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Local Stories by Local People
updated: Aug 09, 2007, 12:00 AM

Historic Landmarks Commission Crosses the Light Blue Line
by David Pritchett, news correspondent

By a 5-2 vote late Tuesday afternoon (08Aug.2007), the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission approved the Light Blue Line project that has been getting panties, girdles, boxers, and briefs into a bunch throughout Santa Barbara for the past few weeks.

The Commission Chair, William LaVoie, started the discussion for this agenda item with a pre-emptive and stern clarification, helped by lead staffer Jaime Limon, about which issues were and were not under the purview of the City Historic Landmarks Commission. HLC only reviews architecture and art for its consistency with the design traditions of the downtown historic district, called El Pueblo Viejo. Public art projects, such as Light Blue Line, were under this purview even if they are a "temporary" art installation.

A major issue for some of the Commissioners was about just how temporary, or permanent, the art installation painted on the streets would become. Another issue also was how much were the associated metal medallions to be affixed to the curb really part of that art and education display versus were the medallions a form of signage that is highly regulated in El Pueblo Viejo. The proposed medallions, to be made of shiny stainless steel, were about 8 cm in diameter and were intended to include the website address of the Light Blue Line project, as "LBLINE.ORG".

Following the public comment by 8 people, the Commissioners offered their comments about the Light Blue Line as a project. All of the 7 Commissioners acknowledged the need for public education and outreach about global warming and associated rise in sea level, and none were in denial about that inconvenient truth, unlike how most of the public commenters were.

The real points of disagreement among the Commissioners concerned the variables about how permanent the painted line on the city streets would be, as well as the material and basic appropriateness of the metal medalians to be affixed to the curbs at the locations of the light blue lines.

For their initial comments, some Commissioners objected to a painted line intended to last about 5 years, with some suggesting that about 5 weeks would be about right and even wondering if the lines should be marked with chalk instead of road-grade paint. Other Commissioners were more concerned with the metal medallions affixed to the curb as too much of a precedent for accepting new signage, even if for a public education message for a non-profit organization.

Keeping up their reputation for why HLC is so good at what they do, other Commissioners focused on the type of metal for the medalians, noting that aluminum and stainless steel had been prohibited for other projects, but bronze or other "Spanish-style" metals had not. The artistic inspirations of the wave icon that comprises the actual blue line also were discussed, considering that the line is more Classic Greek rather than Historic Spanish.

After the round of Commissioner comments, the project seemed doomed to sink by a 5-2 margin, with most of the negative sentiment about the sacrosanct Spanish style downtown not able to accommodate art on the street even though other art often is approved on a pedestal or pole.

With a sinking feeling filling the room even through the cable TV-18, Commissioner Alex Pujo then asked for a straw vote about the main issues under deliberation. Through a series of nonbinding (sort of) raising of hands per question, a set of variables about the project emerged that would garner a majority of support from the Commissioners.

The final vote, 5-2 in favor, was that the blue line painted on the street must be from paint intended to last only about 2 years instead of the originally planned 5-year paint. Of course, how long the paint would last is nearly all a funct


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