the city lease public Parking Lot #3 to a private developer for 99 years, we the landlords deserve to vote on the future of the lot which is our public land. The cost of such an election, $70,000, is a small price to pay to ensure Carpinteria gets this right and follows the wishes of the majority,” said Steen. Others expressed outrage over the possibility of the city “wasting money” on an election, while some said the plan has “large local support.”
“At a November meeting last year, I believed that there was an agreement to move forward with a DDA and a development plan, and now a vote on the ballot is being proposed,” Carpinteria resident Benjamin Anderson wrote.
“I am shocked that the city would even entertain this idea, and if we halt the plan because of a small anti group, then we are setting a precedent to stop all further plans and developments in Carpinteria. The Surfliner Inn has a large local support and would easily get the vote to move forward,” he continued.
Carpinteria resident Jeff Theimer, one of the founding members of the Surfliner Inn project, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting about the project. He encouraged the council to “not change the rules at the five yard line after two years.”
“(Stopping the project now) will effectively silence thousands of folks who actually do want to see the Surfliner project,” Theimer said. “We could provide a new vision for an area we believe has been historically and chronically underutilized.” He spoke against an advisory vote, stating he would be unsure what exactly Carpinterians would be voting on.
Carpinteria joins other cities in dispute with Sherriff’s Office
The council unanimously voted to allow Mayor Wade Nomura to sign a joint mayors’ letter – alongside the mayors of Solvang, Goleta and Buellton – to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office, concerning a dispute over compensation to the sheriff’s office. All four cities contract with the sheriff’s office for police services.
As discussed at the last city council meeting, the council had agreed to formally dispute Carpinteria’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office, after it received a 37% increase in the cost of services for the sheriff’s office with no clear explanation as to why the costs increased.
The joint mayors’ letter urges the board of supervisor and the Sheriff’s Office to act quickly on this matter. “We write to you to collectively express our surprise and deep disappointment with the Sheriff’s Office’s recent announcement proposing substantial increased costs for law enforcement service,” the letter reads.
“We cannot, at this time, agree to payment of the proposed cost increases (…) The cities unanimously believe that the proposed cost increases – cumulatively $5.9 million – over the prior years’ contract costs are the result of the Sheriff’s Office’s use of a new cost allocation methodology that violates the terms and purpose of the agreements.”
The letter also asks that the sheriff’s office recalculate its fiscal year “in a manner consistent with the terms of each Cities’ current agreement,” engage in good faith negotiations with the cities and “independently confirm and validate the basis for any and all proposed cost increase.”
Measure A projects
The council unanimously approved several projects under Measure A funding at its Monday night meeting, for the fiscal years 2021-22 through 2025-26. Measure A, which provides funding for road repairs and transportation safety efforts, was passed by Santa Barbara County voters in 2008.
The funding goes toward programs including improvements to roadways and bridges, tree management, storm damage repair and highway improvements. The funding also provides for alternative transportation pursuits, such as crosswalk improvements around Carpinteria schools, maintenance for bike facilities and bus and rail facilities.
The funding in total accounts for $4.7 million over the five-year period. At least 10% of the funding must be spent on alternative transportation projects; it is estimated that 12.06% of the city’s funding under Measure A over the next five years will go toward alternative transportation.
Brian Barrett, assistant to the public works director, presented a summary of the projects to the council. “The maintenance effort is adjusted each year based on revenue growth or decline for the preceding two fiscal years,” Barrett said.
City enlists Just Communities and NLC REAL to bolster Racial, Equity and Social Justice Program
The council unanimously voted to move ahead with consultant agreements with Just Communities and National League of Cities Race, Equity and Leadership (NLC REAL) and approved $135,000 for the services. The two groups are scheduled to assist with the city’s Racial, Equity and Social Justice Program.
The city is allocating $135,000 from Measure X for the consultants. Kimberly Leefat, from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, presented at the meeting about the program’s purposes.
“(NLC REAL’s) work will primarily focus on developing a structured approach for addressing city specific racial equity issues, whether that be trainings or additional stakeholder programs,” Leefat said. She added that Just Communities’ past work on the Central Coast “really lends to the need to create city-specific solutions.”
“The idea is that we want to build community trust, and that takes time,” she said. The consultant leads from Just Communities include Executive Director Melissa G. Patrino, Co-Chair Walid Afifi and Co-Chair Chelsea Lancaster. NLC REAL Director Leon Andrews, Jr. and Program Manager Jordan Carter will also serve as consultants for the city.
“We’re really looking forward to working with NLC REAL and the city of Carpinteria,” Patrino said. “Just Communities has been around for the past 20 years here in the Central Coast, and we believe that leading our communities and addressing racism will create a more just world.”
“Part of our charge, and part of what we’ve been doing in Santa Barbara, is to reframe what community safety looks like. The communities that are the most safe are not the communities that have the most policing, they’re the communities that have the most resources,” Lancaster said.
The city council passed several proclamations for the city during its Feb. 22 meeting, including establishing Feb. 2021 as Black History Month; designating Feb. 2021 as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month; designating March 28, 2021 as California Arbor Day; and designating March 2021 as Women’s History Month.
Speaker Jordan Killebrew, co-leader of Santa Barbara County Health Justice, presented on the designation of Feb. 2021 as Black History Month.
“It is an honor to be among you today, and to acknowledge the history for our ancestors,” Killebrew said. “I hope truth and education around diversity, equity and inclusion are prioritized, and I’m grateful for the efforts of many Santa Barbara County organizations (...) to curate events in education and celebration of Black and African American contributions to America.”
What Is Love Executive Director Christy Stillwell spoke on the designation of Feb. 2021 as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. “I’d like to thank the city of Carpinteria for helping to bring awareness to teen dating violence,” Stillwell said. “Most of these conversations (during the pandemic) have been centered around adult survivors but teen dating abuse has also seen a staggering spike and continues to be persuasive and dangerous.”