Members will consider declaring emergency because of camps in fire-prone areas
The Santa Barbara City Council will review homeless encampments, Ortega Park murals and the city’s budget during a packed week of meetings.
Members will have two special meetings on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday. On the latter day, the council will hear and consider the recommended operating and capital budget for Fiscal Year 2022.
Those meetings are in addition to the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday. During that session, the council will consider proclaiming a local emergency due to encampments in fire-prone areas. Members will also discuss declaring a shelter crisis.
Council members will be asked to select a location for a temporary safe encampment for 120 days and approve the process for site management and fire-prone area abatement.
Tuesday’s regular meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and can be viewed on City TV Channel 18 or streamed live at www.santabarbaraca.gov/cap.
Roughly 300 individuals live on the streets or in encampments in the city, according to the 2020 Santa Barbara Homeless Population Point in Time Count. At least 50 of the unhoused people are in fire-prone areas.
Fires in encampments are on the rise — with 18 in May alone.
The city staff is considering several city-owned properties for a temporary safe encampment location, including: the Carrillo-Castillo commuter parking lot, City Hall parking lot, Spencer Adams parking lot and one of the Santa Barbara Airport’s long-term parking locations. Private property locations such as the Sears parking lot are under consideration as well.
A short list of three will be presented to the council at the meeting.
Under the proposed resolution, city staff would prioritize the sites for abatement, work with CityNet staff to move campers to the temporary encampment, schedule trash cleanup and vegetation removal, and continue weekly evaluation and cleanup work of abated areas.
No federal or state funds are currently available for the services to support the establishment of the temporary safe encampment or abatement activities, the staff report says.
The estimated costs for the 120 pilot and abatement services is approximately $1 million.
Another big agenda item for the council is a status report on the Ortega Park murals, a topic that recently gained lots of community engagement and efforts to save the historic murals.
According to the city staff report, the outcomes of the recent community engagement efforts — including public comment, community discussions, surveys and the community meeting held in April — indicate that there’s a diversity of opinions about the murals that range from preserving in place to relocating or reproducing them. Some people are also interested in replacing the murals with new murals, dedicating financial resources to continue the tradition of mentoring young artists.
It is anticipated that further guidance from community groups, including the muralists, will be presented by Tuesday’s council meeting.
“To provide the comprehensive renewal of Ortega Park to establish a viable, safe, neighborhood destination for the next 30-plus years, structures will need to be removed and reconstructed to develop new recreation elements,” the staff report reads. “To achieve a renewed park, there are options for the murals including relocation, reproduction on new structures in the park and digital documentation. The feasibility and cost of each approach will depend on the condition of each mural.”
The first three phases of the Ortega Park Renewal Project are estimated to cost nearly $12 million, but the grant application includes $350,000 for mural reproduction and new mural creation in the park. These funds would support mural artists and youth apprentices in the reproduction and creation of park murals.
Also coming to the council’s desk for approval are amendments to the city’s Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program to exclude mobile home parks from development under the program and increase the inclusionary requirement outside the Central Business District to help meet the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation for housing.
Council directed staff to clarify that low- and very-low-income units required to satisfy state density bonus law, or through the city’s Density Bonus Ordinance, did not count toward meeting the number of moderate-income inclusionary units required under the AUD Program. This ensures that moderate-income housing is produced to better meet the need for housing at that income level and satisfy the city’s RHNA.
In addition, by adding back in language clarifying that the AUD Program development standards don’t apply to mobile home parks, the city ensures “that existing mobile home parks, which by their nature provide an alternative and typically affordable housing source, are protected from redevelopment,” according to city staff.
The Santa Barbara City Council will also be asked to declare its intention to continue vegetation road clearance, implementation of a defensible space inspection and assistance program and implementation of a vegetation management program within the foothill and extreme foothill zones. The council would be “declaring the work to be of more than general or ordinary benefit and describing the district to be assessed to pay the costs and expenses.” This would continue the Wildland FIre Suppression Assessment District for Fiscal Year 2022.
Semi-annual interviews for city advisory groups (not including the State Street Advisory Committee) will be held during Tuesday’s meeting as well.
In other business, the council will hold a closed session Tuesday morning with a labor negotiator and discuss the appointment for the community development director.