Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
During her second to the last Santa Barbara City Council meetings, Mayor Cathy Murillo pushed her agenda item – a gross overreach of the city’s purview.
The long meeting, which went until 11:38 p.m., was all about individual property rights, or rather curtailing those rights, by the city council. The most important item was the city’s adoption of its own version of SB 9 (a state Senate housing bill that allows lot splits) to protect Santa Barbara from the state’s version of SB9, which must be adopted before Jan 1.
Fortunately, Community Development Senior Planner Allison DeBusk gave so thorough a presentation, that the information was easily and readily understood by the public, including her explanation of the reason for the urgency of the deadline. And we thank her.
In response, Mayor Murillo appeared in a panic-stricken tizzy. Because she too faces a deadline.
She’s determined to bring her ordinance to fruition, which puts a 2% cap on residential rentals and includes a rental registry of property with the listed rental rate. The latter to monitor the rates do not exceed 2% rent increases. Mayor Murillo imposed a four-hour item for which she won’t even be in office to see the results, with an already full agenda. Self-serving to the max.
On top of which, neither Mayor Murillo nor Mayor Pro Tem Oscar Gutierrez, produced any documentation to support their position — only its urgency. Even Councilmember Jordan stated that in their memorandum, they cited information four times, yet no data was included. Ms. Murillo claimed many renters supported her agenda during public comment, yet several people compared their tallies and found almost an even split, between for and against.
That’s status quo for this city council. Her agenda item of 2% rent cap and the rental registry was passed as an interim ordinance, which will still need to return to city council from the ordinance committee, basically three months out. Interestingly, under this council, the city has transformed into nothing but interim department heads, and what did they do Tuesday night? Added another temporary ordinance.
What? Do they prefer we return to the bad old days? Why don’t landlords just go old school, like in the ’70s and ’80s when the rentals didn’t provide appliances? Has it come to this? That will surely cut down on expenses and maintenance. No more refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, microwaves, washers and dryers. The cost certainly makes it prohibitive.
With the carpet prices doubling, it might even be a good idea to put in polished concrete flooring, and tenants can just buy their own area rugs. Oh, and utilities, those will no longer be part of the package. Utilities are often included in the rent to prevent the hardship of deposit and hook-up charges to the tenant. However, with the 2% rental cap and the city raising the costs of utilities, of water, trash, sewage, electric and gas annually, how can a landlord do anything but alleviate themselves of that expense? And of course, property taxes and insurance are another annual expenditure. And why not follow the city’s example of keeping rents low by not providing parking?
But if the tenant chooses to use a parking space, do like others, and charge $80 a month. It’s still more cost-effective than paying for the city’s parking lot permit.
And what about extraordinary, unexpected out-of-pocket expenses foisted on the owner? Recall the city’s mandatory Sewer Lateral Inspection Program, aka SLIP? The average cost of this is $25,000.
By the way, renters have asked what landlords and property management companies do with the rental income. They try to keep their head above water.
You are aware that we must create a new landfill. Tajegus is at the verge of reaching capacity. Who will fund the new landfill? Who do you think? Get the picture?
After Mayor Murillo limited public comments, Oscar Gutierrez showed the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors website, celebrating the fact there’s no end in sight for the current market boom. Does he not realize that many of the buyers are out of state and escaping from riot-torn cites to the safety and small town feel of Santa Barbara?
Locals are also selling to escape the rental regulations, which diminish the local rental stock, as they move to less regulated areas, leaving fewer and fewer places to rent.
We received calls and emails from people selling their property in 1031 exchanges to move out of state, of condos and small apartment buildings that were sold after the city council passed the Rental Relocation Fee Ordinance, which penalizes landlords. Also, several owners who had rental cottages on their property are now reserved for their visiting friends and family only. As they said, why bother?
The regulations on new construction will prevent new buildings. It’s impossible to get a construction loan with a 2% cap on rentals as the return will not cover the expenses of the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. Private property owners are not subsidized by the city and must pay their own bills. Contrary to the Housing Authority who during this city council meeting was awarded $75,000 to pay down a mortgage. We wonder what they do with their rent money.
SB 9 is another form of rent control that will also thwart new construction. It mandates low-income and moderate rentals only, so where is the impetus to take a risk and provide housing? Besides which, it is unknown if the lot splits take away the benefits of Prop 13.
If this council was serious about housing, why have they allowed so many new hotels? Hotels require low-income employees, for whom we don’t have adequate housing.
As stated previously, during COVID-19 while schools were shut down, it was evident there is not the great housing shortage the city experiences when school is in session. Councilmember Eric Friedman noted that the impact of Santa Barbara City College, (emphasis on “city”) marketing to international students and out-of-state students, puts a strain on Santa Barbara’s local housing stock. It has been suggested that SBCC build its own student housing on its property as a solution to this portion of the housing crisis.
These are just a few of the many stories of unintended consequences. This is all due to their shortsightedness and naïve leadership, so thank you, Mayor Murillo, Councilmembers Oscar Gutierrez, Kristen Sneddon, and Meagan Harmon.
Another example of unintended consequences: The absence of criminal charges has signaled free reign to shoplifters.
There have been recently pop-up smash and grab teams that hit the local Volcom Store and the Winchell’s. And now teenage thugs have been sighted hanging outside the old downtown Macy’s intimidating passersby. These young men have dressed alike in black hoodies, and they appeared to be trained and are well-rehearsed as they act in concert.
We noticed that Solvang, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta and Milpas all had their Christmas parades, but nothing on State Street. What a loss for our city if State Street no longer hosts our unifying traditions of parades on our main street to celebrate the Fourth of July, Solstice and Fiesta.
The Christmas parade admittedly is small potatoes when compared to the impact of the Summer Solstice and Fiesta parades, both of which are world-class events. Another example of the short-sightedness of putting all their eggs in one basket: Catering to the restaurants rather than encouraging diversified business establishments along the downtown corridor.
Tis the season, remember to support our local charities like, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission (and its Bethel House), Transition House, St Vincent’s Catholic Charities, Villa Magellan and all those organizations who effectively take care of the people here all year long.
Another option to support local organizations. is a membership to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or the Santa Barbara Zoo by emailing email@example.com.
Bonnie Donovan writes “Did You Know?” with a bipartisan of citizens concerned about Santa Barbara and its government. Her column appears Sundays in the News-Press. It was published in the news section this week for logistical reasons and will return next week to its usual home in the Voices section.