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The Moreton Bay Fig: Planted on July 4, 1876

As we celebrate fourth of July weekend, here is a story with comments from the View Vault.
This date in Santa Barbara history… the famous Moreton Bay Fig was planted!

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Legend would have it, that on the 4th of July in 1876, a young girl living on State Street received a mysterious seedling from a sailor down at Stearns Wharf, who was returning from an Australian voyage. The sailor told the young girl to plant it and see what happens. What happened was the Moreton Bay Fig. A year later, because the young girl had to move back East, never to see Santa Barbara again, she gave the young tree to a neighboring friend, and the seedling was transplanted from 201 State Street to the same block on Chapala. Needless to say, the tree grew and grew.

Now, the famous tree’s root system encompasses an acre of ground near the train tracks and highway. The tree – dubbed the Moreton Bay Fig because it was native to Moreton Bay, Australia – really isn’t a fig tree. It has since been identified as a “ficus Macrophylla”, a cousin of the rubber tree family; however, it is believed to be the largest of its species in the world. So, plant a seed today and see what happens.


Moving the Brick Bench to the Train Station

According to Preservation Watch penned by Kellam de Forest, the City of Santa Barbara wants to remove the 20-foot long brick “art thingy” on the 600 block of State Street because it has become a hangout for street riffraff. Local artist Donald Davis designed it in 2002 and it is considered to be a piece of “Art in Public Places,” worthy of preservation. A recent request by the City to move it to the train station was rejected by Historic Landmarks Commission. Meanwhile it remains closed off by a black chain-link fence.
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Improving Santa Barbara’s News Racks

newsrYesterday, the Santa Barbara City Council took up the discussion about Santa Barbara’s news racks.

According to the Agenda, “the majority of news racks existing in the City are in need of maintenance and repair. Over the past several years, staff has received numerous complaints regarding the poor condition of existing news racks. There is a need for more effective news rack management and a need to update the antiquated Chapter 5.66 of the Municipal Code. There is also a need to cover City expenses related to the permitting of news racks and enforcement of regulations regarding news rack maintenance. A new fee for Fiscal Year 2016 is proposed, which would result in news rack owners and/or publishers paying for City staff time for improved news rack management, and for maintaining City-owned cabinets on a cost recovery basis.”

PS: There are approximately 770 news rack boxes in the City of Santa Barbara.

PPS: In 2012, the City was named in a lawsuit following an incident where a news rack fell on an individual. The City was eventually released from the lawsuit.


A Second Bikestation Opens in Santa Barbara

bikestYesterday saw the grand opening of a second Bikestation within Santa Barbara at City Lot 3, located at 11 W. Figueroa, adjacent to the MTD Transit Center. It houses 26 bicycles using vertical racks, has CCTV security cameras and and air pump. Last November, the Santa Barbara City Council approved $338,491 for the first “bicycle module”.

According to advocates, “resources invested in supporting non-motorized transportation projects, such as this one, are an economical way to increase mobility by reducing traffic congestion and creating a needed integration between the bicycle and transit network. The bicycle has proven a valuable last mile connector between transit stations and final destinations, and secure parking is a critical trip component.”


The 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake

In a related note to yesterday’s 90th anniversary of the great quake, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum is currently holding an exhibition about the 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake for only a few more days – through Saturday, July 5th to be exact. Out of the rubble would come a new Santa Barbara with the headline, “Spanish Architecture to Rise from Ruins.” Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra Street.

Boom! At dawn on June 29, 1925, our city shook with a 6.3 earthquake leaving much of downtown destroyed or heavily damaged.

The twin towers of Mission Santa Barbara collapsed, and eighty-five percent of the commercial buildings downtown were destroyed or badly damaged. A failed dam in the foothills released forty-five million gallons of water, and a gas company engineer became a hero when he shut off the city’s gas supply, and prevented fires like those that destroyed San Francisco twenty years earlier.

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Walker Tompkins on the 1925 Earthquake

Written by local historian Walker A. Tompkins

“Day broke around four o’clock. Although unsubstantiated, it was said that early-rising farmers noted a strange agitation on the part of animals, both wild and domestic. Birds twittered anxiously in their nests for no apparent reason; dogs whimpered and cats prowled nervously; by sunrise at 4:40, even horses and cows seems apprehensive, for reasons they sensed instinctively but that were beyond human capacity to detect.

At the intersection of State and Anapamu, a street sweeper was busy with hand broom and dustpan, collecting litter that the motorized street cleaner had missed. In the choir loft at the Old Mission, the Reverend Augustine Hobrect, O.F.M., Father Superior of the resident friars in the monastery, had just rung the Angelus bell… then, at 6:42, it came. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city.

The main shock at 6:42 a.m., estimated to have lasted only ten or twelve seconds, was followed by four large aftershocks, of six to eight seconds duration over the next twenty minutes. Continuing temblors, measuring into the hundreds but diminishing in force, unsettled the citizenry for months to come.

SB EarthquakeDuring those first terrifying seconds many landmarks vanished forever. Thirteen souls went to meet their Maker. For Santa Barbara an era that had started with the arrival of Fremont in 1846 had come to a cataclysmic close.

Considering that the city had a population of over 25,000 on that catastrophic June morning, the death total, thirteen, was miraculously small. Reconstruction began at once… Santa Barbara would emerge from ruin as a city reborn.

Pearl Chase of Plans and Planting, passionately dedicated to beautifying Santa Barbara and protecting its heritage, led the vigorous post-earthquake crusade to remake the city. Billboards would be prohibited. The architectural style was to be Hispanic-Mediterranean, recalling the colorful days of the little pueblo and its first Barbarenos.

Within three years, the premier example would be a new county courthouse, replacing the old, Corinthian-style building and its adjacent county jail and hall of records, which had been raised. The new structures would have turrets and towers, winding outdoor stairways, mezzanines, elegant corridors, a sunken garden, and the ‘fanciest county jail in the country.’

Out of the tragedy of the 1925 earthquake cam the now familiar look of a rebuilt Santa Barbara, hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”


Date in Santa Barbara History: The Great Quake

On June 29th, 1925, Santa Barbara was rocked by an earthquake…

sbmissMinor temblors were recorded as early as 3:30 am on the 29th, and they continued for three hours. Then, at at 6:44 AM, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city killing 13 people and destroying over 600 buildings.

The Wharf, Granada Theater and most homes survived in decent shape. However, much of the downtown region crumbled. Hotels collapsed, the Sheffield Dam cracked, and the Mission bell towers were wrecked, picture above. All in all, over $8 million of damage was done by the great quake of 1925.

PS: As noted in the History of the City, one of the catalysts for the architectural development of Santa Barbara was this earthquake which destroyed many commercial buildings in the business district, most of which were built of un-reinforced masonry.


EcoFacts: The Sun and Us

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

The sun marks our days, it brings us joy and beauty, gives us vitamin D, and in the last few decades, worry.

sunAlthough it is a primary source of all life, some of its radiation – UV, ultraviolet – can be harmful at high levels to many life forms (PDF). In the 70s it became understood that certain common chemicals (CFCs) were destroying the ozone layer, which absorbed some of this UV radiation. Regulations were enacted to slow and cease production of these, resulting in a gradual regeneration, in the last few decades, of this beneficial layer, although not to its previous levels.

UV radiation that is not absorbed in the atmosphere (including by ozone) is highest when the sun is high in the sky. When lower, the angle is more dramatic, the pathway longer and there is more atmosphere to absorb it. It is also increased by reflection, which occurs with snowy and sandy surfaces.

More vitamin D is produced when the sun is high in the summer months. For those who might enjoy nude sunbathing, it takes 1 minute of 100% body exposure for our bodies to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. For the rest of us,10 minutes of 10% exposure suffices.

Incidence of cataracts have increased along with UV radiation, and, of course, skin cancers, which have increased dramatically in the last few decades because of the ozone layer, but not coincidentally also due to the tremendous rise in tanning salons over the same period. Those who use them have a much greater risk of getting skin cancer.

Next up: sunscreens.