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EcoFacts: Trash, Part I

Trash. It’s tempting to not think about it, and our culture does encourage it, for the most part. We’re supposed to buy as much stuff as we possibly can, own the latest styles, remodel our kitchens, if things break we should replace, not repair them (we often don’t have a choice, and we usually don’t have the time either.) Most everything is sold with excess or unrecyclable packaging, but that’s the way it comes. Packaging is about a third of our trash. Trash is,  after all,  an “afterwards ” thing, after the pleasures of buying, having, using, eating, drinking. And landfills, who wants to dwell on them?  Wall-E.

Well, we must pay the costs, both the bucks and externalized environmental costs. Puente Hills is the country’s largest landfill. Once a valley, it is now a mountain of trash. It accepts up to 12,000 tons per day, 6 days a week of trash from L.A. County, and it will be closing next year. After that, those tons per day will most likely be hauled to a place in the desert. And Santa Barbara is currently trying to figure out how best to extend the operating life of their landfill, whether it is with expensive new anerobic digestion technology, or much lower tech methods of collecting and composting more. Good news: at under 4 1/2 pounds per day, Americans are throwing out a bit less than 10 years ago and recycling and composting rates continue to rise, currently at 34%. Californians divert more than 50%, San Franciscans closer to 75%!

At least Puente Hills is able to generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small city, with methane from the landfill. Electricity is so much better a use for it than warming the planet.

One advantage of a down economy is people buying less (and yes, keeping it down…)

Santa Barbara Garden Post

Its’ Tomato Time!

July Gardening is Red Hot! Tomatoes and Peppers!
Fine image from

Relax in the hot summer sun, get a big basket, line it with a light kitchen towel, grab a container for berries, mosey on out to the garden and fill that puppy with your finest! Beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, a couple peppers, zucchini, strawberries, some cooking herbs. Before you leave, top off your basket with some lettuces, chard if you still have it, garden purslane. Last, gather your corn, and hustle to the fridge, or cook it right up, so it doesn’t go to starch.

Gather your seeds before the birds get them all, but leave some for them too, if you can spare them and don’t mind a dry brown plant for a few days. Brown and dry has its own beauty.

Do some watering, give yourself a splash or two, stay hydrated. Make sure any seed/seedling beds don’t go dry. I often weed as I water, checking soil tilth as I go. Add some compost where needed. Maybe mix in some well aged manures. If you have some worm castings, add them too. Summer is for sidedressing – that’s feeding your producing plants. They are working hard! Put on fertilizers high in P, Phosphorus to keep your plants flowering and fruiting. SEE June 15 post on how to fertilize each of your plants! Lay down some more mulch on thin spots, and especially under your tomatoes and cucumbers, but not on eggplant, peppers, melons or winter squash that need all the heat they can get here on the coast. Only exception might be those eggplants. They like humid. A nest of straw might be like a little local sauna for them if you keep it moist.

You can still plant most of your very favorite heat lovers – tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, zucchini. Transplants are best now. Too late for winter squash that needs to harden. And, as always, plant your year-rounds, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a steady supply.

Continue reading…

Law Maker Job

Column by Loretta Redd

There are three major skill sets required for a lawmaker in today’s government…fiscal experience, historic perspective, and legal expertise.  But our current qualifications for political candidates rarely reflect the job; instead, we must choose from smooth talkers, socialites, lifetime bureaucrats, or retirees.

Our budget realities at all levels of government may not be unprecedented, but they are increasingly significant.  Unfortunately, our pool of candidates and current legislators rarely have resumes which reflect any talent, capacity or experience in mitigating or resolving these economic challenges.

To the contrary, we continue to elect people who step into their first day on the job, already beholding to special interest organizations, unions,  and corporations.  So much for “new blood” and objectivity.

Once in office,  it seems the only way most politicians believe they can demonstrate their prowess is to sponsor or create legislation for every group, cause, contributor or current best friend from their last election cycle.

That isn’t about governance…that’s about reelection.

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Santa Barbara Urbanscape Monikers, and What They Tell Us:

I’ve been collecting names some locals use for various parts of our town. Some are amusing. Some are a nod that things are not what they used to be. Some signal that Santa Barbara needs to answer a pesky but serious wake-up call. You may have heard some of them, or not, but here’s what’s floating around in the parlance in various quarters:
The Turd Refuge – the Bird Refuge –the smell almost knocked me out on the 101 last Friday. Credit: Rodger Dodger, of Edhat Scanner Report fame.

Sewer Lagoon –Mission creek where it empties out at Cabrillo. Stagnant and stinky in low-rain periods.

The Milpas Underpants – another Rodger Dodger moniker – the Milpas underpass. Wonder if the newly opened Cacique underpass will ascend to similar heights? Cacique Underpants – almost sounds like a low-end brand of lingerie. For men.

The Panhandling District – State St – I coined this one in frustration at the Farmer’s Market one Tuesday, after encountering a series of aggressive panhandlers. Whenever the topic of panhandling or vagrants on State St comes up, a blizzard of comments ensues by citizenry vowing never to come back downtown, but the panhandling district has satellite locations too. Trader Joe’s parking lots are frequently staked out, sadly ironic, as TJ’s donates a lot of food to local shelters. An employee at one of the pest control places near the De La Vina TJ’s almost fell out of his truck when he saw his neighbors staking out a spot with a cardboard sign. They got in their car and hit the 101 back to Lompoc right before he did. Not all homeless panhandle, and not all panhandlers are homeless. Or carless.

Needle Park
– Plaza Vera Cruz Neighborhood Park – Santa Barbara’s first city park is that tiny swath of land on Haley, east of State. Activities there generated that moniker, rendering the playground unusable for families.

The Bar Zone –State from Ortega to Gutierrez late-night Thursday through Saturday. During the day, it’s part of the Panhandling District.

Continue reading…

Sound Watch

The Santa Barbara Daily Sound, which celebrated six years of publishing earlier this March, will reportedly suspend their print offerings today. An email from their founder and publisher, Jeramy Gordon, noted that the paper, “had ceased publishing as of this week due to cash flow problems.”

On the Santa Barbara Daily Sound website, Gordon wrote… “Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Daily Sound and Montecito Messenger will temporarily halt their print versions. In the meantime, we will continue to provide the best news possible on both our websites and will have this situation resolved quickly. Our print products will return soon with a vibrant redesign and relaunch. We appreciate your patience.”

Milpas Locked Down: Kids Purportedly Held Hostage

Milpas Street is currently on lockdown after a woman purportedly took two kids hostage. The stand-off at 119 North Milpas has been ongoing since 3 p.m. and there is reportedly a strong, armed response taking place from the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Update: 7 p.m., the SWAT is moving out… no one was there after SWAT broke in.
Update: 11 p.m., police are searching for a woman with a gun who is on the loose.

Photos courtesy of Sharon Byrne.

This Date in Santa Barbara History: Painted Cave Fire

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Painted Cave Fire.

On June 27, 1990 at 6:02 pm a fire started up in the mountains near a place called Painted Cave. A long drought had made the brush very dry, and a several day heat wave was further drying up the area. Just as the sun was setting, strong winds began blowing the fire down the mountain towards town.

The Painted Cave Fire as seen from the corner of Constance and De La Vina  in Santa Barbara, California

Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled 5 miles downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire entire neighborhoods in it’s path. The fire jumped the combination of our 6 lane freeway and the two side roads, Calle Real and Hollister and continued burning down stores, restaurants, businesses, apartment buildings, and more houses on the other side. All roads between Santa Barbara and Goleta were blocked by the fire, it was impossible to get from one side to the other.  Continue reading…

Scents and Sensibility

By Cheri Rae

Much has been made lately about the noxious odors wafting across Santa Barbara from that fetid pond known as the Bird Refuge. Apparently birds, unlike people, are oblivious to their foul-smelling environment—or perhaps they’ve just become accustomed to it.

Maybe I’ve just become over-sensitive since the funky swamp scent permeated the community, but an early morning walk down State Street is not just a fitness exercise; it’s a real eye-opener and increasingly, a daunting olfactory experience.

A combination of plants, animals and lifestyle choices have created an eclectic miasma that has settled over Santa Barbara’s downtown, challenging pedestrians to follow their noses, or—far more likely—hold them and speed their stride down the block.

My recent malodorous adventure included noisome assaults from shockingly intense body odors emanating from grubby travelers seated on the sidewalk, with the scent of burning tobacco, and—as is even more brazenly common these days—cannabis floating above their heads; alcohol-infused individuals coping with the results of a bender from the night before; fountains and planters used as urinals and worse; a dead animal somewhere that had taken the bait from one of the numerous black plastic rodent hotels planted around town, and the curious wet scent of decomposing confetti left over from the weekend’s Solstice celebration.

A whiff of over-applied Axe on an adolescent boy; patchouli on an aging hippie, or even Estee Lauder on a society maven would offer welcome relief from that rank reality, but they have the good sense to avoid downtown at that hour. And chi-chi boutiques and high-end restaurants that exude the scent of money don’t open their doors that early.

At least the aroma of good strong coffee mercifully permeates some of the air—a welcome note that counters some of the stink.

The city is finally doing something about the seasonally foul fowl refuge, but is unlikely to address the year-round fouling of our community. So we’re on our own when it comes to dealing with random close encounters with revolting odors in the city center. Back in the Middle Ages, urban dwellers carried sprigs of fragrant lavender and rosemary to ward them off. These days we may just as well take a lesson from the past; since we can’t make any sense of this olfactory assault, at least we can take a quick trip into the garden before venturing into the urban environment—at least that makes good scents.

Official Announcement for New City Urban Historian‏

Jaime Limón, Senior Planner
Design Review and Historic Preservation Section Supervisor
City of Santa Barbara Community Development Department, Planning Division

“This announcement is for those of you that have not had the opportunity to meet our New Urban Historian who began her new job last week. The Community Development Department, Planning Division is happy to announce that Nicole Hernandez has been hired as the City’s new Urban Historian/Associate Planner. Nicole has worked for the City of New Orleans as an Architectural Historian/Plans Examiner since 2008 where she was responsible for designations and the overseeing all properties in the four local historic districts within the Central Business District. Prior to this assignment, Nicole worked as the Historic Preservation Coordinator for Historic Denver’s Sacred Landmarks Preservation program from 2000 thru 2007. While in Denver, Nicole conducted over 19 public workshops and organized city-wide architectural and historical surveys. Nicole is a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design and holds a Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation. Please feel call her at Nicole at Ext. 4557, if you have any Historic Resource related questions.”

On the Docket… $750K for Mesa Lane Steps Repair

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss a proposal to replace the deteriorating lowest section of an important beach access stairway located at the end of Mesa Lane. It is called the Lower Mesa Lane Stairs Replacement Project and will cost $742,655.

According to the Agenda, “extending 140 feet from the top of the bluff to the beach, the stairs are heavily used by Santa Barbara residents and visitors, including surfers, families, walkers, dog owners, and other beach enthusiasts.  First constructed in 1982, the Mesa Lane Stairs have provided important coastal access for more than 30 years. The current condition of the stairs and landing presents hazardous conditions for beach access and raises significant concerns that a large storm event could eliminate access altogether.  Both the landing foundation and the concrete stairs are cracked and eroding due to the unreinforced rebar used in the construction, and the impact of sea water and storm events.” Continue reading…