Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Another Big Party at Bellosguardo title=
In 2014, former Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider appointed her then-political consultant and boyfriend Jeremy Lindaman to run the Bellosguardo Foundation and open the property to the public. Despite collecting a six-figure salary and reportedly living at the estate since then, Lindaman has made little progress in carrying out the foundation’s mission. | Credit: Courtesy
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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

There I was, plopped on East Beach and watching the birds ― wondering how pelicans choose who among them leads their “V” formations ― when I heard engines rumble behind me.

Looking back and up at Bellosguardo ― Santa Barbara’s most nakedly corrupt institution ― I saw a line of party rental trucks snake their way from a large white tent on the south lawn to the iron gates below. It was the morning after yet another private event at the property, which is supposed to be operating as a public center for the arts but instead serves as a $85 million man-cave for an ex-mayor’s boyfriend, his buddies, and the rich and famous.

I tried to refocus my attention on the sparkling ocean in front of me, but my blood was already starting to simmer. I jumped in the water to cool off. It helped, but only a little. The umbrage train had already left the station.

As I swam toward the buoys, I remembered how this spring, the Bellosguardo Foundation had submitted an application to the City of Santa Barbara’s Planning Division to finally start offering guided tours of the 23-acre estate. After forming seven long years ago, it was the organization’s first noticeable step toward carrying out the late Huguette Clark’s will.

But the application ― which also sought conditional-use to host special events ― was deemed an incomplete mess, and the Planning Division sent it back to the Foundation for another crack. The nonprofit hadn’t resubmitted any paperwork, yet here they were, throwing another big party. I kept swimming.

I thought back to the beginnings of this great Bellosguardo Boondoggle, back to 2014, when our mayor at the time, Helene Schneider, appointed her then-lover, Jeremy Lindaman, to lead the organization, despite his shocking lack of qualifications. Lindaman had previously worked as a political consultant and before that for his family’s print shop. He’s since been paid a six-figure salary to run a nonprofit with millions in assets ― doing what, exactly, is hard to say, though he’s rumored to live there full-time. Maybe he mows the lawn.

Save for that half-baked application, Lindaman and the Foundation have never publicly stated what their plans are for turning the aged mansion into a modern arts center. They’ve promised press conferences that never happened. They’ve dangled potential partnerships with other arts organizations that never materialized. They’ve auctioned off Clark’s doll collection with no transparency of where the money went.

They’ve blamed fires, the debris flow, and COVID for stalling public access, yet they have managed to host a Great Gatsby–themed gala, extravagant weddings, and private tours for those willing to cough up thousands of dollars. They’ve fired all the staff, except for a handful of gardeners, and kicked the longtime caretaker to the curb.

Finally, my muscles aching, I turned back toward shore. And I realized, with a sort of sadness, that we can’t be surprised that this slow-moving debacle is taking place. That’s because no one is really watching.

Dick Wolf of Law & Order fame is the Foundation’s chair, but he’s completely absentee, which apparently is his MO when serving on Santa Barbara boards. The last time he talked about the Bellosguardo in any public way was November 2018, when he said, cocktail in hand, that a major announcement was only “six months in the future.”

Remarkably, the Bellosguardo board itself never meets (in violation of its own bylaws) to discuss its plans or its finances. And I can’t see our current mayor ― or any members of the City Council ― raising the issue. That just leaves the New York Attorney General’s Office (the Foundation is registered back East), and they haven’t shown any interest in the matter.

So without any real accountability, it’s no wonder a former political operative ― who wound up sinking Schneider’s promising career with bad advice and even worse behavior ― has turned Clark’s summer home into his personal party house. And so far, no one with the legal, political, or high-society clout has been willing to take the lead on making sure Clark’s will is actually carried out.

A few weeks later, I found out that the Bellosguardo bash I saw had been a wedding party for one of Arianna and Michael Huffington’s daughters. While Michael Huffington has sailed off into the silence of his personal sunset long time ago, Arianna has emerged as a one-name wonder, like Cher and Madonna, a celebrity now famous for having once been famous.

Back in the early 1990s, the Huffingtons were winning the hearts and minds of Santa Barbara’s hoi polloi by writing $10,000 checks to all the nonprofits on whose boards they served. By this nakedly transactional method, Michael — then a restless oil man and real estate developer from Texas — bought himself the congressional seat that included Santa Barbara. Quickly bored, he ran, two years later, against Dianne Feinstein, for her Senate seat.

At that time, hoping to inflate his right-wing street cred, Huffington — a decent guy when he thought no one was looking — endorsed Prop. 187, a statewide initiative that would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving social services. It soon came to light that the Huffingtons had themselves hired an undocumented nanny. This left his campaign in shambles, Feinstein won, and Arianna transformed herself into a high-glam left-wing salonista, prompting Lou Cannon — Summerland resident and a national political commentator of great renown — to mutter, “Once upon a time, the left had some standards.”

Recently, I heard that Jeff Bezos, the Amazon Man, would be renting Bellosguardo soon. Oh well, next time I’m on East Beach, I’ll remember to ask the pelicans how they pick their leader. Maybe they’ll have some advice. But the weather is getting a little chilly for another ocean swim.


This edition of The News Letter, originally emailed to subscribers on September 27, was updated on October 20, 2021. To receive The News Letter in your inbox, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.

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Mas Gaviota Oct 22, 2021 05:33 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

It looks like the nattering nabobs on Edhat are up in arms about the Bellosguardo Foundation. They seem to think that they are keeping some dark secrets. It took me a minute on teh Google to find their tax returns, which like most non profits are public record. It looks all in order to me. BTW Lindman started off at $75,000 per year with a bump to $120,000 in 2018 and $140,000 in 2019. Look for yourself:

https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/471833911

Mas Gaviota Oct 22, 2021 08:33 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

I am not a fan of Helene or Lindaman.
He only started making over $100,000 per year three years ago. He is basically a one man band who has to be the president of the foundation and property manager of an old, large estate. He may not have properly completed the permits, but the board of directors is getting a bargain. You get what you pay for.

ZBHotep Oct 22, 2021 08:12 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

so he's making over a hundred thousand dollars for seven years, and when he finally submits a permit to the city it's deemed "incomplete" and "without details"

Lindaman is unbelievably inept and lazy.

Byzantium Oct 22, 2021 04:59 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Too bad the estate lawyer who drafted her trust did not flesh out her intentions in pratical consideration - "promotion of the arts" is meaningless. Leaves a lot of loose end hanging for what is unfortunately at this stage of its existence, a white elephant. Huge maintenance and operating costs- coastal zone restrictions and an already well-developed art world locally that does not need the competition for support and fund-raising. A lovely and unique property, but it will always be a struggle to find its mission and maintenance funding. I am reminded of Liberace's Museum in Las Vegas - it had its moment in time and then no longer. What does one do with a large mansion by the sea and not let it end up like Franceschi House - a hulking, neglected wreck. But with a wonderful history and critical to what we ultimately became as a heavily and artificially landscaped community. Where does Bellosguardo fit into the other large non-profits in this town: Botanic Garden, Zoo, Art Museum that already have their own significant real estate investments. Which "arts"are to be promoted - only the visual arts? What about culinary arts, musical arts, magical arts, theatrical arts, healing arts, arts and technology......... maybe a world class culinary and viticulture arts institution to rival Cordon Bleu or SF Culinary Arts Academy?

MarcelK Oct 23, 2021 02:21 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

As usual, you have no idea what you're talking about and just make stuff up. Bellosguardo is not a "white elephant" since it was not gifted to us, and we are not paying the maintenance or operating costs.

Stray Oct 22, 2021 03:34 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Bellosguardo is a 23½-acre property with an assessed value of $49.7 million as of 2017, according to the Assessor’s Office. The 21,666-square-foot mansion, built in 1936, has nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and 13 fireplaces. In May 2011, the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark died, leaving Bellosguardo, her palatial summer home, as a gift to the Santa Barbara community. Clark’s will, before and after the settlement, instructed executors to create a nonprofit foundation for the purpose of fostering and promoting the arts, with a Board of Directors that served without compensation. Bellosguardo Foundation was incorporated as a New York-based nonprofit corporation in 2014. The foundation’s Board of Directors was nominated by former Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. Jeremy Lindaman, Schneider’s then-political consultant, was hired as executive director. The New York County Public Administrator’s Office was executor of the will and gave money to the foundation — for Lindaman’s salary, among other things —(currently estimated to be $120,000 annually by the SB News Press) and paid the Bellosguardo estate’s property taxes to Santa Barbara County, according to foundation and county records. Court documents from Nov. 3, 2017, say Clark’s estate was solvent and that all debts and expenses of the estate had been paid, except closing fees. In April 2018, with probate and tax issues settled by the New York County Public Administrator’s office, the Bellosguardo estate was officially transferred to the nonprofit Bellosquardo foundation. And pretty much that’s the last we ever heard of the matter until Tyler Heyden’s article this week in The Independent. As to Mr Lindaman, his lack of transparency about the future of Bellosguardo speaks loudly for when the local community will be invited to visit Ms. Clark’s former estate. Unless you can afford to host a private event on the property, you’ll never see it. I have a feeling the law of Karma may work against those responsible for the current outcome of Ms. Clark’s gift to us.

MarcelK Oct 23, 2021 02:16 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

"Ms. Clark’s gift to us." -- What gift to us? She left the estate to a private foundation. It's not public property. Mr. Lindaman isn't being paid out of tax funds. Why this absurd sense of entitlement to something that isn't yours? What have we heard of *your* private activities? Where's *your* transparency? You say "that's the last we ever heard of the matter" -- oh really? You did an exhaustive search? Because it isn't true.

Alexblue Oct 22, 2021 02:07 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

People only want to get in there because they can't get in there. Aside from some of the fixtures and the location it is an unremarkable estate. Personally, I have no issue with it being rented out for high dollar events, the foundation has to make money to keep the place up, however, it should be moved along to fulfill the function laid out by the bequest.

Bill Dedman Oct 22, 2021 01:26 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Huguette Clark generously left her property, the home that her mother built in Santa Barbara, to the private Bellosguardo Foundation, not to the city of Santa Barbara. People keep saying, "it's ours," but it's not. It belongs to a private foundation, as her will directed.

Second, the foundation's primary purpose, according to the will, is "fostering and promoting the arts." The president and board chairman of that foundation have laid out how they intend to do that: long term, to make it a sort of museum, with art exhibitions and arts events, but a lot has to be done to get to that point; and in the short term, starting as soon as possible to have public tours of the mansion.

Third, the foundation, like other property owners, is allowed to have private events without needing a permit.

Fourth, events such as wedding parties help the foundation accomplish its goals by raising funds for its publicly stated plans of opening the property to the public, the very goal the author of this piece claims the foundation is not working toward.

Fifth, city meetings -- with minutes and videos and plans available online -- show that the foundation is doing what it has promised: working to open the home to the public, planning public restrooms and a ramp to meet ADA requirements, and sufficient parking. The foundation president, Jeremy Lindaman, made public comments at these public meetings, describing the foundation's plans to open for public tours as soon as possible, as soon as it gets the city's approval. You'll be able to go online, but a ticket for a docent-led tour.

Sixth, the foundation did not take possession of the Clark property until 2017. These things take time. Especially in a home not used for 60 years.

Seventh, the foundation and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum are planning an exhibition of artwork by Huguette Clark, art which just came to the foundation this summer from her estate.

In short, I'm glad that Mrs. Clark's home is on its way toward meeting her stated goal of promoting the arts.

I was glad to help lead a tour of the home as a fundraiser for the foundation. I did this as a volunteer, for no pay, just as others in the community have generously volunteered many hours of their time. The tour that I helped lead was advertised on the foundation's website. Again, raising money for a charity so it can meet its goals is a good thing.

It's a good thing that the Bellosguardo Foundation is making ambitious and thoughtful plans.

It's a good thing that it is raising money, partly by being a sought-after venue for weddings.

Raising money will allow it to open this historic home for public tours, once it gets full city approval.

See more info and photos at http://facebook.com/investigative.reporter.

Bill Dedman, co-author of "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune"
Reach me at bill@powerreporting.com.

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 23, 2021 07:36 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Since you are making some rather salacious claims about Bill that are likely libelous, we must assume that you have an attorney on retainer who has advised you of your situation and vetted out these claims. Otherwise, you'd be facing significant expenses in order to defend your claims and accusations against what appears to us readers as a clear cut case of libel and defamation...

sbsunshine Oct 22, 2021 08:47 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Self-promotion. You have a book and a movie in the works on this subject. Most importantly, why are you speaking on behalf of the foundation when you are not on the official board? We understand you were on the party planning committee for the roaring 20's event and you are very close with board members but why are you talking like you are the official communication source and defending the foundation? That is the foundation's job. Said nicely, you have self-interests that unfortunately limit your credibility and even worse, speaking on behalf of the foundation, the board, telling the community what the goals are and defending them telegraphs things you may not be aware you are telegraphing. It is said our shadow is called that for a reason. Best to look at your own soul and motives and let the foundation board members step up and deliver all communications as the more you talk the worse it all appears.

ZBHotep Oct 22, 2021 03:51 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

So Lindaman has been collecting a salary for nearly a decade even though the property stood in limbo with nothing happening? And now that the property has been in the hands of the foundation for FOUR YEARS, Lindaman came to the city without a functioning plan.

GRIFTER

sbsunshine Oct 22, 2021 08:53 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

The foundation and Bill want you and us to all believe they have zero accountability to the city and community and don't have to answer. They want you to believe pursuing any actions are fruitless. This isn't true. They are trying to "spell cast" everyone into "its hopeless", "go away", "give up", "nothing to see here you are all unjustified and ignorant people who are not as smart as they are". None of the gaslighting Bill and the foundation are spouting is true. There are legal mechanisms on the local, state and federal level. Don't ever give up. Don't ever given in to the bullshit.

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 22, 2021 11:55 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Rumor has it that they are about to announce that guided tours will be soon be offered. It appears that Tyler and his lump of envy is not tuned in to the inner workings of his beat...

a-1634968239 Oct 22, 2021 10:50 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

I just read the articles in chronological order.
In March the Foundation submitted an application to City for activities. It was returned due to incompleteness.
https://www.independent.com/2021/05/27/bellosguardo-showing-small-signs-of-life/

The Foundation has been announcing a lot of stuff. No reason to think it will happen.

What do you have against Tyler Hayden? He's done some good work here. Or is it The Independent you object to?

Check out the articles here, no one else is looking into Bellosguardo:
https://www.independent.com/?s=bellosguardo

Babycakes Oct 22, 2021 10:35 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

At least the place is operable and being used. Of course it's wealthy and connected "elites" who can afford to hire out the place...it's not like Dolores Center or the VFW hall that schlubs like me rent out for events. Some day I hope to be an elite and will invite all of my Edhat friends when I have a party there...there will be tomahawk steaks for the meat eaters and seafood for those who are not (piles of King Crab legs...scallops, prawns as big as you have ever seen)...open bar, and to-go containers for all.

a-1634929555 Oct 22, 2021 12:05 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

It's easy to say "at least this and that," but at the core that is just pathetic, toxic positivity. Just because something could be worse, doesn't mean it is okay. The current state and function of Bellosguardo is a slap in the face to the public and to the late owner. Shame on all who run this place and all who attend events here.

sacjon Oct 22, 2021 10:49 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

BABYCAKES - that sounds like an awesome plan. I'll bring the whiskey and piñatas. No bats or sharp sticks though!

a-1634922725 Oct 22, 2021 10:12 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Ridiculous. Thank you for continuing to bring attention to this. Shame on all involved, perhaps most of all Helene for setting the stage for this to happen. It is disgusting how little anyone in power cares.

a-1634929235 Oct 22, 2021 12:00 PM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

ZERO is right, this has nothing to do with party lines and everything to do with rotten elites (no political preference necessary) making rotten choices that benefit the elites and no one else, ignoring legality and basic morality and ethics. As long as we keep acting like commenter 699 and attempt to turn every problem in our world into a fault of solely the Democrats or solely the Republicans, we will never solve anything. We can all practice being mindful of jumping to an immediate "blame game" vs. "how can we fix this and make it so it doesn't happen again?" We are all guilty of this, hell I immediately thought "goddammit Helene," and we can all do better. Now, what the living F can we do as citizens to address this ongoing, disgusting problem? It has been years now........

sfgac055 Oct 22, 2021 11:44 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

Ummmm Zero, it was our former mayor (a politician) who appointed her unqualified boyfriend to run the foundation... I'd say that's why politics was/can be brought into it.

ZeroHawk Oct 22, 2021 11:19 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

@699 stop it. why bring politics into this unless you're trying to pick a fight online with others? and if so, that's quite pathetic of you. stay on topic.

a-1634925699 Oct 22, 2021 11:01 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

But Helene was a democrat, and those in power are democrats, how could this have possible happened when the democrats are always right?

AwareHuman Oct 22, 2021 10:11 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

This is the kind of rot that weakens the beams...slowly but surely. A shameless flaunting of decency that is ignored because it is the perfect scam. Thanks Helen. Get our torches and storm the castle!

CoastWatch Oct 22, 2021 09:29 AM
Another Big Party at Bellosguardo

...and the current Administration wants the IRS to check on any transactions of $10,000 dollars over the course of a year in the general publics bank accounts... Meanwhile these scumbags are operating "as usual", under the "privileged elite" ...

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