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Saturdays with Seibert

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Last Saturday I joined 35 other paddlers from Santa Barbara Outrigger for a Rig Run. A three hour round trip paddle out to the oil platforms off of Santa Barbara. The platforms are about six miles out, and from GPS devices we paddled a total of 13.8 miles.

It was a beautiful day and the water was really blue. Bluer than I have ever seen it in the past twenty years. It’s the best time of the year to be on the water. – Dan

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Hike the Santa Ynez Valley

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)

Hike the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country and enjoy a couple of short trails that lead from tasting room to tasting room. Located near the little town of Los Olivos, the “Foxen Canyon Wine Trail” offers a tour from winery to winery along Foxen Canyon Road. The tour is for motorists (and some cyclists) but I’m happy to report there’s also a hiking trail to take in Foxen Canyon.

Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.

Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.

Perched atop a commanding mesa overlooking Zaca Canyon, the Santa Ynez Valley and the wilderness beyond, Firestone Vineyard is the oldest (established in 1972) estate winery in Santa Barbara County. The large (by valley standards) winery produces acclaimed Merlots, Chardonnays and Rieslings. And it boasts the first and only hiking trail, too,

During the 1990s, winery founder Brooks Firestone represented the county in the State Assembly for a few terms, before returning to expand the family business. From the earliest days of wine touring in the Santa Ynez Valley, Firestone Vineyard has been a major player and must-stop.

Hikers were pleased when Firestone constructed “Brooks’ Trail” around the vineyard. The pleasant pathway connects Firestone Vineyard with the former Curtis Winery tasting room, recently taken over by Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Andrew Murray wines are much admired, particularly for fine Rhône varieties, and it’s probably a safe bet that The Trailmaster is the one and only person who associates Andrew Murray wines with hiking. Let me explain:

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Mountain and (Santa Ynez) Valley vistas are highlights of Brooks’ Trail.

A decade ago, when I was leading hiking tours of Santa Barbara for an upscale walking vacation company, Andrew Murray Vineyards was quite hospitable to our hiking groups. Andrew’s Mom (Fran Murray) was active with a wonderful group, the Santa Ynez Valley Women Hikers, and she and Andrew gave us permission to walk their property and then arranged a post-hike wine tasting. A couple times, Andrew himself did the pour and proudly explained where he wanted to go with the family business. For some of the hikers on my tour, it was the highlight of the week!

So here’s a toast to the Murrays, winemakers and hikers.

If you have a designated driver (always a good idea if you’re on a tasting tour), you can make this an even easier 1.2 mile one-way hike (mostly downhill) from Firestone to Curtis.

Plan your hike for a time when Firestone Vineyard’s tasting room is open, usually 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. The main gain is open a little before and after these hours.

For a little more wine country hiking, pay a visit to Zaca Mesa Winery, which occupies a scenic plateau overlooking Foxen Canyon. The winery offers tastings and two short trails, which look a bit neglected these days. Windmill Trail (0.25 mile) climbs to a picnic area then up to a little overlook. Z Trail (0.25 mile) also climbs to an overlook (a popular promontory for exchanging wedding vows). The path winds among the region’s two kinds of oaks—coastal live and valley—helpfully identified by signs en route.

It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.

It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.

If you’re fantasizing about hiking across the valley from winery to winery and stopping at each tasting room along the trail, you’re going to be disappointed. Sauntering through vineyards in the valley is just not possible or encouraged like it is in Provence and Tuscany. We hikers are grateful to Firestone and Andrew Murray for this small sampling of Santa Ynez Valley wine-country trails, but the valley is so beautiful and enticing, we’re left thirsting for more.

The signed path begins by the picnic area, located just below the Firestone tasting room. Valley vistas are superb from the start of the trail. The trail descends to the vineyard, skirts rows and rows of grapes, and soon crosses the vineyard’s paved entry road.

Brooks Trail climbs a bit, then contours along oak-dotted slopes. Enjoy grand views of Foxen Canyon and the greater wine country. The sights and sounds of cars traveling Foxen Canyon and the rise and dip of active oil rigs amidst the rows of grape are also part of the valley scene. The path descends to Andrew Murray Winery and Visitor Center, where there are grassy picnic grounds under the shade of ancient oaks.

Directions: From Highway 101, some 45 miles north of Santa Barbara, exit on State Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass Rd.) and head east 2.5 miles to Foxen Canyon Road. Turn left and follow the winding road 4.4 miles to a junction with Zaca Station Road. Firestone Vineyard is located 0.7 mile south on Zaca Station Road. Curtis Winery is just west on the continuation of Foxen Canyon Road.

The most direct route to Firestone Vineyard is to exit Highway 101 on Zaca Station Road and proceed 2.5 miles northeast.

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Audits and Complaints on Senior Living Facilities

ultimate_senior_living_1Hi -

I’m reaching out in reference to author Sharon Byrne’s article The Darker Side of Aging written on 9/24. In it, she suggests A Place for Mom as a way to look into audits and complaints on senior living facilities. Here is our link that will help readers look up these reports.

Thanks so much! Erin

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Santa Barbara Community Should Shoulder Student Housing Burden

The Channels editorial that was posted in the comments on Santa Barbara View.

MKcja8dTqCity College’s push to pass Measure S has brought up many skeletons in the community’s closet about student housing.

The City College’s fact page cites the 36 percent of students who attended City College last year were from out of the county and were left with the tricky task of finding affordable housing in this picturesque town of Santa Barbara.

The accusations for lack of attention on the matter have been directed at City College, but landlords of Santa Barbara residents have been noticeably absent from the conversations.

Though the community is hyper critical of City College because of the restricted housing situation, The Channels Editorial Board, which is comprised of students who have dealt with almost every type of housing situation, feel it is also the community’s burden to bear.

According to the City College’s website, not one of the 30,687 students enrolled last year lived in a residence owned or operated by City College.

The perception of our school is one of a four-year university. But City College is just that, a city college. Even if the college attempted to solve the issue, it would be nearly impossible because of the horrendously high prices local properties are being sold at. The average one-bedroom in Santa Barbara rents for $1,378.

Harbor Heights, a 97-unit complex nestled between East and West Campus on Cliff Drive, was just sold to an unknown buyer for over $33 million dollars outbidding the City College Foundation after escrow closed in January, setting the record for price per square foot in the city.

If Measure S passes, Santa Barbara homeowners will be taxed $16.65 per $100,000 assessed worth of their property. But the likely situation is that many residents who are also landlords will be passing this tax directly onto their tenants. That means a rent hike for us, the student renters.

With private companies and buyers owning the homes in Santa Barbara, the student housing market is chalk-full of students making landlords dirty rich.

Though the community may focus the attention on City College to mend this suffering part of the system, the Ed Board believes the landlords of Santa Barbara should be making the extra push to accommodate the students that fill their very pockets with cash.

The Editorial Board has encountered almost every type of housing circumstance. From cockroaches to almost unavoidable fees and required expenses, there’s been an overwhelmingly negative review of the local landlords.

With 68 percent of the housing in Santa Barbara being built before 1970, according to the Santa Barbara Independent, many of the rental properties are in need of some serious overhaul. There are homes and apartments that have been functioning simply on temporary fixes while their tenants struggle to pay obscene amounts.

Not all landlords are unpleasant to their tenants. We urge these few to lead by example, or step in and try to spark a change. Students appreciate how you run your residences, which means we take care of them better. When a landlord doesn’t care about their tenants, the tenants in exchange don’t take care of their living space.

While City College is taking the heat for an issue that is not solely theirs in the first place, the Editorial Board is turning the issue onto the community.

If homeowners want to see the college make a change, landlords have to make it possible for it to do so. That means stabilizing the ridiculously off balance rental prices, modernizing and updating, and putting a hold on the hoarding of properties so that a solution could be attempted.

Homeowners and landlords alike will be affected by the tax brought if Measure S passes, but those who believe the students should feel the brunt of the measure have things backwards.

If there is an issue with City College’s student’s need for housing, we should be questioning those who already make the process of renting in this town so difficult.

The views and opinions in this Editorial are those of The Channels Editorial Board and not of the whole City College student body.

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I Am Voting for Measure P for the Following Eleven Reasons:

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I am voting for Measure P for the following reasons:

1. Measure P is about protecting our groundwater from oil industry contamination by banning Fracking and Acidification processes that mix massive amounts of clean water with hydrofluoric acid and other Fracking chemicals, injecting them into the ground under tremendous pressure creating huge amounts of toxic wastewater also disposed of by injection underground.

2. In July, 2014 California’s Oil & Gas regulators shut down 11 oil field wastewater injection wells because of suspected groundwater contamination. There are over 2,500 toxic wastewater injection wells throughout California, including one just off the Santa Barbara coast.

3. A September 15, 2014 letter from the State Water Board to the EPA confirmed toxic wastewater from oil and gas operations has been illegally injected into aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water in the central valley. That water source is now polluted and forever unusable.

4. This is the tip of the iceberg with investigations into groundwater contamination just beginning. If Fracking & Acidification practices expand as envisioned by the Oil Industry, there will need to be thousands more wastewater disposal wells. Regulators have allowed disposal of toxic wastewater underground without monitoring fostering Industry claims that these technologies are non-polluting; claims now proven false.

5. In August, 2014, after years of denial under Gas Industry pressure, the State of Pennsylvania finally acknowledged that hundreds of private drinking water wells have been contaminated by Extreme oil and gas operations.

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(Cough) Déjà-vu All Over Again (Cough, Cough)

by Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150A decade ago, my healthy, strong second-grade son contracted pertussis, aka whooping cough. He had been fully immunized against this bacterial disease, but he got it anyway. Of all the childhood colds and flus, aches and pains, accidents and infections, the bout with whooping cough was by far the worst—and the after-effects went on forever.

In all the heated discussion about vaccines and anti-vaccines, here’s a little light: No one hears about the broken ribs, the weakened immune systems, the damaged bronchial tubes, the lost stamina, the time away from school. The amount of time it takes to fully heal.

Because his bronchial tubes were so damaged from the weeks that turned into months of coughing spasms, my son was left with “reactive airway disease,” and was under the care of our community’s asthma guru, Dr. Liebhaber. For four years he had an inhaler, one at home, one at school. He took Advair and Singulair, and sometimes, when his breathing was bad, he had to take doses of Prednisone. The humidifier was our best friend; dry, hot weather our worst enemy. During the ashy, particulate-filled days of the Tea, Zaca and Jesusita fires, he had to leave town.

There were ugly side effects to the powerful drugs, but he needed them to get better.

It was a long, tough journey back, and now that strapping high school senior is a picture of good health.

But here come the news reports that vaccine-preventable whooping cough is back in Santa Barbara. A disease that was nearly eradicated nationwide has taken hold across the state and far beyond—and there have been a few additional breakouts in town in the past 10 years.

I’ve been keeping track because it was such an unexpected and traumatic upheaval in our lives, that included a period when our family was quarantined in our home. I researched whooping cough. Wrote about it. Spoke out about it years ago on the “Today Show” and just last year I flew across the country to appear on a medical show on Public Television called “Second Opinion.” In short, I know more about whooping cough than any parent ought to.

In the past 10 years, a few things have changed: The FDA approved a booster shot for whooping cough, and it’s supposed to be given to every incoming high school student. But now, more parents have learned about “Personal Belief waivers” and have declined to immunize their children.

Despite widespread scientific evidence debunking the link between autism and vaccines the myth continues out of the mouths of politicians and celebrities and internet anti-vaxx “experts.” And we also know that the concept of herd immunity requires individuals to take responsibility for public health, and collectively vaccinate—to protect our own children and the community at large.

But still incidence of this awful disease keeps rising. And it is awful long after the 100 days of coughing finally subside.

These new cases of whooping cough will once again raise the voices of the organic, holistic, homeopathic-for-everything, believers in the notion that thinking positive thoughts and lots of fresh air and sunshine will keep the negative things in life away. They won’t want to listen to the fact that Bordetella pertussis is one highly communicable and very nasty germ that attacks anyway, no matter how pure your diet or your thoughts. And unless and until we change our thinking, and our actions, now that it’s taken hold again, it’s never going away.

Editor’s Note: A healthy herd immunity rate is around 95 percent. Waldorf is hardly the only school that has had an outbreak of whooping cough in recent years. Plenty of other public and private schools have had them as well. A Look up the immunization rate at your child’s school: http://www.shotsforschool.org/child-care/how-doing/

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Ban the Boom: Yes on P

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Editor,

This may only resonate for those of a certain age, but when you come right down to it, Measure P might rightly adopt the slogan, “Ban The Boom.”

Measure P is Santa Barbara County’s last best chance to prevent an oil industry boom unlike anything we have ever seen in this region, which would explain why Big Oil is funding the opposition campaign to the tune of 5 million dollars.

Today, there are around 1,200 operating wells in the County. Based on their statements in the business press, two companies alone are planning on nearly ten thousand more.

All of the thousands of new wells they hope to drill would use one or more of the high-intensity techniques that Measure P prohibits: Hydraulic Fracturing, Steam Injection and Acidization. What these all have in common is extravagant water consumption, polluted wastewater, high pressure injection, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and hazard to our water supplies from the inherent risk of spills and accidents.

Don’t let Santa Barbara County be bought by Big Oil. Keep our production of oil, and oil jobs, and oil property tax revenues, at the modest level they currently represent.

Measure P made the ballot because the people of Santa Barbara County don’t want hazardous chemicals injected into the ground below our feet. We don’t want toxic vapors wafting over our vegetables and school yards. We don’t want our groundwater supplies put in jeopardy, especially in a time of extreme drought. And, finally, we don’t want our beautiful Santa Barbara County to look like the oil fields of North Dakota.

Ban the Boom, and Vote Yes on P!

Jim Taylor
Carpinteria CA 93013

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Sign of the Times in Santa Barbara, California

An exaggerated, hand-carved sign for the Housing Authority building.
Housing Authority

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Last Day to Register to Vote: October 20

polls_vote_countsToday is the last day for Californians to register to vote in order to weigh in on November 4 General Election ballot. Mailed registration forms must be postmarked by Monday, October 20. A person must re-register to vote after moving, changing names or changing political party preference.

Eligible Californians can register online until 11:59 p.m. today. Paper applications are available at local libraries, post offices, California Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and other government offices.

Registering to vote is one of the easiest and most important things you can do in a democracy,” said Secretary Bowen, California’s chief elections official. “Don’t give up your voice by not voting. Register by October 20 so that you can weigh in on proposed changes to our laws and decide who leads our government.”

The Secretary of State offers Californians a convenient web portal for checking their own voter registration status at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status.

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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.

on dead bird beach
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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.

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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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