A member of the city of Santa Barbara’s Architectural Board of Review resigned on air during a regular meeting Monday night.
David Watkins announced his resignation around 20 minutes into the meeting, and his reasoning was due to the fact that a special meeting was granted on Friday for the architects working on the new police station.
“I’m very conflicted by the fact that this meeting is happening. The city brought this upon us at the board to tell us this meeting was happening. I have an issue that there wasn’t any public comment about it or consideration or that the board was even allowed to make a motion for consideration on its own,” Mr. Watkins said during the meeting. “It doesn’t sit well with me because it creates an unequal playing field and then creates a precedent that allows certain firms like the ones designing this project to make these requests and get that granted when a number of other firms in town or AUD developers or homeowners or small business owners don’t get that same opportunity.”
He said that he very much supports the project, which proposes a new three-story, 53-foot high, 65,000 square foot police station with a parking structure. The architect for the project is Cearnal Collective, and the applicant for the concept review of the station (which will occur at the special meeting on Friday) was Brad Hess from the Public Works Department.
“The men and women that serve there (in the police department) deserve this because that facility’s been in horrible shape for years. It’s not a secret,” he said. “… To see somebody be able to pop in and make that request and then get it granted — I don’t think it should be rewarded that certain people can have that influence.
“It doesn’t sit well with me unless that opportunity gets opened for everybody, and that there’s actually a process, a separate process, where applicants can somehow navigate a fast track.”
Mr. Watkins said his resignation was nothing against the other board members, and he enjoyed serving on the board for nearly five years.
“I think I’m going to resign because I don’t want to be a part of a process like this, unfortunately,” he said. “… I don’t want to facilitate something where it creates an unequal playing field for some people and not others, so as hard as that is, I will offer my resignation right now.”
He said he’d been considering resigning ever since the special meeting was granted and the board had no choice but to attend.
“I’ve never seen anyone present to the board and allow that,” Mr. Watkins told the News-Press Tuesday. “I have friends and clients who wait months and months paying high rent prices every month on State Street to navigate the design review process. It’s happened over and over.”
He said he couldn’t sit with the idea that the ABR didn’t have an issue with it.
“That’s hard for me. I see an issue with it. As a person in the community, I see an issue with it, and as a professional, I see an issue with it,” he said. “I didn’t want to necessarily resign … I really didn’t see any other options moving forward.”
Mr. Watkins added that he enjoyed serving on the board, and he would love to return to it in the future or serve on another board in the city.