GOLETA, Calif. - A controversial landscaping project in Goleta had the city crying foul.
Cajun Kitchen, a highly popular breakfast and lunch local chain, recently acquired the old Rusty's Pizza property near the intersection of Fairview Avenue and Calle Real. As part of the business' landscaping project, a ficus tree deemed dangerous and damaging to the property by the owners of Cajun Kitchen was removed with two other trees expected to come down soon after.
However, BeAnne Dato, a Goleta resident who lives nearby and said she has admired those ficus trees every day, reported the tree cut down to Goleta city officials who immediately intervened.
The Cajun Kitchen is on private property, but that didn't stop a Goleta city inspector from posting "Stop Work" notices on the remaining ficus trees demanding the family-owned business stop the tree cutting until they get the proper permit. Juan Jimenez, a spokesperson for the Jimenez Family who own the Cajun Kitchen restaurants, released the following statement on behalf of the family:
Our family didn't realize that cutting down the tree was against city ordinance or that it would affect the local residents the way it did. There was a misunderstanding between the tree trimming company and the city, so we thought we were in total compliance with all the rules. Also, we were planning to replace the ficus tree with other trees. It is our understanding that ficus trees require a large amount of water and are not native to this area.
We were cutting the ficus trees because the roots are damaging to the property. We took over the property from Rusty's after them being in it for a long time (I think it was 50 years) and were amazed at how much damage they had caused to the foundations and the parking lot, not to mention the equipment on the roof being damaged from the falling leaves. There were almost no walls or floors that were straight anymore. Since we, along with the owners of the building, are investing a lot of money (for us this is our biggest investment in our 33 year history) to restore the property, we found it necessary to replace the two trees closest to the building.
We were in no way trying to do this under the radar or in secret. Like I said, we believed to be complying with all of the city's rules.
Our family is born and raised in both Goleta and Santa Barbara and is in good standing with the community. People who know our family know we would not want to jeopardize that in any way.
We've met with the city to clear things up and will continue our construction in compliance with city rules. We're sorry for all the trouble it's caused.
Richard Jimenez Sr. took over the Cajun Kitchen on De la Vina Street in Santa Barbara in 1984 and since then, the family has opened several other locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta.