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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.


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.

Santa Barbara’s Painted Cave Fire: 25 Years Ago

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara. On June 27, 1990, at 6:02 p.m. 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.

Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled five miles downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire entire neighborhoods in it’s path. The fire jumped the combination of Santa Barbara’s six-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.

The Painted Cave Fire as seen from the corner of Constance and De La Vina
Entire neighborhoods were burning to the ground, hundreds of houses were lost as residents evacuated with little or no time to save any of their precious belongings. It appeared nothing but the Pacific Ocean itself was going to stop this fire. Finally, later that night, the winds died down and the fire was brought to a halt at the edge of Hope Ranch, about two miles from the ocean. Dawn broke the next morning on a very eerie sight. There was nothing but ashes where entire neighborhoods had stood the day before. 5000 acres, 440 houses, 28 apartment complexes, and 30 other structures were lost. There were still visible flames on the black burnt mountain range. The fire continued to burn in the mountains for several days before finally being extinguished.

Authorities say an incendiary device was found where the fire started — it was arson, and the arsonist has never been found. This continues to be one of the worst disasters ever in the history of Santa Barbara. - Description written by David Deley

20,000 Friends and Followers on Social Media

TW-5000_largeSanta Barbara View
continues to grow on social media, this month hitting big milestones of 15,000 likes on Facebook and another 5,000 friends on Twitter. Thank you Santa Barbara!
Our social platforms offer a different variety of real-time content, so, if you are not one of the 20,000 people who follow Santa Barbara View on social media, now is a good time to become part of our growing social community.

Milpas On the Move: Cops

By Sharon Byrne

sbpdDo you have a business or commercial property? Have you experienced prowlers, illegal camping or other problems? If so, the Santa Barbara Police Department can help. Just download a Police Authority Letter from the city’s website, fill it out, follow the instructions, and turn it in. This allows the police to come onto your property at night, if needed, to enforce law violations and make legal arrests. It can be a great tool if you’re not able to keep watch over your property at night, and are having any issues. Download the authority letter here:

A Heartfelt Plea to Eastside Merchants

By Sharon Byrne

Finally, the petition drive to create the Eastside Business Improvement District is on. We’ve had a lot of interference from Cathy Murillo, PODER, and Eastside district council candidate Jaqueline Inda. Typically, any opposition to a business improvement district comes from businesses that don’t want to do it, and the standard is 20% or more. Political operatives and fringe groups opposing services funded by businesses, for businesses, is not normal. That camp has created fear in our community, and a division that was not here previously, revealing their political intentions and capabilities.

Dave Peterson put this letter out to the community. He’s been a longtime supporter of this community, and has been part of many of the Milpas /Eastside voluntary merchant associations that have come and gone over the years. It’s from the heart, and worth reading:

Dear Neighbor,

For the past 40 years my family has proudly owned and operated the McDonalds restaurant on Milpas St. I calculate we have served over 20 million guests and employed over 5000 people at this special location. I love Milpas Street … I love the culture, the wonderful beauty, the kind and loving neighbors, the small businesses that make Milpas unique and special. Milpas has a small town feel and it’s the people that bring this important thoroughfare to life. For these past 40 years we have devoted ourselves to being great neighbors. Charity starts at home and I take our role to build character and values in our team as tantamount. We also continually seek ways to return part of our good fortune to schools, events, cultural enhancement, reducing homelessness, increasing safety, fun. Our team is totally committed to a deep care for community.

For years I was a founding member of the Greater Eastside Merchants Association, then the Milpas Association, and for past 5 years the Milpas Community Association. We put resources, passion, time and love into these organizations all with the intent to make Milpas a better neighborhood. I beam with pride because of the incredible work of this very small team called the Milpas Community Association (there are essentially a handful of us even though there is over 600 businesses in the area). This small band has done Herculean work with limited resources and involvement from the community at large.

5 years ago, my restaurant was a hotbed for homeless activity. It was unsafe and frankly, a hostile place to enjoy a warm cup of coffee. Today my restaurant is safe, clean and welcoming. I give the MCA total kudos for this transition and am deeply grateful for the untold hours and care they have shared with our community. The annual holiday parade has been resurrected to a new glory, the Taste of Milpas, Halloween trick or treat, cleaner streets, safer traffic flow, and on and on and on…are all testaments of a few caring folks that love Milpas equally. I couldn’t be more proud or more grateful.

It’s now time for all of us step up and do our neighborly duty and get our own Business Improvement District formalized. This will give all of us ONE voice; it will give our business community a budget so we can do even more good deeds and shower our street in love. For less than 75 cents a day, we can make Milpas more vital and safe, and maintain the unique culture we all have come to know and love. I urge, implore, and beg you to please get educated on the facts and make an educated decision based on reality. Ignore the scare tactics, myths and fear mongering. This is a total 100%, no-brainer good, good, good thing.

Please call me with questions, concerns or ideas to make and keep Milpas the
gem it is.

I love Milpas…

I hope you do as well.

David Peterson

Demolition of Franceschi House

Today the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider the “discontinuation of efforts to restore Franceschi House and the recommendation of demolition.” According to Staff recommendations, “with mixed feelings over the loss of a historic structure in one of our City parks, the staff recommendation is to demolish the house and construct an alternative project on site to recognize the contributions of Dr. Franceschi, Camillo Fenzi, Alden Freeman and others.

frFor over 45 years, all efforts to fund and restore the house have failed. The City has not been able to fund the project through grants or the General Fund over that time. Three separate efforts to secure a public/private partnership which would fund and complete the project have also been unsuccessful, including the most recent partnership between the City and the Pearl Chase Society. With the return of the unused project funds held in the PARC Foundation, City funding for the Franceschi House Rehabilitation project will total $288,593.02. Estimated project cost to demolish the house, the least expensive option, is estimated at $1-2 million or more. Given that the Parks and Recreation Department unfunded infrastructure improvements total over $112 million with many competing priorities, opportunities for General Fund funding for the Franceschi House will continue to be a significant challenge.

Staff would also like to note that the continued deteriorating condition of the house has an increasing maintenance burden. The Department receives regular communication from neighbors and the Riviera Association expressing concerns about fire and vandalism.”

What to Do About Vacation Rentals by Owner?

Santa Monica is the latest California city to crack down on Airbnb and the rest of the short-term rental industry. Last month, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a home-sharing ordinance, which bans the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days and requires those who take part in allowable home-sharing to obtain a business license from the city and pay a 14% hotel tax. The law takes effect June 15. The city says proceeds from the hotel tax will help pay for enforcement officers and an analyst to find illegal rentals online. This exact conversation will take place in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, so let’s ask Viewers what to do about vacation rentals by owner: