Night Fishing at the Harbor

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Night Fishing
On warm days I like to take a walk out the breakwater at the Santa Barbara Harbor. It’s always cooler out there and any time of day it’s a beautiful walk. At sunset, and just after, it’s absolutely magical. This evening I was enjoying the beautiful view of the last colors of the setting sun in the company of an amazing Great Blue Heron (in the center at the edge of the water). Of course I think he was more interested in the fishing than the sunset, but we were both happy to patently stand there and take in the wonderful evening.

-Bill Heller

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Saturdays with Seibert

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I saw the news reports of the people getting hit by a train and thought it sad. I have been on that bridge many times in the past 25 years as it’s a beautiful location. Not just the railroad trestle but the abandoned 101 bridge, wonderful backdrops for photographers.

The first few photos are from 1988, and I’m in the middle with my back to the camera. The rest are from February 2010 when I took a friend up for the sunrise. Very cold and very beautiful.

I understand why those young people walked out on the trestle last week.

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EcoFacts: Frack Away?

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

No-fracking-logoSteadily increasing attention on fracking, and regulation thereof, can ONLY be a good thing. This “less conventional” method and associated ones for extracting oil and natural gas was employed for many years with little notice. In the last 15 years, the amount of gas obtained here in the U.S. from fracking has gone from 1% to 25%, much higher by some estimates. Of oil, the increase has been similarly astronomic. The coming election will see initiatives around the country to regulate these methods, including Measure P in Santa Barbara.

Arguments in favor of these methods are energy independence and jobs/economy. However, the funders of the campaigns for fracking are primarily oil/energy companies, not citizens. it is clear that profits are the first and foremost argument in favor, unless you believe these companies are working above all for the greater good.

Arguments against fracking are entirely environmental and health oriented, and include the tremendous amounts of clean water used and polluted, hundreds of chemicals used - many of which are carcenogenic, energy used (lots) and emissions (also lots, including methane leaks from operations which are much higher than previously estimated) from these activities, potential geological instability resulting from high pressure liquids injected into cracks and fissures underground, thousands of tons of waste from these operations being left in open pits, injected underground. Some is processed. Nature will be the judge of its quality.

Many other parts of the world have the same struggle going on, between oil/energy companies and concerned citizens. In Germany where there is far more water than in California, the government is weighing revenues from oil vs. beer. The giant beer companies rely on lots of clean water to make their product and are vocal against fracking. Currently it is looking like beer has the government’s ear.

Eco FactsThis eco-nut is hoping for beer to win in Germany, and for YES on Measure P to win in Santa Barbara!

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Milpas on the Move – Autumnal Happenings

Weekly column by Sharon Byrne

It’s cooling down from the desert-inferno temps of a couple of weeks ago. The days are getting shorter. The kids are back in school. Pumpkin is the new black. My mail-in ballot is sulking on my counter, awaiting my attention.

And all of that can only mean one thing:

It’s Autumn, my favorite time of year, and a time of fun family-friendly events. Coming up first is the McTeacher Night at the Milpas McDonald’s. On October 20th, starting at 5 PM, Franklin Elementary will be hosting families as a fundraiser. The following day, on October 21st, Notre Dame School families will take it over. This is a cool fundraiser concept: the teachers work as restaurant ‘staff’, the families all come out for dinner, and a portion of the night’s proceeds go to the school. Franklin has had a long, warm relationship with the Milpas McDonald’s, thanks primarily to an amazing principal in Casie Kilgore. The parent-level participation at Franklin has grown in spades under her leadership. Franklin’s McTeacher night tends to be the biggest in the city, according to McDonald’s managers, a testament to the support for this school in the neighborhood.

The Eastside Gets A “Y”: A new YMCA is opening in the home of the old Primo Boxing at Haley and Quarantina. The grand opening is October 20th from 1-6 PM. Memberships are expected to be very affordable, as the facility is catering to the immediate area. They’ll have fitness classes and equipment onsite. The YMCA is also looking to coordinate youth sports leagues at the nearby Ortega Park. As we learned from the Milpas Healthy Community Initiative this summer, families in the area are hungry for health and fitness resources, so the timing of the arrival of the “Y” is perfect!
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And now for some OUTDOOR fun and exercise for the whole family: Open Streets returns October 25th 10 AM to 4 PM. Get your bike, skateboard, roller blades and walking shoes and come out to have fun while you exercise. This year features a 5k “Run Wild” from the zoo, and more activities and vendors.

The 2.2 mile route runs along Cabrillo from the Bird Refuge to Anacapa St, and is closed to traffic so as to make maximum use of the open street for fitness and fun. They’re looking for additional volunteers, so if you’re interested go here.  Incentive: they have a post-party after the event to celebrate! The event is produced by COAST – the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation.

SBOS_volunteer_trio[1]The Milpas Halloween Trick or Treat: 2-5 PM on Halloween. Send your trick-or-treaters, because we do it up on Milpas! The merchants love giving out candy, Alpha Thrift puts up great decorations, and the great crew from the Don’s Riders at Santa Barbara High School love taking over the lot next to Super Rica to greet the little Halloweeners on the route. We need volunteers to blow up balloons and place them along the route, and also to help families across the crosswalks, so if you’re interested, email info@mcasb.org.

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City of Santa Barbara Launches an Online Financial Transparency Tool

toolThe City of Santa Barbara has released an interactive, web-based financial transparency tool, here. Powered by OpenGov,this tool provides user-friendly access to the City’s financial data. The Viewer who sent this over adds, “I don’t know how the budget was presented before this neat-o cool-o graphic, but I think it used to contain line item expenditures, not just pretty bars.”

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Could the Drought Save Santa Barbara, California from Development?

overdIncluded in the most recent Plan Santa Barbara report were growth assumptions of approximately 2,800 new residential units and 2 million square feet of nonresidential development within City limits over the 20-year period. This additional growth was estimated to increase long-term citywide water demand by 5.5% by the year 2030. However, due to the drought, the City Council was forced to discuss suspension of projects that would add any new demand to the system.

On Tuesday, the City Council was torn on the recommended drought-related development restrictions which read… “during severe drought, extraordinary conservation is required of existing users, and demand from new development is a concern when existing customers are required to significantly cut back on water usage. This can also be a public perception issue with regard to the seriousness of the water shortage because all new demand adds to the problem, regardless of the amount. It is also important to balance the need for water conservation through possible restrictions on new development with a desire to not unduly impact an important sector of the local economy that have already been struggling for the past five years.”

City staff concluded that “the drought, while currently severe, is likely a temporary situation, and looking at the City’s water supplies long term, there is enough water to serve the new development anticipated by the General Plan. Suspending new development has economic ramifications that vary based on when in the process the project must be halted.” Mayor Helene Schneider asked the staff to present a list of alternative options before bringing back the discussion of restricting development.

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Water Waste/Water Wise

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150The drought is never far from our minds, and certainly not out of sight, here in parched Santa Barbara. Our lawns are long-gone, native plants are drying out, specimen trees are giving up, and even succulents are drooping. It’s been a long time since the dolphins in the landmark fountain have been splashed with water.

Governor Brown might have declared a water emergency for all the state, but from what I’ve seen lately, not everyone is paying much attention at all.

I often visit relatives in Orange County, and as far as I can tell, no one notices there’s a drought there, where sprinklers flow and gardens grow lush and green just miles from the Happiest Place on Earth.

WESTLAKEThis past weekend, I had lunch with friends who live in LA at our halfway point, Westlake Village. We met at a restaurant where, apparently there is no worries about the drought there, either. At this faux Tuscan villa, complete with a well-tended vineyard, the fountains are flowing, the misters are misting, even on just a day that didn’t get past the 80s.

While the drought is certainly statewide issue, it’s obviously a matter of politics and community awareness in the ways it’s approached. Some, apparently unconcerned about the drought, hold onto the unforgettable words uttered by William Mullholland when he opened the California Aqueduct in 1913, “There it is. Take it.”

And they just keep on taking with little thought of where it comes from. Or who else might be affected.

Here on the Central Coast, we don’t exactly have the luxury of ignoring water worries, as my friend pointed out. She is a professor of California History at a state university—someone who understands well the history of Water Wars in the Golden State. As she and her husband contemplate retirement some years from now, access to water is one of their main considerations. Last time we talked, they were still thinking about relocating to the Santa Barbara area as a retirement destination, but not anymore.

“Let’s face it,” she reminded me, “The Central Coast is one of the most vulnerable spots in all of California when it comes to water.” All we have to do is look at Lake Cachuma, and it becomes pretty obvious—there isn’t much left around here. And re-furbishing the long-mothballed and virtually unused desal plant raises all kinds of environmental and economic questions for residents and potential ones.

During our ladies’ lunch we also touched on drought-emergency craziness of growing alfalfa and cotton in our state; a huge corporation like Nestle’s pumping aquifers in the desert to sell bottled water; and losing our cool over the wet misters spraying right above our heads.

Which got me to thinking, on the drive home, about the number of visitors who travel from those water-wasting communities to Santa Barbara, where our local residents scrimp and sacrifice to cut our water usage. I hope they’re not bringing that Mulholland philosophy of “There it is. Take it,” right here with them.

But I bet they are. They come here on vacation, after all. And there’s a certain feeling of entitlement that comes with that.

At this point, it’s not about the cost; it’s about our collective ability to adapt to the reality of a (very) limited and rapidly dwindling essential resource. Once again, we’re reminded of the dubious notion of packing people into Santa Barbara with a limited carrying capacity and rainfall nowhere in sight.

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Santa Barbara View Poll Question of the Week

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On the Docket… Cajun Kitchen’s Gator Boy Mural

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider the mural installation on the side of Cajun Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara (Chapala and West Canon Perdido Streets) which is known locally at Gator Boy. The Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) voted 5/1 to approve the mural but conditioned it for only one year after it was found to be unacceptable as permanent art for the location. The City Council will hear the appeal filed by restaurant business owner, Juan Jimenez.

The Santa Barbara City Council is expected to side with the HLC. According to the Agenda… “In granting a one-year time limit, the Commission compared the art mural to the most recent mural approved on lower State Street as a temporary mural installed on the south elevation of the Hotel Indigo. In contrast, that State Street art mural was sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art as a temporary exhibit, by a nationally renowned artist, does not serve as advertisement for a business, and was reviewed by the Visual Art in Public Places Committee (VAPP).”
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“The HLC was opposed to allowing the as-built mural to permanently remain in its current design and cited several reasons why the mural could not be approved as painted. It was noted that, while it is appreciated as an expression of art, it is not an appropriate permanent improvement located within El Pueblo Viejo (EPV). The Commission indicated that one method to gather support and get a mural installation approved is to go through the public art review process.”

“Staff is of the opinion that the painted “gatorboy” mural can be considered a logo sign advertisement that speaks more to the type of business that is being conducted within the building. The HLC does not typically accept or allow after-the-fact exterior alterations to buildings, especially if they believe the alterations are inconsistent with their EPV Design Guidelines. The HLC prefers to have some initial input on location, size and type of art exhibit that is proposed for permanent placement within EPV, especially if the art has not been vetted or reviewed by (VAPP).”

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Should Santa Barbara City College be Engaged in Sports Recruiting?

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To the Editor,

In the discussion about Measure S, SBCC portrays the educational institution as passive in simply required to take in every student who wants to attend.

It’s clear from watching their sports teams that they are engaged in recruiting efforts to bring students in from other areas.

SBCC_LogoThe quarterback on the football team, for example, has been described in recent sports reports as a freshman from Seattle. Seattle? Isn’t there a single community college for him to play at closer to his own community?

Similarly, I know that a high school student from Temecula has been recruited by SBCC to play for its new women’s water polo team. I guess Santa Barbara is a lot nicer place to play than in the Inland Empire.

And I have heard that in the baseball program, most freshmen are automatically red-shirted. In a two-year school? And they are planning a big tryout “camp” for potential players, from the area and beyond, to attend in December.

I would like to see a full accounting from SBCC about the amount of sports recruiting they do and what it costs, in time, money and effort.

Somehow I think we’re paying a very high price for them to play games at the expense of local taxpayers and at the expense of local kids having the opportunity to play for the local community college.

I will be voting NO on Measure S.

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What Will Measure P Actually Do?

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I spent a lot of time recently trying to understand what measure P will actually do. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it will essentially preserve the status quo and prevent a local oil boom that might result in 10,000 or more new wells. Here’s how I arrived at this conclusion: First, here’s a look at the concerns of both sides. The concern of the oil industry seem to be two: 1) existing wells will be shut down and, 2) they will not be able to drill thousands of new wells using the more intense methods now needed to get the oil out. The concern of the proponents of P are three: 1) that too much water will be used, 2) concern about aquifer pollution and 3) climate and air pollution concerns.

Opponents call it the oil shutdown initiative. In order to understand how the county might enforce this, I looked at statements made by the County Counsel’s office. Opponents of Measure P are saying 100% of existing wells could be affected. What does affected mean? Does that mean they’d be shut down or something else, like they’d have to get a permit? Listening carefully to recordings of the Board of Supervisors meetings and the Planning Commission meetings addressing this issue, I found that Santa Barbara County Council Mike Ghizzoni was asked about this. He cited the landmark California Supreme Court case, Avco Community Developers vs. South Coast Regional Commission. He applied the Avco standard to the Measure P and concluded current production will be allowed to continue.

Near the end of a later meeting, Sept 3 of the Planning Commission, Bill Dillon of the County Counsel’s office said that existing wells do not even have to come in and apply for an exemption if they already have a permit. “if they have a vested right and they are sure of it, they do not have to come in” (for an exemption). They do have the option of applying for an exemption just to have that determination if they want to, or have some doubt.

It seems that the shutdown concern of the industry is unfounded, but their second concern is real. They may not be able to drill their 10,000+ new wells. At the Planning Commission meeting Santa Maria Energy (one of the 16 companies operating here) states that they have approval for 136 wells on 32 acres but what about their other 4000 acres and the 7,700 well locations they have planned? This is just one of the companies indicating they plan to ramp up oil production, most of which do to propose to use high-intensity oil extraction.   Continue Reading →

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Clock Tower View Closed Soon for Renovation

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Clock Tower View, Closed soon for Renovations

I’m often surprised at how many locals have never been to the observation deck at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Clocktower. It’s a wonderful experience, even for those of us who may be used to looking at the beauty of Santa Barbara all the time. A wonderful experience that is, if you can easily navigate the tight metal stairways winding up the last story from the top of the elevator.

But that is all about to change for the better. Thanks to the caretakers of the courthouse a new project is underway to extend the elevator the last story all the way to the observation deck. But unlike some of the accessibility stories you hear where someone sued or complained to get action, the story behind the project is very positive. The courthouse has had ADA accessibility plans in the works for some time, but this particular project was accellerated by the people who forged ahead, rather than let it stop them. Even though the climb to the top was tough there are many who make the trek apparently even in the face of extreme difficulty. Inspired by the people who felt the experience was worth the effort, the Courthouse Docents urged the powers that be to fast track the project. Led by a guy who’s love of the history and heritage in his care is quite apparent when you talk to him, the County Architect Robert Ooley, the project got the green light this week.

Of course, extending the elevator another floor is no easy task. Starting January the Clock Gallery and the observation deck will be closed to the public to allow for construction, which is slated to run through July 2015. So if you’ve never been to the top because you’ve just never got around to it, now is a great time to go before construction starts! Of course if you’ve stayed away because of the climb, your wait is almost over. Either way, during the construction I’ll do my best to bring the wonderful views right to you.

You can find out more about this project and others in the works at http://www.santabarbaracourthouse.org/

-Bill Heller

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Saturdays with Seibert: Full Moonrise

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Tuesday evening a full moon rose over the harbor teeming with activity.  Surfers caught waves at Sand Spit, SUP’s and kayakers enjoyed the very warm weather & waves rolling into the harbor.  One guy even went for a paddle and took his dog.

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EcoFacts: Lighting the Way

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

blauwe_ledNobel prizes were awarded this week to the inventors of blue LEDs, including Shuji Nakamura, a professor here at UCSB. You may ask what the significance is. Red and green LEDs were invented in the 60s. It took until the 90s for these fellows to create higher energy blue light from a light emitting diode, which, when combined with red and green form white, enabling multi colored and white lighting. Then came the screen technology we use daily in our phones, computers, tvs, etc.. and, those LED lightbulbs, which are even more efficient than CFL bulbs, don’t have any mercury in them, and can last for decades.

The costs of these bulbs, like the screens that proceeded them, have been dropping, making them more economically viable for us, but also for those who have been previously without any form of electric light. Using so much less power, they can easily be powered by solar.

I have been enjoying a small lightweight solar powered LED lamp for my work, and lights for my bike. I don’t need to buy batteries for them and the bulbs will last for thousands of hours. But think of what these devices can do for people who have been using kerosene lamps, buying the kerosene and breathing the fumes. A third of all people have either no or limited access to electricity. LED technology is a boon in these regions, as it is for everyone.

If all lighting in the U.S. was replaced with LED forms, electricity consumption would drop 20%, the amount produced by nuclear power plants, or by half of all coal used today.

The timing of this Nobel is pretty cool, too. This year, old fashioned incandescent bulbs of the 40 and 60 watt variety will no longer be manufactured, following the demise of the 100 and 75 watt varieties. I miss that light a bit, but its time has clearly passed. For beautiful warm light, we’ll just have to go outside.

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Save the Gator Boy

The unapproved mural on the side of Cajun Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara has locals rallying to save the mural via a social media campaign, #savethegatorboy!

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