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About that Ugly Christmas Sweater…

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150I confess: way before it was hip and cool to raid thrift stores for the most garish Christmas clothing, I bought one. And wore it. For years and years and years.

It was a memorable purchase: I found it on vacation in Bermuda, of all places, where I had travelled with my husband-to-be, the hiking islophile. It was just before Christmas, 27 years ago, when we visited the pink beaches, hiked the entire length of the island on the Bermuda Railway Trail, and did the typical tourist shopping scene.

uglysweaterBermuda, a former British colony, still imports fine woolens from Mother England. I remember entering the quaint and classy shop and examining the goods. Since it was the holiday season, it seemed like just the thing to do: I found a woolen Christmas sweater vest complete with Santa, holly and bells; a Christmas tree, gifts and stocking motifs all knitted in—even with some metallic gold thread accents here and there.

I didn’t even wait to return home to wear it: I put it on to attend the local Christmas parade down the main street of downtown Hamilton. Since the parade was just a block long, once it passed by, everyone rushed to the next street over to watch it on its return trip.

I’ve worn it to family gatherings and packed it for out-of state holiday visits, I knew that one group of sleek and chi-chi relatives in LA snickered at my buying into such a hokey style—and actually wearing it—and I really didn’t care. My husband and I joked that they considered us “the bumpkins” for engaging in the silliness of the season.

When they were babes in arms, that crazy-busy Christmas sweater calmed my children and kept them warm and happy. They loved discovering the face of Santa, tracing the hearts and ribbons on the gift boxes as they snuggled close. It always made them happy to see that sweater pulled out of the storage box, knowing of the holiday fun that was sure to follow.

It was my go-to garment to dress up a turtleneck and a pair of jeans throughout many Decembers—worn to the annual State Street Christmas parade; the

hushed ceremonial walking of the evergreen spiral at the Waldorf School; the joyful Festival of Lights at Open Alternative School; the enchanting Santa Barbara High School Madrigal performances; evening drives to look at the lights in local neighborhoods, ending up at that jumbled-up, lit-up house of Santa on Anacapa Street.

With a long velvet skirt, I’ve worn it to Christmas pageants at church; sing-a-longs at the Mission; visiting the Living Nativity at the First Methodist Church; Christmas Eve services and the Nutcracker ballet. I even wore it once on television to present a check at the Unity Shoppe telethon (then called the Council of Christmas Cheer) on behalf of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. I handed the big check to Peter Noone, trying not to swoon by thinking too much about how much I loved Herman’s Hermits in my teen years—and here he was in person. Since I brought my then-little girl with me, he actually crooned, “…You’ve got a lovely daughter…”

That Christmas sweater vest has been a part of our family’s holiday tradition since before we were a family. And when my kids grew into their teen years, they cringed at most everything I did, throughout the year, no matter what I wore. Still, they good-naturedly indulged my wearing of the outfit. Now that they’re both taller than me, they just sort of roll their eyes at good ol’ mom.

Besides, I’m responsible for most of the shopping, the cooking and the baking, and they’re smart enough to realize that.

The only thing about that sweater that’s faded is the writing on the label: it reads “Designed by Deans of Scotland Expressly for Trimingham’s of Bermuda, reminding me always of its origins so far away, so long ago. I just learned that the shop, established in 1842, closed up in 2005; nothing lasts forever.

Now it’s been categorized as just another “ugly Christmas sweater,” an ironic, hip trend that’s the theme of parties, luncheons and other holiday get-togethers. I hesitate to wear it now as part of an in-joke. I don’t want anyone pointing and laughing, terming it hideous and awful. I know what it looks like. Call me crazy, but that boxy, loud, colorful, sometimes itchy Christmas sweater—with all its memories embedded over the years—is anything but ugly to me.


New Directions: Travel Opportunities for Everyone

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Thirty years ago, when spirits were high, many members of the Adult Residential Program at Devereaux prepared to spend the holidays off-campus, where they would celebrate with family and friends.

But Dee Duncan, who worked at the facility at the time, looked around and saw something amiss. A small group of residents with mild to moderate developmental disabilities had no place to go—and would be alone at the very time of year when most people gather together.

That’s when she got into action with a bold plan that would take her life in a different direction—along with the lives of thousands of clients for decades. She decided to take that group to Disneyland.

“At the holidays, you can’t have people spending it alone,” she reflects in the calm and peaceful surroundings of the backyard garden of her lovingly restored Craftsman bungalow. That’s just the kind of person Duncan is—a kind, thoughtful and imaginative innovator who does things first-class, at home, in business and in her own enthusiasm for travel.

logo2When she first had that brainstorm—the very beginning of New Directions Travel for people with disabilities—the first group of participants hadn’t had much opportunity to experience the freedom of travel or to spend holidays in a joyful, loving environment with others who cared for them.

But Duncan was determined to change that and do something special for them. She called it the Holiday Happiness Program. Three decades, and 12,000 New Directions participants later, that initial foray to the happiest place on earth has expanded to all kinds of adventures around the world.

If Las Vegas, Hawaii, The Grand Canyon and New York City aren’t exciting enough, how about Australia, Israel, Japan and even Galapagos Islands? And these travelers aren’t content to stay on a tour bus—they enjoy adventurous activities like hot air ballooning, surfing, snorkeling and river rafting. Just like everyone else.

newdirectionsThey stay in upscale accommodations, dine in fine restaurants and enjoy shopping sprees, visiting local attractions, meeting new people and making new friendships while traveling. Just like everyone else.

Let’s face it: dealing with all the uncertainty that travel brings can be stressful for anyone. To ensure that New Directions trips go off without a hitch, Duncan relies on a well-trained, highly experienced team of tour guides that accompanies every group. They may range from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 participants to guide. Traveling in these small groups allows more personalized, attentive services and a low-key non-touristy experience.

But Duncan stresses that the real secret to New Directions’ success is an approach that treats participants with “total respect.” And as great as the opportunity is for enhanced self esteem and expanded horizons that travel offers participants in the program, there’s another essential benefit: The general public learns so much when they see New Directions clients living full and active lives. Just like everyone else.

For more information about New Directions, Inc. call (805) 967-2841 or visit newdirectionstravel.org.
Originally published in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, www.sbseasons.com.


The Present of Being Present

By Cheri Rae

“Simplify, simplify,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in his classic meditation, “Walden.” Of course, he could have simplified the statement by reducing it to simply “Simplify.”

cherilogo-150x150The recent passing of my neighbor who lived in his van got me to thinking about the notion of simplifying the holiday season, of slowing down and becoming very conscious of the moment—of making a real practice of connecting with people and being conscious of places encountered during the holiday season.

Instead of rushing about and being preoccupied during every moment, I’ve tried to be deliberate about my interactions and simple blessings have come my way:

In the bank, the teller told me about how he used to play football for Dos Pueblos High School, and had hoped and planned to play at an elite level in college until he was injured, and he was glad that he had some grounding in business to fall back on.

During an appearance at the Shop Small Business Saturday at the Book Den, fellow author Chris Messner shared his interesting stories about his off-the-beaten-path travels in Cuba—as recorded in his book, “Cuba, Open from the Inside.” We found common ground in discussing Cuba—I had researched the social order in post-revolutionary Cuba as part of my Political Science studies in college. When I showed him my book, “DyslexiaLand,” he told me about his own challenges with dyslexia—something he even wrote about in the introduction of the book. The chance meeting seemed meant to be. We both expressed out gratitude to owner Eric Kelley for scheduling us at the same time.

In the post office, letting the gentleman with two canes get in line ahead of me had the effect of every other person in line letting him go ahead, and finish his transaction much more quickly, and much more comfortably. “I just can’t stand too long anymore,” he noted, expressing his thanks to the whole queue. We all felt good about that. And when the woman behind me needed a pen, I told her to keep it. Turned out the purple pen was her favorite color.

In the grocery store, the young woman ahead of me was buying a nice cake and candles to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. The discussion continued with the boxboy who talked about his grandmothers—one who is fun and the one who isn’t, but who inherited “the longevity gene,” as he called it: good health and good teeth, even at 93. It reminded me of my own grandmother and how much I loved her, and still miss her to this day.

The city worker filling the “irricade” watering devices along Anapamu Street—which were purchased for the City by the Pearl Chase Society—who expressed his gratitude for the innovation and the generosity of members who love the trees as much as he does.

Slowing down, expressing gratitude and having the presence of mind to remain in the present has been a great gift—one that keeps on giving. You might want to give it to yourself—and the rest of the community! Happy holidays!


Book Review: Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1914 by Betsy J. Green

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150The subtitle of this delightful book is “Tale of everyday life in Santa Barbara 100 years ago.” I’m a sucker for this kind of collection: I live in a house built in 1912, and vintage, consignment and historic restoration are some of my favorite words. So this book is a natural for anyone interested in what Santa Barbara was like a century ago.

events-way-back-whenHistory buff Betsy J. Green has been writing a column for edhat for some time, and she finally decided to collect them into a lovely book designed to evoke the look and feel of old-timey Santa Barbara. The month-by-month account of 1914 is based on articles that appeared in the local newspapers Morning Press and Daily News & Independent.

Green’s lively writing style and the layout of short takes of local history make this a fun read, and make this an especially fun gift item for the holiday season. Her account of the community’s official Christmas tree, located near the intersection of Carrillo and Chapala is particularly timely, as is the story about Santa Barbara’s float entered in the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena. However, that story is written without an ending, with the promise it will be continued next year—no doubt the first entry in the second in this series of books of history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time.

Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1914 is available at local bookshops and at www.elbarbareno.com


Speaking for the Trees: The Pearl Chase Society inspired by the past, works for the future

What would Pearl Chase do? It’s the question that is asked often by members of the Pearl Chase Society, founded in 1995 to continue the work of its namesake who made the protection and preservation of Santa Barbara her life’s work.

So when the Italian Stone Pines that line Anapamu Street began to suffer from the combined effects of the drought, a beetle infestation and the intrusion of modern life into their living space the Society decided to move into action.

canopyAfter all, Miss Chase is on record for standing up to Southern Pacific Railroad and Standard Oil to protect the Moreton Bay Fig Tree from being chopped down; for the designation of the Norfolk Island pine as the community Christmas tree at the corner of Carrillo and Chapala; and, in fact, these same Anapamu Street trees, according to accounts in the book, “Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara.” If ever there was a time to honor Miss Chase’s legacy, this was it.

Alarmed that five of the City Historic Landmark trees on Anapamu died in the last year, and were recently removed for public safety, the Society turned concern into action. The Board voted to donate the sum of $14,560 to the City of Santa Barbara for the purchase of 56 slow-watering systems known as “irricades.”

Twenty-five of the light-green devices have already been put into service along Anapamu Street, and they’re already having an effect on the health and welfare of the trees: some of them are showing new growth high above the ground. An additional 31 will be delivered and installed in the next month.

“The Pearl Chase Society is pleased that we are able to assist the City in protecting the Italian Stone Pines along Anapamu Street,” said Board President Barbara Lowenthal. “These trees are important to our built environment as they are a visual testament to our City’s enduring history and beauty.”

irricadesAttached to each big water container is a slow-release soaker hose that brings much-needed water to each tree in a way that allows it to be most efficiently absorbed by the roots. Wood chips surrounding the area keep the moisture from evaporating.

Since the City will not plant any more new trees during this extended drought, it’s more important than ever that we save the ones we have, particularly these gentle giants that offer silent shelter on a busy street. Their presence brings a feeling of intimacy that slows traffic, muffles sound, and reminds passersby of life in a forest-just a few short blocks from downtown Santa Barbara’s bustling business district.

“The Italian Stone Pines provide a majestic presence in Santa Barbara and represent a key foundation of the city’s urban forest. The Parks and Recreation Department applauds the leadership and generosity of the Pearl Chase Society. Trees are a significant environmental, social and economic resource that takes many years to develop,” stated Jill Zachary, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director.

Thanks to the Pearl Chase Society, this urban oasis has been granted a reprieve. With any luck, our rains will continue and the irricades will be put into storage for the next time they’re needed.

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Established in 1995, the Pearl Chase Society is an all volunteer, not-for-profit conservancy dedicated to preserving Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes and cultural heritage. The mission of the Pearl Chase Society is to preserve and celebrate Santa Barbara’s historic sites and structures. Individual memberships start at $30 a year. http://www.pearlchasesociety.org/


What’s the Matter with Muir?

By Cheri Rae

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”—John Muir

cherilogo-150x150A couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about revisionist thinking about naturalist John Muir—known for his enthusiastic embrace of the wonders of nature, particularly California’s Sierra Nevada. The article gave a platform to Jon Christensen, a UCLA historian at the school’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability.

Christensen declared, “Muir’s legacy has to go.” He continued, and “it’s just not useful anymore.” The debate over Muir’s relevance has come about as we approach the centennial of his death on Christmas Eve, 1914. The Times found plenty of scholars willing to view the man of his time through a prism of today. The call him racist for his views on Native Americans and see him as elitist, relevant only to a population of economically secure, aging white people with plenty of leisure time to travel to far-off national parks.

They argue that urban parks are more important than wilderness settings for our changing demographics.

It was bad enough to read it in the L.A. Times, and all over Facebook—where, predictably, my environmentalist and academic friends were not impressed with Christensen’s assertion: “Muir’s a dead end. It’s time to bury his legacy and move on.”

The story had just about settled when it came to my attention that the Santa Barbara News-Press decided to reprint the article last week. On the front page.

lee.stetson.face-webBut unlike the Times, the local newspaper ran an absurd graphic with the story: they included what they credited a “Courtesy photo” with the caption that read “John Muir.” But anyone who has any familiarity at all with John Muir would know that modern-looking image was not a photo of the naturalist himself. Actually it was a photograph of Lee Stetson (pictured right), a veteran actor who frequently appears in his one-man show, “An Evening With John Muir,” and other productions that honor and promote the life and work of the famed naturalist.

He’s not John Muir; he impersonates John Muir—in a positive way, popularizing the work of the man who fell in love with Yosemite, founded the Sierra Club and influenced Theodore Roosevelt to preserve vast amounts of American wilderness.

That’s about how things go these days: reasonable facsimiles are good enough. Academics make pronouncements about demographically driven environmental sustainability from their ivory towers far removed from the natural world. But in the real world, equating the splendor of the Range of Light with a local pocket park just does not compute. And it might have made headlines—and publicity for the UCLA professor and his like-minded friends—but throwing out the work of a 19th century man because he’s not a progressive 21st-century thinker makes no sense at all.

For the record, I love the powerful words of John Muir, who described an earthquake in Yosemite:  “The shocks were so violent and varied, and succeeded one another so closely, one had to balance in walking as if on the deck of a ship among the waves, and it seemed impossible the high cliffs should escape being shattered.”

He advised, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

And he seems quite contemporary with the observation: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

John.Muir.Young-webWhat’s the matter with Muir? Nothing. Nothing at all—except maybe that not enough Californians are familiar with his writing and his work. Maybe all this controversy about his relevance, at the centennial of his death, will—instead of burying him—give him the respect he’s due by sending more people in search of his books and following in his footsteps.


State of the Schools: Dr. Cash Leads the Way

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Superintendent David Cash gave his annual State of the Schools address at a well-attended breakfast meeting at the Hyatt on Thursday. He saved the best for last, concluding his remarks with the declaration, “The state of the school in Santa Barbara; they’re good. And thank you for that.”

Union Bank and the Santa Barbara Education Foundation sponsored the event, and foundation president Craig Price introduced Dr. Cash, noting his “…boundless energy and considerable skills,” which have had such an effect on the district’s tone, buzz and positive attitude. “Good things are happening in the Santa Barbara Unified School District,” he noted.

In his three years on the job, the majordomo of the District has shown that he subscribes to the old maxim of “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Since he’s been on the job, he has undeniably been the leader as the District has been reinvigorated, perhaps even reimagined with a strategic plan that emphasizes three main goals. In his address, Cash detailed the consistent progress made on them:
1) Implementing Common Core State Standards
2) Creating technology learning environments across the district
3) Developing a strong foundation of culturally proficient classrooms.

He emphasized that this has been a time of “Change, change, change,” and acknowledged, “Change is tough.” That change has included several aims, including a focus on student, family and community engagement; organizational transformation extending to budget documents; restorative approaches to discipline issues; a facilities master plan, and almost 100 percent green practices.

“No student is anonymous, every one is recognized by someone who actually connects with them,” he declared.

Cash continued with explanations about several issues, including the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) reform measure in how schools are funded; he spoke about academic data that indicates that trends are up in the areas of students taking the SAT and ACT (as well as their scores); in those who complete the A-G requirements to prepare for college admission; and those English Language learners who are reclassified to fluent and proficient.

He addressed other trend lines that are on their way down, including use of alcohol and binge drinking, use of marijuana, as well as suspensions and expulsions.

And he noted many examples of enrichment programs that are providing our students with opportunities in the visual and performing arts; in music and afterschool sports programs. He singled out several innovations that are working, including the Core Knowledge and project-based learning at the Community Academy; dual immersion at Adelante; Montessori classrooms at Adams; the GATE magnet school at Washington; the Open Alternative School partnership with Antioch; the International Baccalaureate program at Harding; and several partnerships with colleges, nonprofits, the City and the County.

Before concluding his remarks, he observed that 2016 will mark the 150th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and invited all to participate in the observation of 150 great years—and launch into the next 150 years. The most important way for individuals to support the schools, he suggested, is to become part of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation—the nonprofit that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

The Foundation distributed “Seeds of Hope,” actual flower packets, with an insert that read in part, “Seeds represent hope. They are the start of something wonderful…For 30 years, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation has quietly sowed the seeds of hope by supporting all students K-12 in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. With the help of the community the Education Foundation provides support for music, science, art and early childhood development programs.”

For more information about the Santa Barbara Education Foundation:
www.santabarbaraeducation.org

For more information about the Santa Barbara Unified School District:
www.sbunified.org

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From the Introduction to Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara

From the View Vault: Originally published for Pearl Chase’s 125th Birthday in 2013

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150In 1888 the following events happened: the establishment of Hotel del Coronado; the writing of “Casey at the Bat”; the founding of the City of San Pedro; the creation of the National Geographic Society; the development of the first photos on Kodak film—and most importantly for the City of Santa Barbara, the birth of Pearl Chase.

Saint Barbara gave her name to the City of Santa Barbara, but the woman who shaped this city was Miss Pearl Chase.

College-CutiePearl Chase was the city’s most influential woman of the 20th century. With her interests in public health and education; the arts and architecture; urban planning and environmental integrity, she was a true Renaissance woman who blazed her own unique trail, and compelled others to follow in her footsteps.

She commanded attention wherever she went. She learned early how to make friends and influence people. She demanded action from individuals. She expected excellence in civic involvement. She fearlessly led without aspirations for elective office. She relied on righteous indignation as a political tool.

“Government officials are really temporary—they come and go—and this constant turnover means that many citizen organizations have far greater continuity and relative importance in community affairs,” she explained. “Don’t assume leadership will come from the professions: you often won’t find it there. If you’re to succeed, you must be led by citizens and citizen groups, with the interest and support of key public agencies.”

When I moved to Santa Barbara in 1989, the first historic figure I heard about was Pearl Chase. I was fascinated by stories of her leadership in setting high standards for this community in every level of civic involvement. I came to admire her fearlessness in speaking truth to power throughout her long and extraordinary life.

And, when I was moved to action as a citizen interested in historic preservation and alarmed about overdevelopment, I was inspired by her belief in citizen oversight of governmental action, and her determination to make Santa Barbara a better place for visitors and residents alike.

platebook2Thanks to her example, I learned to find my voice as a journalist and a community activist in standing up and speaking out. I have long focused on a variety of quality-of-life issues that Miss Chase believed in and worked so hard to address.

In recent years, Santa Barbara has seen relentless moves to undermine, un-do and discredit the accomplishments of Miss Chase and those who worked with her to create this special place admired the world over.

Some claim that the grace, style and dignity she brought to this town are passé. Others insist that buildings should be taller, the population denser, and that there’s something elitist about heeding the past while planning for the future.

But here are still some residents who have learned from her example, who spend their time, treasure and talent to continue to make Santa Barbara a special place to live, work and play—and serve the greater good.

Pearl Chase relentlessly communicated her message using the tools of her time: personal contact, the telephone and the mail service. If she were with us today, it’s easy to imagine her blogging away, uploading videos to YouTube, posting comments on Facebook and using her own Twitter account to get the word out about current issues and events. As she noted at the age of 80: “My job is still the same. Get the message across. And make politicians and others feel they must pay attention to the people.”

signaturePart visionary, part pragmatic community organizer, Pearl Chase associated with presidents and politicians; philanthropists and forward thinkers; influential friends close to home and across the nation. She enlisted their help to make this special community a better place.

In her time, she succeeded.

The city of Santa Barbara is sometimes called a jewel, a gem, a treasure; few visitors or even residents realize how many facets of this beautiful place—so highly prized and richly valued—can be traced back to a woman named Pearl.

November 16th, Pearl Chase’s birthday, ought to be celebrated as Pearl Chase Day in Santa Barbara, the city that owes her so much. So much of the natural and architectural beauty we see around our community is directly attributable to the influence and vision of Pearl Chase.

Today, 125 years after her birth, it’s time to remember what she did. And learn how she got it done.

–From the Introduction to Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara, Olympus Press, 2013


Our Life with Pearl Chase

One of the great Pearl Chase stories was published by Santa Barbara View in November 2010 and it is worth sharing again, with all the comments from over the years! Provided by Cheri Rae who has authored a must-have book, Miss Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara.

Memories shared by Penny and Terry Davies, who owned the Earthling Bookshop and worked with Pearl Chase to defeat the El Mirasol condominium project.

In 1966 our family arrived in Santa Barbara and quickly we fell in love with the jewel on the Pacific. The first house we lived in was in a tract in Goleta. In 1967, we moved to the old Parsonage next to the downtown Unitarian Church. We loved living downtown. Our three children thought we had surely come to live in paradise.

One night there was a knock on our front door. A man who we did not recognize had a petition that he was circulating around our neighborhood. It was supporting two high-rise condominiums to be built on the old El Mirasol Hotel property across the street from the church. When we inquired who was behind this project, we couldn’t get an answer.

el-mirasol-condo-sketch

We knew this was a big mistake, having seen other towns that had been destroyed by high-rise buildings. We felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. Then, a friend mentioned Pearl Chase. We had no idea what we were in for.

We called up Pearl Chase, who lived in the neighborhood, and told her about the petition. “I’ll be right over,” she said. When she came to our door, we knew here was a greater presence than the small white-haired lady who stood before us. She immediately took charge. She confided to us that this project was “a kick in the stomach by her friends”. Her friends were Thomas Storke, (owner of the News-Press) and Louis Lancaster, (owner of the SB Bank and Trust).

Our association with Pearl was an eye-opener for us “newcomers”. She worked seven days a week for the beautification and preservation of Santa Barbara. She told us that when she graduated from Berkeley, she arrived home and stepped off the train full of disgust. She was ashamed of Santa Barbara’s dirt roads and vowed then and there to devote her life to the city she loved.

She had always gathered people around her who had similar goals, as she did when she formed a group called “Santa Barbara Plans and Planting.” She had a little office downtown where she sat at her desk like a queen.

But she had never had to face a battle like this one
:

In our battle to keep Santa Barbara low rise, we attended endless council meetings under her direction, and tried to inform the public using her media savvy. Pearl and her small group founded SAVE OUR CITY (SOC) as a focal point for community support.

To see Pearl Chase in action with the City Council, very clearly making her viewpoint known was a lesson in power projection.

When we heard that the City Council was going to give a variance to the builders, we were shocked. We decided to advertise and ask for public financial support to take our case to the courts. We asked for money for our legal fees and the people of Santa Barbara responded enthusiastically.

One woman wrote to us that she was postponing her kitchen renovation, and sent the kitchen money to SOC. John Sink became SOC’s attorney. Two years from the day that the petitioner came to our front door, the courts decided that the so-called variance did not conform to the zoning laws, and found against the high-rise project. Pearl was a very happy woman and we and all the members of SOC were proud to have worked with her.

The site of the old El Mirasol Hotel is now a beautiful garden
, thanks to the generous donation of Alice Keck Park, and the tireless efforts of Pearl Chase.