Santa Barbara City Council candidates share vision in virtual forum
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Three Santa Barbara City Council members are running for re-election next month, but only two face challengers.
During a virtual candidates forum, hosted by the American Institute of Architects Santa Barbara Chapter, District 5 incumbent Eric Friedman, who is running unopposed, joked that he appreciated that his opponent didn't go negative.
The forum stayed positive for all.
District 6 incumbent Meagan Harmon is facing three challengers: musician Zachary Pike, assistant city administrator Nina Johnson, and electrical contractor Jason Carlton.
Carlton was the only candidate who did not take part in the online forum on Wednesday night.
In District 4, incumbent Kristen Sneddon is facing Planning Commission member Barrett Reed.
The moderator asked questions about housing, permitting, building heights and the quality of life for local residents.
Harmon said the council needs to get out of the way of local business.
She said with vacancies below one percent, she supports denser housing that is better for the environment if the housing is close to jobs.
Johnson said she would like to see vacant retail space including Nordstroms turned into housing for rentals and home owners. She said he city is just one player and she wants to emphasize shopping local to improve economic vitality.
Reed said there was too much talk and too little action when it came to proposals that would benefit from timelines and review process predictability. As a Downtown Santa Barbara board member, Reed said he works to improve the downtown area everyday.
Sneddon said the main issue is the scarcity of land that drives up prices.
Pike said, "I also would like to see the city as a job creator, I think that there is room in the budget to make more careers for more locals."
They all spoke out against high-rises. They agree the downtown area should be limited to three story structures that Friedman said have contributed to Santa Barbara becoming an architectural model to the world.
"We have for the first time in the last few years a working council," Friedman said during closing comments. He said his work at Trader Joe's also helps him interact with the community.
Sneddon teaches at Santa Barbara City College and said her area of expertise involves many issues that affect Santa Barbara such as water security and fire safety.
Meagan Harmon said she is proud of the work the council has done to enact transformative change for working families in Santa Barbara, including eviction protection and tenants rights.
"We created the State Street promenade, which is an idea that had been discussed and debated and workshopped for 20-30 years. We made it a reality and there is a lot left to do to build a community vision."
She believes we are coming out of the COVID crisis more resilient.
Johnson said the pandemic has given the council an "opportunity to be innovative and transform our community and really address some of our challenges in a new and different way, and fortunately for us we have the design talent in spades."
Johnson said the city needs a more proactive approach to get out of the way of our local businesses by getting rid of rules that no longer serve the community.
Pike said the city needs to be a job creator and find solutions. He says the current council doesn't listen to the concerns of locals.
"I originally started running for this seat because I felt there was no place to go to talk, I felt in this town my needs weren't being met, I felt like I was being spoken to and not spoken with," Pike said.
Reed said he has been walking door to door campaigning and intends to make the downtown clean and safe by providing incentives. He says he can bring more businesses to the district.
"I am dedicated to bringing businesses and residents back to the heart of our city."
Candidates are usually elected to 4-year terms, but due to a voter approved change from odd to even year elections, the winning candidates will serve 5-year terms.
Like the Santa Barbara Mayoral Forum on Monday, a recording of the Santa Barbara City Council Candidates Forum will be posted online.
You can watch the full candidate forum below: