In its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Barbara City Council decided to take no action regarding the allocation of $147,383 to Citygate Associates, LLC to study the police department and determine its essential and non-essential services, subsequently rejecting the staff recommendation and cancelling the study.
The council agreed that the price tag of the study is too high considering the current economic circumstances. In addition, the council is currently working on the Community Formation Commission and the new police station.
“We have two other major projects,” Council member Eric Friedman said. “If there is a way to look at some of these metrics within our own staff … In this time, in this pandemic, with our reserves the way they are, there’s just no need to and there’s no justification for spending that.”
Council member Meagan Harmon agreed, saying she believes this project’s “time will come.”
“It is of the utmost importance to me that we dedicate the limited resources we have, and they are limited right now, to getting the police oversight system up and running and doing so effectively,” she said.
In other business, the council voted five to two to uphold the appeal of removing the Deodar Cedar located in the front yard setback at 2934 Lomita Rd., with the majority saying they were unable to make the findings that the tree should be removed.
Ms. Marilyn Goldman applied to remove it due to accessibility and parking issues, citing a spinal condition preventing her from being able to see around the tree while parking.
“The tree is the only factor I am able to change,” she said during the hearing. “This is a personal safety issue and should not be dismissed. … A disability is not a matter of convenience; health and safety are not matters of convenience.”
Bob Cunningham appealed the Park and Recreation Commission’s failure to make a decision on the tree, and supports keeping the tree.
“The tree is healthy and sound. It presents no danger to the house or its surroundings,” he said. “Essentially, Ms. Goldman’s request is based solely on convenience, disregarding the benefits the tree provides to the neighborhood.
“I know the pain she feels; nevertheless, the tree is not the cause of her pain. It is simply an inconvenient obstacle in her path.”
The two dissenting votes were Council members Oscar Guiterrez and Alejandra Gutierrez.
“I apologize for this entire experience that you’ve had to go through,” Mr. Gutierrez said to Ms. Goldman. “Hearing those things voiced out loud broke my heart.”
“Sometimes we take more in consideration of a tree, which I understand we need to preserve the trees, but they can be replaced, and somebody’s life and wellbeing — that’s not easily replaced,” said Ms. Guiterrez.
However, Mayor Murrillo, Mayor Pro Tempore Kristen Sneddon and Council members Eric Friedman, Jim Jordan and Meagan Harmon voted to keep the tree.
“We have to go with what’s in our purview,” Mr. Friedman said. “I’m not able to make the findings we legally have to make.”
“It’s not good urban forest management to remove this tree and there’s no reasonable or practical development being proposed that would require that removal,” Mr. Jordan said. “To me, this is beyond uncomfortable. This is really just a mess.
“You have an appointed city member conspiring behind the scenes and, frankly, just acting in a condescending and tone deaf manner to Ms. Goldman and her predicament.”
Mayor Murrillo echoed their sentiments, but concluded saying the rules for the tree’s removal are clear.
The council also received a report on the 2021 Electoral Redistricting Program outlining the process for updating the cities’ six council electoral districts to reflect 2020 U.S. Census data.