Why We Support the United Nations
As members of the Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties Chapter of the United Nations Association-USA, we are frequently asked if the U.N. is still relevant and capable of carrying out its mission, and what does our organization do? Since United Nations Day is being celebrated on October 24th throughout the U.S. and the world, it is timely to address each of these questions.
Has the U.N. become irrelevant? Reports in the media have highlighted examples of fundamental principles, treaties, and international laws agreed to by U.N. member states that are flagrantly violated without consequences other than condemnation by the U.N. Secretary General and many, but not all, nations. Recent examples include Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent commission of war crimes, the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea, and human rights violations committed by several countries.
President Biden’s September 7th, 2022, speech to the U.N. General Assembly noted the organization’s governance structure needs to be reformed, particularly allowing any member of the Security Council to veto actions approved by the majority of the 193 member states. However, this should not overshadow all the significant activities the U.N. performs in support of its mission. Examples that advance the fundamental purposes and principles of the U.N. include: tackling the global food crisis by raising funds to purchase and distribute food assistance through the World Food Program; brokering deals for food production and export of Ukrainian wheat and other agricultural products; meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of the growing number of refugees; fighting preventable diseases through vaccination programs and other interventions administered by the World Health Organization; mitigating climate change; defending human rights in a number of countries; averting natural disasters, such as the salvage of a rusting oil tanker off the coast of Yemen; improving relations between conflicting nations, such as arranging for a meeting between the heads of state for Israel and Turkey to develop collaborative efforts on energy issues; and mitigating conflicts across the world through negotiation of peace agreements and the deployment of U.N. Peacekeepers to help ensure adherence to the agreements.
What Does the United Nations-USA Association (UNA-USA) Do?
The UNA-USA is an organization of Americans who believe that our interests and values can best be advanced by supporting the planet’s only truly universal institution: The United Nations. To that end, we: (1) advocate for U.S. funding for the U.N. and support of its priorities; (2) inform people in our community about the work the U.N. is undertaking to prevent and suppress threats to international peace and security, encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and facilitating cooperation on a broad suite of economic, social, and humanitarian issues; and (3) where appropriate, implement U.N. priorities in our community that align with chapter members’ interests and talents.
We also created the Santa Barbara Peace Prize, awarded by our local chapter of the United Nations Association of Santa Barbara. We will be awarding this year’s Peace Prize to ShelterBox USA on October 24th, which is international U.N. Day. Learn more about becoming involved in our nonprofit organization and our October 24th Peace Prize Award event us at unasb.org.
Jack Friedlander and Sharon Byrne
Fish Heads on Santa Claus Lane
Ryba smrdí od hlavy: The fish stinks from the head. [Old Czech proverb]
I have been representing adjacent property owners on Santa Claus Lane who oppose the County’s approval of a license and permits for a cannabis retail shop there, since early 2021.
In the last year and a half, my clients have provided expert and percipient witness evidence to County decision makers at all levels, proving that there is no community benefit to this location, and that placing a dispensary anywhere on Santa Claus Lane would conflict with key public access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act. The County knows that the visitor-serving/family-oriented businesses on Santa Claus Lane, as well as the surrounding residential communities – Sandyland, Casa Blanca, Padaro Lane, and Polo Condos – oppose the dispensary. At every stage, our unrebutted evidence has been ignored, and well-established legal principles have been buried. Our proposal for resolution, which was narrowly tailored to restrict business hours and operations to avoid conflicts with public parking for beach access, and to avoid conflicts with the children’s Surf Camp right next door, as the law requires, has been summarily rejected – and ridiculed – by the applicant’s lobbyist, the County’s former “Cannabis Czar” Dennis Bozanich.
Throughout the process, the County has failed every fairness test imaginable. They have scheduled public hearings when they knew we could not attend. They have withheld documents that should have been public long ago. The Planning Commission made its decision based on false statements made to at least two of the Commissioners in ex parte meetings which they failed to fully report, and which we were unable to rebut; the County Counsel failed to respond to Planning Commission questions to provide the clear legal basis for denial of the project; P&D failed to conduct any site specific environmental review, and failed and refused to analyze the specific impacts on the public’s right to access the beach and the coastal trail, as required by the Coastal Act. The cannabis lobbyists have met with Supervisors, including our own Supervisor Williams, who now refuses to meet with us, and has taken to calling my clients liars, in communications designed to discourage other project opponents. Even before the Planning Commission hearing in September, Bozanich was meeting with Supervisors to be sure to schedule a final hearing at the Board of Supervisors before Gregg Hart, our presumptive Assembly representative, leaves for Sacramento. The Board hearing will occur on November 1 – a date chosen to serve the applicant. We will be there, and our evidence will show that the County made a serious error in designating Santa Claus Lane for a license, in 2020, which they have failed and refused to correct, and that the licensing decision has improperly driven the coastal permit process, and that a coastal development permit for the dispensary cannot be lawfully approved. The community needs to know how we got to this place:
In 2020, Das Williams, the current First District Supervisor, repeatedly promised his constituents that he would not support a dispensary in the Toro/Summerland Plan area unless there was a clear community benefit. But most people don’t realize that back in 2019, he, with his Board colleagues, summarily eliminated every other possible site in the First District, in Montecito, and in Summerland/Toro Canyon, some erroneously (a C-1 site in Montecito), some on questionable grounds (a primarily on-line school in Summerland), and one in Cuyama, just because the people there didn’t want it. When the County finally engaged in “community outreach,” in 2020, it was not widely known that Williams’ then-Cannabis “Czar,” Dennis Bozanich, had already determined that the dispensary would “effectively” be located on Santa Claus Lane. Then the CEO chose between two, side-by-side applicants. No surprise that one of them “won” the license. There was zero consideration in the licensing process of the critical conflicts of both these sites with surrounding uses, public recreation, youth-oriented camps and businesses, and public access to the beach or of sites away from the beach.
Throughout 2020-2021, Williams continued to reassure his constituents that the Planning Commission retained full discretion to disapprove a coastal development permit for the site, even though a license was approved. He told me, and my client, in separate conversations he initiated, in June of 2021, that he was “98.5% certain” [ a creepy announcement, for an official who was supposed to be withholding judgment until the evidence was in] that he would vote to deny the project, if it were appealed, but he refused to take steps to rescind the license erroneously approved by the CEO – which he and the Board had clear authority to do.
My client then had to take on the burden of disproving the applicant’s “entitlement” to a permit. Standards were flipped, but we proved that this site is the worst possible place in the County for cannabis retail. The Planning Commission Chair did his best to conduct a fair hearing, but he got no help from P&D staff or the lawyers, who simply sat mute, misled the Commission, or failed to answer his direct legal questions. In fact, in an unprecedented move, the applicant’s lobbyists actively worked behind the scenes to prevent the County Counsel from giving advice to their own client, claiming it would be a gift of public funds for them to answer the legal questions that we posed! [It’s in the emails, Das.] Staff maintained throughout that the “site” had been selected, and that the coastal development permit represented just a change from one retail use to another. This ‘advice’ directly contradicted the requirement of the Coastal Act that the County specifically evaluate the change in intensity of use of the site, regardless of the zoning. But the Planning Commissioners were effectively locked in.
In a last-ditch attempt to obtain transparency, and a fair hearing on appeal, I have requested, in writing, that the Board of Supervisors remediate what happened at the Planning Commission. I asked for the following:
– That each member of the Board of Supervisors disclose, in advance, in writing and with specificity, each and every ex parte contact they have had with representatives of the applicant, (including their former Cannabis Czar) so we know and can rebut assertions of fact that they have made. This is the level of transparency required in the coastal zone. It is mindboggling that while he has met with Joe Armendariz, and Dennis Bozanich, our County Supervisor (and the two North County Supervisors) have failed to even give me the courtesy of a response to my request to meet/talk with them to present our view of the law and the facts.
– That the applicants and each of their representatives be required to testify under penalty of perjury. This may appear extraordinary, but the fact is that other Boards and Commissions, such as the APCD hearing Board require all testimony, including by staff and lawyers, to be under penalty of perjury. And the County Code already requires testimony under oath for termination of illegally expanded nonconforming uses. And, my clients have already submitted their testimony to the Planning Commission in Declarations under penalty of perjury precisely because Das Williams, in an email on August 25, 2022, and which he caused to be distributed as widely as possible, accused my clients of having been “untruthful,” and signaled his intent to deny our appeal because of this outrageously false assumption. It is past time for the cannabis lobbyists to be put under oath as well.
I have received no response to this request.
Meanwhile cannabis lobbyists’ ad hominem attacks on us continue, and they are unprecedented in their viciousness, in my experience. Not content with their “victory” at the Planning Commission, the cannabis lobbyists continue to make outrageously false claims, including a recent posting on Facebook, which falsely implies that First District Planning Commissioner Mike Cooney supported the project. He did not. In fact, he was the only Commissioner who voted No, and he did so on the specific Coastal Act grounds that we have advocated. Why would the applicants need to misrepresent Commissioner Cooney’s views? Is it possible that they are not assured of a final approval?
We will be submitting all of our evidence for theNovember 1 hearing not later than October 28, and even though we still have not received documents to which we are clearly entitled under the Public Records Act, enough facts have leaked out that we see very clearly how the puzzle pieces fit.
The Carpinteria community is justifiably tired. We have asked – begged – Das Williams to lead the Board to act with integrity. We still hope that he will. But if the County’s violations of basic principles of due process and governmental transparency are not addressed, the arrogance and the sense of invulnerability in the County building will only continue to grow. First District constituents in Montecito, Mission Canyon, the City (and yes, even Cuyama) will inevitably be next to feel betrayed, if not on cannabis, then on the next big issue. This needs to stop, now.
Jana Zimmer has practiced coastal land use law in Santa Barbara County since 1986. She served as Chief Deputy County Counsel from 1986-1991, served on the Coastal Commission from 2011-2015, and is the author of Navigating the California Coastal Act (Solano Press 2017). Her new memoir, Chocolates from Tangier (Doppelhouse Press) is due out in January 2023. She is not accepting any new legal clients.