Beach City attempts to repair damages from zoning violations

TAYLOR WILLIAMS, Associate Editor

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The Santa Barbara City Planning Committee met with representatives of Beach City on Thursday to discuss a proposal regarding how the complex will compensate for breaking strict zoning regulations.

St. George and Associates, which owns and operates the 97-unit property, wants to keep certain unpermitted alterations to the property by getting city-issued permits, including a Coastal Development Permit. The company introduced a plan that would help restore the habitat of endangered Monarch butterflies and other animals, which was damaged by their alterations made over the past year.

“We can’t turn back the clocks,” said June Pujo, Planning and Development specialist. “But we can and should do the very best job we can do to protect that area.”

Laurel Perez, principal planner for Beach City from Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting services, presented the plan to the City Planning Commission. It would help repair damages done to the habitat from the complex’s breaches of zoning regulations.

The most recent approved plan for the property was in 1981.

“We’re not talking about structural improvement, we’re talking about significant site improvements,” Perez said to the commission.

The plan includes planting at least 3,000 plant species with ample nectar, which would attract Monarch butterflies back to the area. It incorporates at least 20 canopy trees around the Honda Valley Creek area.

“We’re anxious to get moving on this,” she said.

St. George and Associates has a contract in place with Santa Barbara Growing Solutions, which would hire City College students to plant the new species.

A 5-year maintenance program would protect and monitor the Monarch butterflies and their habitat.

Pujo said the program should require a qualified person to count the Monarchs living around Honda Creek Valley and report the numbers to the city quarterly.

To help match previous property conditions, Perez said trees should be planted on each side of the property, five on Cliff drive and five on Loma Alta drive.

“What St. George is doing is for greed and the all-mighty dollar,” said Mesa Resident Diane Greenwood. “He paid no attention to what was already on his property.”

The removal of the Eucalyptus trees was out of concern for resident safety, because there were as many as 10 illegal homeless encampments near Honda Valley Creek, which attracted trash and caused problems with the police department, Perez said.

The removal was also for resident safety because of the drought, as Eucalyptus trees are highly flammable under certain climate conditions, she said.

Mesa residents noted an increase in Monarchs, foxes, skunks, various birds and hawks in surrounding neighborhoods since the trees were removed.

The unpermitted hardscape patio around the pool area will be replaced with a more “permeable” surface, which will help purify water before reaching Honda Valley Creek, she said. The cemented area around the parking lot next to the creek, which also broke zoning regulations, will be replaced with vegetation, Perez said.

Members of the commission agreed partying among the residents would need to be controlled to protect the environmentally sensitive area.

The maintenance plan will undergo further city approval before being implemented.

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