Santa Barbara
69° F
Santa Maria
65° F
San Luis Obispo
64° F
67° F

Tipline Investigation: Cabana Controversy

By C.J. Ward, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter,
Published On: Nov 11 2013 11:51:43 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 12 2013 01:41:26 AM CST

Is Santa Barbara County declaring war on historic landmarks?


A 6 year fight over a local historic landmark could spell trouble for other treasured landmarks.

NewsChannel 3 investigates why some Santa Barbara County officials want to tear down historic landmark #49.

The Irene and Frances Rich cabana is perched on a pristine beach bluff in Hope Ranch. Cabanas like this, once dotted the California coastline. Most are gone now.

The cabana was built in 1956 by actress Irene Rich, one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1920's and 30's. But, Rich had help from Santa Barbara's most influential residents of the time.

"We have Pearl Chase coming here as their friend and doing landscaping. And people like Harold Chase who acquired the land to even put this here," said Lee Carr the current owner of the cabana.

Over the years, Hollywood elite like Steve McQueen, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, artist Diego Rivera and racing legend Enzo Ferrari vacationed here, just to name a few.

But, all of that history may not be enough to save it.

"We've been caught in a lot of catch 22's. When we bought the property, a man had done repairs without a permit causing the building to go into violation status which is in effect to today," said Julia Carr who bought the property 6 years ago with her husband.

The Carr's said that mistake by a previous owner could doom this piece of history forever. Some county officials now believe that violation, although minor, is reason enough to move the cabana off the bluff or simply tear it down.

One of those officials is Glenn Russell, Director of Santa Barbara County's Planning and Development Department. Russell declined to talk on camera for this story, but he did tell me over the phone, that he has to balance two policies. One that applies to  historic landmarks and another policy that applies to a building that's not only in violation, but doesn't meet current building codes.

"So there's a conflict. Even though we may want to comply with the rules, we can't comply with rules on one side that say one thing and rules on the other side that say another thing," said Lee Carr as he described his frustration with the whole mess.

One example, is the railing height on the deck. The railing was originally built to a height of 36 inches. If the Carr's raise it to 42 inches as the county wants, the Carr's would violate the Historic Building Code. If they don't do anything and leave the railing at 36 inches, the Carr's would be violating the current building code.  The Carr's are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

"My frustrations are with the system, where it appears no one understands the system, including me. It's really impenetrable. It's confusing and it's contradictory," said Lee Carr.

Some people wonder what all of this means for the county's other 48 historic landmark's. Will they be held to the same standard's as the Rich Cabana?

John Woodward,  former Chair of the County Historic Landmark Commission said it's as if some county officials are declaring war on all historic landmarks.

"They haven't said they won't apply it to every landmark. But common sense tells you when there's broad discretion like that without a lot of objective basis for it that it can be applied to every landmark and the reality is, almost every historic building by its very nature is old and it's had many changes, most of them minor over the years," said Woodward.

As for the Carr's, they said they've spent an unbelievable amount  of money
over the last six years on geological studies, engineers and attorney's to  show the cabana is in excellent  condition and safe. All they want from the county is a permit that essentially forgives the mistakes of the past and let's them maintain this historic cabana so it survives another 60-years.

"The compromise will come by someone stepping forward and making a decision, rather than postponing decisions, rather than setting up obstacles to  avoid making decisions," said Lee Carr.

"We're hoping in our lifetime that  we can get this resolved," said Julia Carr with a nervous smile.

If not, the sea and time will decide the cabana's fate.

Glenn Russell, the county official who is recommending the cabana be removed, also believes it's an overstatement to say that this case will have any impact on the other historic landmarks because every situation is different.

A hearing is set for the beginning of December. We'll let you know what happens.


The views expressed are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms Of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. 
blog comments powered by Disqus
  • Body of Isaiah Sanchez Recovered at Cachuma Lake

    Santa Barbara County sheriff rescue crews have found a body near the place where Isaiah Sanchez went missing.

  • Ellwood Fire

    Explosion at Goleta Apartment Complex Leaves One Man Hospitalized

    Santa Barbara County Fire crews responded to an explosion and fire at an apartment complex on 447 Ellwood Drive in Goleta.   Fire officials received the call at around 7:00 p.m. One person was injured and taken to the hospital with severe burns.  The apartment manager helped put out a small fire that broke out after the blast. The explosion and fire are still under investigation.  The fire did not spread to any adjoining apartments.

  • dangerous dogs

    Orcutt Family Starts Petition to Change County Ordinance

    An Orcutt family is fighting to keep their dogs from being euthanized, and is now trying to change a county ordinance on aggressive dogs. The family has an online petition spreading their message on the internet in an effort to get the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisor's attention.

    Peggy Henning remembers the day her family welcomed Daisy and Duke into their family like it was yesterday.

    "They immediately just became part of the family," said Henning. "They were very friendly with all the guests we had coming over."

    But things changed when Daisy and Duke got loose. They liked chasing cats.

    "Dogs are pack animals and that is their default instinct," said Henning. "If they are bonded or litter mates, it intensifies that. They would get out of the confines of our house or yard and this instinct would come to the surface."

  • motorcycle_police_officer

    Drivers Stung in a Sting Come Close to Hitting Pedestrians

    A crackdown on drivers who won't stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk is underway in Santa Barbara and Goleta.

  • Explosion Caused By Man Producing Marijuana Oil

    Explosion Caused By Man Producing Marijuana Oil

    Investigators said the Goleta apartment explosion and fire Monday night was caused by the illegal process of making butane honey oil.

  • Santa Paula Reserve Police Officer Resigns After Posting Video About Bicyclists

    Volunteer posted a YouTube video joking about running over bicyclists.

  • Juvenile Hall Court to Host Gang-related Murder Trial

    The so-called "U-Haul murder trial" is expected to be another high security, gang-related trial that requires extra time and money to make it work at the Santa Barbara County Juvenile Hall courtroom which is seen as the most practical venue.

  • Stone Named Interim Head Football Coach for Dons

    JT Stone Will Serve as Interim Head Football Coach at Santa Barbara High School

    Stone has 14 years of coaching experience at the youth and high school level.

  • Slideshow: Rescue Crews Find Body In Cachuma Lake

    Santa Barbara County sheriff rescue crews have found a body near the place where Isaiah Sanchez went missing.

  • Slideshow: Blondes VS Brunettes Charity Football Game

    A charity football game at the Polo fields in Carpinteria pits the Blondes vs Brunettes. The all-women football teams duked it out on Saturday to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association. Both teams fought fiercely but in the end, only one came out the victor.

    Photography by Oscar Flores.