The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimous Tuesday to approve the establishment of a community formation commission to guide the creation of a civilian police review system.
The commission will explore different civilian police review systems, existing and new police accountability systems and the specific needs of the communities of Santa Barbara. It will also review the existing standards and protocols within the Santa Barbara Police Department.
After examination, the commission will make recommendations to the city council for the creation of a civilian police oversight system.
The council discussed at length the qualifications listed by councilmembers Meagan Harmon and Alejandra Guiterrez.
In particular, they adjusted one qualification of “law enforcement personnel or representatives, including non-sworn staff” to “criminal justice experience.” This adjustment came as a result of public comment and members of the council opposing the idea.
Simone Ruskamp, one of the leaders of Healing Justice Santa Barbara, said she was “extremely disappointed that law enforcement has been desired as a qualification.”
“We cannot protect those people if we’re desiring active law enforcement to serve on this commission. There is a power imbalance,” she said. “Why would we have people sitting next to someone they cannot be complaining about right now?”
In addition, the council settled on a stipend of $50 per meeting for each member of the commission.
The council also removed the term “oversight” from the title of the commission, as it is a formation commission that will lead to an oversight mechanism.
“This review board is long overdue for our community,” said council member Oscar Guiterrez. “I have faith that it will do nothing but good and I have faith that our law enforcement will benefit from this.”
In other news, the council voiced its support for building a Westside Community Center on the Harding School Campus.
The center will provide space for family and community support services and university-level teaching and research.
A presentation from UCSB Dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, Jeffrey Milem, outlined that once the project has been approved, the Gevirtz School will develop and coordinate partnerships, assess neighborhood needs and conduct outreach for the community.
The project leaders hope the community center will become the center of the Westside community.
“It (the Westside) is, in fact, a compound neighborhood cut off from the rest of the city,” said Fred Sweeney, a resident of the Westside. “I’m very excited about this.”
Finally, the city council voted 6-1 in favor of the proposed revised term sheet for a development agreement for the multi-housing unit project at 711 N. Milpas St., moving the negotiations forward.
The revisions included 16 moderate-income affordability units, a more traditional style, a height increase to 48 feet and 22 additional parking spaces via parking lifts.
“The affordable units are a major, major component for us,” council member Eric Friedman said. “While it’s not perfect, we have a good compromise here.”
Next, the housing project will go before the Architectural Board of Review for a concept review, followed by finalizing a development agreement with the Planning Commission. The project will then come back to the council for final approval.