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Water Bills Can’t Be Paid Online in Santa Barbara

In Santa Barbara, residents have to pay their water bills via standard mail or in person. Just south in Ventura, online payment options are availble 24/7 for a convenience fee.

The City of Ventura even has a website and a Facebook page for it’s users, ” View your water usage and wastewater billing history, whenever it’s convenient for you! For all the latest information from Ventura Water, Like our Facebook page today!”

So why can’t Santa Barbara residents pay their water bills online?

According to one water official, “they’re working on it.”

Fog Under the Stars from Old San Marcos

Santa Barbara Photo to Start the Week by Bill Heller

The fog rolls in heavy this time of year, and when you are under it it seems like it goes on forever. But when you get to the edge of the fog bank or climb above it there are always beautiful things to see. Swirling and graceful wisps that make the sunset golden and beautiful and the lights of the city glow with an amazing quality. When I imagined this shot I thought it would be interesting to try to get the Milky Way in the photo, but figured it would be too much contrast with the brightness of the city lights in the foreground. But after a lot of experimentation I was able to find an exposure that gave at least a hint of the beauty in the sky too.

As usual, there are more details to be enjoyed in full screen mode.

-Bill Heller

Caltrans Canvas of Temptation

Loretta Redd

Shooting the gauntlet between concrete bumpers that line the 101 Milpas to Hot Springs/Cabrillo Operational Improvements Project, you can’t help but notice the 20 foot tall ‘Great Sound Wall of Caltrans.’
The purpose of these sectional monstrosities is to dampen the decibel levels reaching the occupants behind them, separating man from machine with all of its’ noisy nastiness. Or maybe it was to keep those pesky neon yellow balls from the Santa Barbara Municipal Tennis courts off of your windshield.
The sound walls are beautifully constructed…as only our Santa Barbara-Montecito ‘fussyton’ designers could require. Sand stone capped, stucco finished with a lovely swirl pattern, in an ochre putty brown shade… they hug the side of the 101 like old-time girdles, snugly fit to give a slender impression to our ever widening highway.
Unfortunately, you then notice the large squares of almost matching paint on about half the sections, trying to cover up the graffiti left by taggers from the local ‘hood, or those jealous types passing through town. Of course, liquid paint can never match the look of stucco, especially when the sun bakes the patchwork cover-up on some days, as the cool mist of the Mesa coats it on others.
Dismayed by this blotchy appearance, I chatted with representatives from Caltrans. They confirmed that a contractor goes out daily to apply what looks like Clearasil on an adolescent face, trying to win the war with those who think their gang monikers should pass for the Mona Lisa.
The Santa Barbara Police do their part to catch the taggers–forgive me, but I will never call them artists. Just recently, they captured a 22-year old, whose damage to property throughout the City has cost over $70,000…and some time ago, they arrested a father and son duo who had decided, like loose dogs, to mark their territory along the sound walls in spray paint.
The Highway 101 Improvement Project was originally funded through the half-cent sales tax of Measure D in 1989, and SBCAG finally allocated the money in 1996. With the rapidity of a snail on LSD, contract bids, Environmental Impact Reviews, evaluations from the City of Santa Barbara, County of Santa Barbara, Architectural Board of Review, Historic Landmarks Commission, Santa Barbara Council of Area Governments and public input held up the start of construction until 2008.
For a $57 million plus project, it’s been through more scrutiny than Michele Bachman at a gay pride parade. Caltrans is now three years into its four year project of widening this segment of 101, and to give them due credit, they are on time for a 2012 completion.
Even with the recent angst over the narrowing of the median for plants and landscaping from ten to roughly three feet in some areas, the bulldozers continue to chug along. As a champion of the project overall, that one blackened, half dead palm tree in the median near Salinas, struggling to survive on rainfall while defying exhaust fumes and construction, grabs my heart every time I drive by.
Though I would hardly call that one pitiful palm ‘landscaping,’ I understand that after completion, the ‘Covergirl’ application shifts from the contractor to Caltrans highway maintenance department, and their plan is to plant climbing vines to cover the wall surface.
Follow me here…they uprooted all of the shrubs and vines along the same route, in order to construct a very, very expensive wall, which they hope to obscure with shrubs and vines when it’s completed?
Better get out the Miracle Grow, because Caltrans can’t plant the vines until the construction is finished along the shoulder, so that machinery doesn’t crush the irrigation system to be installed to support the new planting. Maybe they could tap into Ty Warner’s Montecito Country Club golf course sprinkler system runoff as a cost savings. But in the best of circumstances, it will take years before the expensive stucco-covered sound wall is sufficiently softened by nature, and no longer a magnet to the menace of taggers. And by then, they’ll want to add another lane…..


I had a tour of a drycleaning facility this week, and found the education alternately depressing and encouraging. So you can artfully skip around, or just read on.

First, it is not “dry” cleaning, just waterless. Clothes have been tumbling around with petroleum based chemical solvents and detergent for over a hundred years, with the result being that the items were cleansed and the environment dirtied, or worse, toxified.

A hundred years ago the solvent was simply gasoline, mid last century the solvent of choice became PCE – perchlorethylene, or perc for short, a VOC (volatile organic compound, easily breathed in) now known as a neurotoxin and otherwise sickening substance. Thousands of facilities simply dumped the used solvent because….what else could they do with it? Hazardous waste was not even an issue until the late 70’s, when regulation began to require proper handling and disposal of substances deemed dangerous to our health. By 1990, the Clean Air and Water acts limited emissions of perc, putting the squeeze on drycleaners to clean up their act. California is mandating a complete phaseout of its use by 2023.

And so, alternative methods of drycleaning have been springing up, (what a relief!) including the “GreenEarth Cleaning” system currently being used in 22 countries, and here in Santa Barbara, at Ablitt’s. This system uses a chemical abbreviated as D5, primarily silicone, and is considered non-toxic and chemically non-reactive, breaking down quickly in the environment. Sasha Ablitt says that the entire facility uses less than a car tank’s worth of the fluid in a whole year, as it is continuously filtered and reused. It is then responsibly removed and treated as hazardous, just in case.

Good to know also that this process of filtering and reuse is used for the petrochemical solvents the others use as well, but requiring much more of them, and their disposal as actual hazardous waste. Many cleaners calling themselves “green” or “eco” now still use them, by the way….talk about greenwashing.


Santa Barbara Garden Post

November, shorter cooler days, rich and deep

Did you make rich soil? If so, your bin and sheet composting is really paying off now! If you have more compost available now, incorporate it with the soil in your new planting places, and plant another round! Keep ‘em coming!

Seeds: MORE beets, carrots near peas, fava, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce where they are easy to reach to harvest, spunky mustard greens, radishes, spinach, turnips, globe onions, parsley. Plant your fattest garlic cloves now through Dec 21, Winter Solstice for June/July harvest!

Transplants: MORE Brocs, Brussels sprouts (if it gets cold enough where you are planting). Do plant mixed varieties of regular sized cabbages, do cauliflower, celery, kales, parsley, turnips. Plant nutritious low-cal chard bouquets of all colors! Chop chard for salads, stir fries, to toss into stews.


  • Artichoke now or in Feb, or in Mar from pony packs. Try some of the new varieties.
  • Strawberries NOV 1 to 5 June bearers are Chandlers. Everbearers are Sequoias. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or experiment!

1ST Half of Nov: Plant seeds of onions for slicing. Grano, Granex, Crystal Wax.

Fillers and accents, unders and besides, can be red bunch onions, bright radishes! Fall marks the end of the season for small red radishes though, and the beginning of the season for larger daikon type radishes. Check out the amazing Health Benefits of Eating Radish

Special treat – video of Fred Collins, Northern Chumash Tribal Council, of Los Osos CA, growing VERTICAL strawberries and lettuce in tubes! That means 15 heads of lettuce, 24 strawberries, in ONE square foot! See how!

When you do your fall garden cleanup, turn the soil to expose the Verticillium and Fusarium Wilts fungi that affects our tomatoes, and other plants, so the fungi dries and dies! Weed and clear pathways. Lay down seedless straw, a board, or stepping stones so your footwear doesn’t get muddy. Trench in kitchen trim, lay on straw in unplanted areas.

Start gathering a stack of sheets, light blankets, old towels, in case of hard freezes.

This is your last chance to plant wildflowers from seed for early spring flowers! Germination in cooler weather takes longer, so don’t let the bed dry out. If you are a seed ball person, fling them far and wide, though not on steep slopes where they simply wash away.

What is a seed ball? Think of them like this: Little Adobe Gardens. Imagine then, a clay ball the size of a large marble. Imagine also that it contains seeds for a complete habitat. The seed ball could contain plant potential for an entire ecosystem. It can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world where there is clay, compost, seed and water. The ball is tossed wherever you want to plant, rain moistens it, the clay ‘melts’ its nutrients into the surrounding soil and blankets the seeds with minerals & vitamins. Covered & moist, they germinate, voila! Flowers! Or veggies!

In honor of Masanobu Fukuoka, the Father of Seed Balls, The Seed Ball Story by Jim ‘Catfish’ Bones: This is a long video, but oh so fascinating!

Next week: Growing Luscious Strawberries!

Wine Guru’s October Choices

When I think of October, I look for a wine that can compliment cooler weather meals rich with golden fall flavors and warm spices. As always, I trust my Wine Guru, Ash Mehta of Tastes of the Valleys, to recommend wines best suited to pair with those rich autumnal flavors we all love to savor this time of year.

This month’s two recommendations from Ash are: Read the recommendations…

2009 Qupe, Grenache, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley. With sweet scents of tobacco, licorice, spices, plums and dried cherries, this attractive, mid-weight wine exhibits some elements of fragility suggesting that this wine is best enjoyed young before the fruit fades. The blend includes 13% Syrah, and whole clusters for a portion of the Grenache for added aromatic complexity. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2014.

Veteran Central Coast Winemaker, Bob Lindquist has made fine wines for over two decades and mentored a number of other very talented winemakers such as Aldeman, Ostini, Hartley, Latto and Morgan Clendenen. Wines from the Sawyer Lindquinst Vineyard are produced by Bob and his wife and fellow winemaker, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist.

2007 Carlson Pinot Noir, Las Hermanas Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
– This medium light garnet colored wine has spice and raspberries; distinct stem quality and a touch of tobacco leaf, mushroom with some earthiness. Forward sweet red fruits on the nose plus light sweet vanilla and toast from the oak.

One of my favorite wines as well as one of my favorite winemakers, Chuck Carlson never disappoints me. With over 20 years of experience, this veteran winemaker and Rhone Ranger and resident of AG produces some of the finest wines in Central California for both the Curtis and Carlson labels.

For more great wines of Central California and around the world, visit Ash Mehta, at Tastes of the Valleys and online at; in Solvang on Hwy 246, 1672 Mission Drive, 805-688-7111; in Pismo Beach at 911 Price Street, 805-773-8466.