The Santa Barbara City Council decided to establish an ad hoc committee to explore various ways to alleviate the housing crisis in the area.
The city council was expected to approve the scope of work for a study the body approved earlier this year. But after a lengthy public comment period and a bevy of questions posed by council members, the body unanimously decided to form a housing crisis committee instead.
Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez was named chair of the committee with Councilmembers Alejandra Gutierrez and Kristen Sneddon joining him on the group.
Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez said he wanted the group to be multifaceted and acknowledged it would include public outreach and town hall meetings.
The group will also come up with direction on the sequence and priority for a temporary rent stabilization ordinance and a rental registry program, items the city council approved in December.
Originally, the council was tasked with approving the scope of a rent stabilization economic analysis to be funded with $200,000 of federal pandemic relief money.
But many council members expressed concern about bringing in an outside consultant who might not understand the community’s needs well.
“As to the study, I have to say, I don’t think that it’s necessary for us to spend the taxpayer dollars to get the information we already know if we’re also going to put in place an ad hoc committee that’s doing the same research. It seems to be duplicative of effort and just wasteful of money,” Mayor Pro Tempore Meagan Harmon said. “We don’t have unlimited funds, and I think the work the housing crisis committee could do … will, to me, be more worthwhile than a study put together by a consultant from a different community.”
“I don’t want to spend money on another study. After hearing everybody today, I think it’s very clear that we have the answers within our community,” said Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez. “We all want to take care of our renters, but we need to make really wise decisions. I really believe in some of our organizers here that have really good information. I’d rather spend money locally than hiring somebody from the outside.”
However, Councilmember Sneddon expressed her discontent in forgoing the study — albeit, she did support the formation of the ad hoc committee.
“I am deeply, deeply disappointed that what was a true effort to find data and information to make the best ordinance has been used to subvert the ordinance,” she said.
“We are losing members of our Latino community. Our census tells us that, our district boundaries tell us that — and it is rapid,” Councilmember Sneddon said during the city council meeting. “This is a crisis for long-term generations of people in this community. I am asking, please, that we do not halt what we’ve already put forward to answer these questions. I think it’s within our best interest to be able to answer these questions.”
Earlier Tuesday, multiple city workers asked the council to approve a cost of living adjustment. During the at-times emotional public comment period, workers stressed the inability to afford utility bills, rising rent costs and other basic needs such as groceries.