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Finding A Place: Santa Barbara’s Current Rental Market Is Perhaps The Worst Ever

By Sharon Byrne

I’ve been hearing a lot about how bad it is for renters out there right now. People keep asking me to keep my eyes open – they need to find a place to live, and there’s nothing. Curious, I checked out Craigslist. Found this:

$850, 1 BR, 165 Sq Ft. Montecito
Charming, quiet, secluded, studio cottage.
Microwave, small refrigerator, and toaster oven. Utilities and internet included for reasonable usage.

OK, so it’s not really a 1 BR. It’s a studio, but hey, $850 is a good rate. Can’t be that bad out there, right?

Here’s the catch:
Monday-Friday (you arrive Mon. and leave by Friday morning.) This is for a commuter. You would have private use of the studio and wouldn’t have to take your stuff with you each weekend. You would be the only one using the studio (in fact, it is not suitable for a guest).

Finding good rentals here has been a problem for at least the past 15 years. I can attest to that because I have navigated the local rental market a few times over that time period, and each time, my heart sinks into my stomach as I get ready to survey properties that are over-priced, under-maintained, next to the freeway / railroad tracks, etc. With no yard, parking wars on the street, and hey, we don’t really like kids (as they eye mine).


Santa Barbara is perhaps one of the most wonderful places to live. Ever. The climate is awesome. The scenery is breathtaking. There is so much to do outdoors here, and if you have little ones, the place is loaded with parks, playgrounds, beaches, trails, and events to take them to.

It’s a wonderful outdoor life.

It’s not so good indoors, however, if you’ve got to rent.

moneyFive years ago, $1800 for a two-bedroom apartment was about market rate. Now it’s $2500. That $1800 can maybe get you a 1 bedroom.  $1,000 for a studio used to be high. Rooms in rental shares are now going for that price.

A friend recently rented a studio cottage with a closet-sized ‘bedroom’ (looked like an afterthought storage area), a tiny yard, no parking, and a sketchy neighborhood for the bargain price of $1,400 per month. I suspect this place last rented for $700 per month.  When rental supply stock is super tight, you can pretty much charge what you want, knowing some poor desperate sod will be forced to take it because there just is nothing else.

We’re in a major housing squeeze, folks. Some are blaming it on greedy landlords, some on the student explosion at UCSB / City College / EFL schools. Some blame it on vacation-rental-by-owner units. There are a lot of these, and the city appears poised to do something on that front, as they remove precious housing stock. I’ve heard tales of property management companies hosting open houses, charging a slew of frantic people $60 each to get their application in, and then hand-picking the tenant. People refresh Craigslist by the minute and jump on anything that might open, hoping to beat everyone else. Some drive around looking for garage sales as a sign of an upcoming vacancy. Gone are the days of the $2,000-a–month poorly maintained rental house, occupied by long-term Latino families, living together in jammed conditions. Many of those are now student housing, at double the previous rates, without any property improvements. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting in a below-market-rate rental, because you got it before things shot through the roof, your rent can only be raised 10% annually, under the law. In a hot market, it can take years of legal rental raises to match today’s high rates. So landlords use month-to-month leases, leaving tenants vulnerable to 30 and 60-day termination notices. Then the rent can be raised to whatever the landlord or property manager thinks they can command on the market. Eager would-be renters with stellar credit and thousands in deposit, first and last month’s rent, will happily flood the open house to get in.

In a tight rental market like ours, with a 0.5% vacancy rate, the gouge factor is on.

But I’ve also heard of landlords with compassion, who don’t raise the rents high, who understand the difficulties of finding a decent rental here. Some question why they should risk losing a good tenant just to get more rent, when the new tenant could prove to be a costly maintenance pain, a major party animal, or very difficult to evict? No thanks.

I’d like to compile a collage of the rental market here, so send me your story as a tenant or landlord. I can’t promise to publish every story, or every word of your story. But in a page or less, tell me your first-hand experience of navigating this difficult rental market. I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. So send them in to

An Eastside Story: Innovative Architecture Rolls Forward Inside A Surprising Silver Shell

By Sharon Byrne

Small spaces are very in vogue right now, for a number of reasons. People want to reduce their carbon footprint, shed stuff, downsize, and live simpler lives. has a huge following, as does Simple. In crowded coastal cities like ours, where space is at a serious premium, people get quite innovative, even if they don’t have the finances to buy property with stellar views. Savvy entrepreneurs find creative ways to answer their needs, carving out specialty niches for themselves in the process.

Enter Hofmann Architects. They take the old and decrepit, and make it into something you salivate over. They take small spaces and transform them into welcoming interiors you can breathe easy in. They reclaim the cast-off flotsam of an earlier era of family travel, and transform it into high-end custom homes that go where you want to go.

Bet you never thought you’d crave an Airstream.

You will when you see what Hofmann can craft out of them. Like this:


A child of the 70’s, I thought Airstreams were a bit of a hokey way for families to travel on the cheap. But those stainless steel shells with their distinctive mid-century lines have endured far beyond the nuclear age.

How did Hofmann get into business refurbishing Airstreams? Matthew Hofmann realized that living in a vintage trailer would be a great way to reduce overhead and simplify life.  “So, naturally, I went to the place everyone finds their dream – CraigsList. “

He bought a 1970s Airstream Trade Wind 25’ and parked it on a piece of property in Santa Barbara overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  For the next year, he designed and renovated it with his father, Wally. “Next thing you know, the Airstream was my home,” said Matthew.  “That singular experience has changed my life forever.”

Hofmann employs 15 specialized craftsmen and designers in the heart of the building trades sector flourishing here in the Eastside, on Quarantina at Bond. Wally happily took me on a tour.

Hofmann acquires old Airstreams, or a client can bring their own. You sit down with the architect and create plans for what you want. The Airstream is then gutted, though some clients want to keep original fixtures in good condition, juxtaposing old with new. I looked at two taken down to the shell, and one going into demolition and renovation. The original fixtures seem so 70’s, designed to provide the basic necessities for these ships-on-wheels.

Hoffman renovates these vintage trailers to client specs, turning out stunning and  unique architectural achievements. Wiring, plumbing, fixtures, flooring, windows, bathroom remodels – totally retrofitted and customized. Hofmann will strip out the old 9 gallon hot water tank, for example, and put in a radiant system to heat the water as it passes through, a Swiss technique. You can get gorgeously tiled bathrooms, modern kitchen appliances, clever built-ins for storage, and more.

shar2Custom-built kitchen offers all the modern conveniences. In an Airstream!


The bathroom in the “Elizabeth”. I want it!

Hofmann Airstreams are all given classic female names: Jenny, Susan, etc. They’re lovingly sculpted into something that fuses past with present, old with new, mid-century American dreams of inexpensive family travel with new American dreams of living simple and seeking adventure. Clients arrive with a budget of $35,000 – 350,000, and Hofmann will happily explore options that fit your particular needs and budget.

If you’re in, say, Minnesota, where the climate’s not very friendly, your home and possessions are your focus, as life there is conducted mainly in an indoor, climate-controlled setting. But there are other places, like here, where the view and surroundings matter more than having the big house with a lot of stuff. One of Hofmann’s ingeniously refurbished Airstreams offers a very nice living space, and clients seek them out for this very reason.

For someone like me, always trying to simplify my life and shed possessions, life in one of their specialty Airstreams looks very palatable indeed.

Finding Hoffmann Architecture:
519 North Quarantina Street
Santa Barbara, California 93103

Milpas Art Walk on Saturday

The Milpas Community Association is proud to announce the first installation of the Yes We Can! (turn our trashcans into art) project this Saturday, May 16th, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The project is the result of a creative community collaboration between the Milpas Community Association, la Casa de la Raza, Adelante Charter School, the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, Santa Barbara Beautiful, the City of Santa Barbara Visual Art in Public Places Committee, the City of Santa Barbara Environmental Services Division, and the City of Santa Barbara’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee.

The idea was born during the annual Milpas Community Association meeting in February of 2014. There is a frequent littering issue along Milpas St, between Cota and Canon Perdido. The public trash bins are a variety of styles, and some are in poor condition. These are very expensive to replace. We have tremendous community organizations and schools that serve our youth on the Eastside, and many have terrific arts programs. So why not tackle the problem of litter and poor can condition with art from our community’s children?

Ginny Brush of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission provided excellent guidance and solid support on the project. She advised to solicit artwork from established youth arts programs, upload the images digitally, and print them out onto a vinyl banner that could be mounted on the cans.

The City of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Services Division recently acquired responsibility for the public trashcans for the city. Matt Fore and Lorraine Cruz-Carpinter enthusiastically supported the Yes We Can! project, and helped the Milpas Community Association navigate the city’s approval process for getting artwork onto the cans.

A prototype was needed to get through the permitting process, and la Casa de la Raza stepped up to create it. The youth in their summer arts program, led by Eddie Gonzales, provided the first series of images for the Yes We Can! project. Ben Stafford of the Milpas Community Association photographed the images and produced the prototype. The prototype was used to navigate the Visual Arts in Public Places (VAIPP) committee and the Architectural Board of Review (ABR). VAIPP provided guidance on the artwork, themes, and color schemes. The ABR gave permission to mount the art for 3 years, and provided guidance on technical aspects.

The Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara provided the next round of artwork, led enthusiastically by Carolyn Brown and Calvin Mass. They were followed by Adelante Charter School, under the excellent tutelage of Devon Espejo. Principal Juanita Hernandez of Adelante Charter School strongly supported the Yes We Can! project and advocated for it before the Santa Barbara City Council.

The project was generously funded by Santa Barbara Beautiful, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, and the City of Santa Barbara through a neighborhood improvement grant awarded by the Neighborhood Advisory Committee. The Santa Barbara City Council approved the project, and now we’re delighted to unveil this first installment.

The public is invited to gather at Milpas and Canon Perdido Saturday May 16th at 11:00 AM for a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. The artwork is mounted on cans along Milpas between Canon Perdido and Ortega St. It creates an instant outdoor public art gallery featuring the work of our community’s children. We invite everyone to walk along Milpas from Canon Perdido to Ortega to see the cans and enjoy this creative community arts project. A map of the Yes We Can! first art installation is included.

The art will be rotated out every six months, and there are more cans to cover. We therefore welcome youth arts programs and youth artists to provide their artwork for the Yes We Can! project. The project’s duration is up to 3 years, providing youth artists all over the Eastside a chance to get their work displayed publicly. To find out how to submit artwork for the Yes We Can! project, please email or call (805) 636-0475.

Police: Para-Military Oppressors, or Public Servants Left Holding the Bag? Part II

Column by Sharon Byrne

The Polarity Trap

A powerful, polarized argument is emerging in our collective consciousness:

The police are over-armed, paranoid, and trigger-happy. They shoot innocents, whose sole mistake was to be the wrong color, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. And they’re never held accountable for it.

Net: Police are Bad.


Police put their lives on the line for the public. They’re often outmanned and outgunned by dangerous criminals. They follow police protocols and procedures. In defending themselves and the public from harm, they face scorn from those they are sworn to protect.

Net: Police Are Justified.

It feels like we’ve lost respect for our officers, as defenders of the law, and started seeing them as oppressors, who use the law against us, a meme that is on fire in national media. Why? Because there are places where the police do not have good relationships with the citizenry, where there are elements of oppression instead of protection. And now that this notion has crystallized in our national consciousness, there’s no un-ringing that bell. Cops that do great work in their communities are tarred with this same brush.

The Taunters

If police tactics have escalated, perhaps it’s because police face increasing hostility. This was scrawled at Gutierrez and State:



Cops are hoisted up as de-facto villains in whatever play is currently being acted out by those with long-simmering frustrations. Cops are taunted and provoked, as though antagonists want police to lose control so they can point and scream, “Police brutality!”

There’s a time for diplomacy, and then there’s a time for threat assessment. Will there be more cop funerals if we insist they try diplomacy first in every situation?

Just Don’t Do Anything That Makes Us Uncomfortable.

In Santa Barbara, that tends to be the prevailing sentiment. Please, officers, keep us from having to encounter someone peeing in public, or shouting the odds in a severe mental illness crisis when we’re going past them on the street.

Our mental health system cannot cope with these individuals. The county just declined to adopt Laura’s Law, so we’ll keep turning the severely mentally ill back out onto our streets. There, the public encounters them, and it’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

Who will they call?

The police.

Responding officers will then face unpalatable choices: Is a crime being committed? If no, leave them where they are. If yes, then take the individual to the jail, the county’s de-facto mental institution. Hopefully they won’t resist arrest, because police tactics for dealing with the uncooperative and hostile look ugly to us.

Pressure to reduce crime, in full view of a more scrutinizing, yet simultaneously squeamish, public have wedged police into a rapidly narrowing pincer of conflicting public sentiment. Police should deal with crime and criminals, but be incredibly humanitarian about it so we can all feel good.

Is this realistic?

One way out is to implement more community-based policing. Cops that know the community, and are welcomed within it, are far less likely to mistake community members as a threat. It’s hard for taunters to gain traction in attacking cops that we see at the grocery store, at the gas station, and whose kids go to school with our kids. We know them. They know us. There’s a relationship.

Body cams and other new technologies can also help with increased accountability and transparency. Australia’s had them for years. The LA Police Commission just approved them.

We must restore a sense of trust between the police and the community they serve, and everyone needs to be part of that effort. The cop on the street is not responsible for every single injustice ever inflicted on any community. And cops need to know that answers of ‘procedure’ can be deeply unsatisfying to community members who feel wronged. Embracing transparency might be a police force’s fast-track route to casting off community suspicions and hostility.

Police: Para-Military Oppressors, or Public Servants Left Holding the Bag? Part I

Weekly Column by Sharon Byrne

Media stories have turned a harsh lens on police, running a very dangerous risk of distortion, tapping into long-simmering frustrations built up over perhaps decades.

The prevailing media narrative, from Baltimore to Ferguson to here, is that cops have gone too far over the line.

A New Scrutiny

videoshotPolice now face an instant citizens’ oversight commission in a public armed with smartphones. News media then ominously narrate these cell phone videos and social media sends them viral. The media’s job is to highlight controversy, and they have found a goldmine. Everyone’s rioting in response to allegations of police heavy-handedness.

Last week, a story broke about a local sergeant that allegedly blocked a video recording of an arrest. The department issued a statement. Comments are raging online. The verdict has been issued in the court of public opinion.

I saw a video story on the LA Times website about a homeless man in Venice Beach beaten during an arrest. The website then cycled through 10 more videos with the same narrative: the Police are Bad.

Increased militarization?

Derision accompanied the SBPD purchase in 2010 of the Bear Cat, an armored vehicle, paid for by a Homeland Security grant. “It’s just so military.”

One can easily see the allure in military equipment. If you’re putting your life on the line every day (in some jurisdictions, a coldly sobering reality), wouldn’t you want the best possible stuff for protection?

Like the military?

My daughter pointed out that the difference is that the military protects us from other countries that want to hurt us. The police protect us… from us.

What does it say about ‘us’ that our police feel the need to increasingly arm themselves against ‘us’?

Hyper-Tense Situations and The Split-Second Response

Police in intense, rapidly escalating situations have to respond instantly. No cop shooting or use of force is ever played out lazily over hours, with everyone getting a chance to weigh in on how to do it right.

This stuff goes down in seconds. Lives could be lost if the cop fails to act properly. The heat of the moment is visceral. It only takes a second to stab someone. It takes less than a second to shoot someone.

Time is the luxury of afterwards, where we feel entitled to judge the cop, though we have never faced anything similar. And the airwaves have reams of time for hype. They can replay it for weeks. Months. Fan some more flames. Get those ratings up, people!

Even with video shot on-scene, do we ever really know all the events and interactions that led to the use of force, deadly or otherwise, in a given situation? Chances are we’ve got a snippet in time, and that’s all. And absent context, we make lots of assumptions.

People ask things like, ‘why didn’t they just shoot the weapon out of his hand?’

Like in the movies.

Who Will Be Our Next Congressional Representative? It’s a Free-For-All!

By Sharon Byrne

It’s spring, and the city’s District Elections lawsuit only just settled. People are starting to look at newly carved-up city maps, and wondering if their district is up this year, who will run, etc.

And out of nowhere, the long-awaited shift in the Congressional District 24 seat hurtled into prime time, completely eclipsing city electoral processes. Lois Capps announced she is retiring. She’s served nine full terms in Congress, since 1998.

Suddenly, a seat many have longed for is wide open.

This seat has always leaned Democratic, and still does. But the redistricting exercise of 2011 and the ‘jungle’ primary of 2012 shifted make-up of the district, as you can see below:

Politico recently noted: “The 24th District has been competitive for multiple cycles and instantly becomes a more likely pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2016 with Lois Capps’ retirement,” said Zach Hunter, regional spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Now that it’s an open seat, expect a free-for-all, with everyone getting in.

Politico is already speculating the seat could go to Laura Capps, the daughter of Lois Capps, though her tweet on her mom’s retirement was fairly coy on whether she’d run.

The locals, however, lost zero time jumping in. Within hours of Capps’ announcement of her retirement, Mayor Helene Schneider announced she would run for the Congressional seat. This may have surprised some, including the second candidate to announce, Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Helene clearly believes in the bold move. Some chafed online that “the body wasn’t even cold yet” before Helene announced her run, which itself is a bit of a chilling commentary. But politics is about the here-and-now, and Helene is not one to sit on the sidelines and wait to be wooed into the race. She’s showing her campaign style on the big stage, so take note.

Supervisor Carbajal announced that his Congressional run the next day, touting his work on the Climate Task Force in D.C. and his bi-partisan work on the Board of Supervisors.

Those two getting in the race will introduce some serious heartburn for the local Democratic party ranks around here. They’ll both be chasing Democratic party endorsements including the Democratic Central Committee, Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee. Both candidates are well regarded and respected within their ranks, making the choice painful. It could end up rather like the city council race of 2013, where endorsements were split between competing candidates. There are also elected Democratic officials’ endorsements to pursue. Expect some wailing and gnashing of teeth as they grind through the machinations of the Democratic party endorsements process.

William Ostrander, a Democrat from San Luis Obispo who played the high school thug in the film “Christine” is also running for Congress in the 24th District. He currently heads the nonprofit Citizens Congress.

So what about Das Williams or Hannah-Beth Jackson for Congress? Das is termed out of the Assembly in 2016, and probably would be expected to enter the Congressional race as an upward career move. But instead he’s entering the First District Supervisor race for the seat currently held by Carbajal. That seat is up in 2016, and Carbajal can’t run for Congress and re-election to his supervisorial seat at the same time. So the plan is for Carbajal to win Congress, and Das to become the new First District Supervisor.

Looking at the Republican field, well, it could include everyone and anyone from Mitchum to Dale Francisco to Justin Fareed, with the latter already announcing his run. Justin fired up some conservatives in 2014, invigorating them with his energy and youth, as he’s in his 20’s. He placed second in the 2014 primary.

Some have wondered if former State Senator Sam Blakeslee will get into the race. Katcho Achadjian, 35th District Assembly Rep, also announced. Both of these gentlemen hail from San Luis Obispo, which has proven to be the place Republicans go to die in Congressional elections. Fielding a San Luis Obispo Republican that can garner robust support up there is probably their best shot at winning the seat.

It’s only April, of 2015, and we’re already looking at a pretty crowded field for this race.

Let the free-for-all begin!

Chart Source:

From Ruin to Reclamation and Reuse: an Eastside Story

By Sharon Byrne

Carol Ashley is a quiet, busy resident genius in the Eastside’s industrial zone. Nestled in among the construction trades just west of Milpas, she runs Demo2Design, a humming hive of harvesting construction materials, building casitas out of them, and educating college kids on how you turn old doors into display kiosks and more. Carol started with the intention of diverting construction materials from the landfill. So she’d turn up at every remodel job site, armed with a screw gun, and busily deconstruct whatever was being remodeled. Then she’d haul it back to her shop on Union Ave, between Quarantina and Nopal, and look to resell it to homeowners looking for authentic fixtures, designers and architects. Need a Tiffany lamp shade? Some vintage stained glass windows? Doors and hinges for your Craftsman home?  A Victorian lamp post? Go see Carol. Her door inventory alone is like a walk through the history of architecture and building trends in this town.
Over the years, she’s developed a keen eye for what can be reused from remodels and demolitions in other building and design projects. There are some real jewels and surprises in her inventory. She’s got the arched doors and arch from the Van Halen estate and a front door from a historic landmark home. Over here is the sink from the very first home in Hope Ranch. Upstairs are vintage Victorian lamp fixtures. In a drawer are the glass globes that used to adorn the old Stateside bar in La Arcada. They were throwing them into the dumpster. Carol got them, and used them to architect a gorgeous lights display for a wedding. And so on. This woman knows materials, and what they could be used for in future.

Her birthday is Earth Day, April 22nd, of course.

Over time, her genius evolved from demolition, harvest and reuse into creative repurposing, and here is where she shines. Her creations can make you stop, scratch your head, and exclaim, ‘huh. Would have never thought of that.’

reclaimA 1960’s aqua toilet serves as a planter for a bright and colorful flowerbed. She created a portable show kiosk that can be assembled / dissembled in minutes using old doors, shutters, and other materials. She crafted garden benches out of furniture bits and old wrought iron. She’s got a casita in her driveway constructed totally out of harvest materials. It’s got a bit of a modern and funky architecture to it. She teaches people to build these using reclaimed materials, and the dimensions she uses render them outside of the city’s planning scrutiny. She made flowerbed planters out of Montecito gutters. She put some 1930’s picket fences together with a couple of sinks from an old school, and voila! Yard art. She created a giant rolling podium / work table out of old bed frames and doors. She can see the quality material in something old, deconstruct it, and revision it into something new, creative and useful.

There’s a genius to that, a particular, rare genius, and Carol’s got it.

Marborg refers customers to Demo 2 Design for questions about reuse.  Construction trades call her for demolition work before they start a remodel. And City College Construction Academy students turn up for work sessions to learn how to harvest, reuse, and revision materials in hands-on projects at Demo2Design. She also takes on UCSB interns to help with marketing and organizing the constant flow of materials. She puts on workshops for homeowners for $10 to come learn how to take old materials and do creative things with them in their homes.

She’s been a treasure in this area, dominated by construction trades. She’s moving to a new spot soon, and won’t say more than ‘come buy a piece of history, and find out where we’re going to be.’ I hope she stays in the Eastside, as she’s one of the hidden jewels in this bustling area.

In the Headlines: Part II

Milpas on the Move by Sharon Byrne

Congrats to the Dons Net Café!
They’re in the Big Apple! This group of budding entrepreneurs at Santa Barbara High School starts and runs their own businesses as a way of spurring young people into becoming future entrepreneurs. Instructor Lee Ann Knodel puts them through the paces of business planning, start-up, and execution. The Dons Net Café currently has 14 student-run entrepreneurial businesses, and they are presently on a serious bi-coastal hot streak. Underclassmen won 2nd place out of hundreds of schools at a UCLA competition last week. The Seniors took their yearly trip to New York City, paid for by their businesses! We’ve been tracking them on Facebook as they went on a private tour of CNN, the Ground Zero Museum, Wall Street, Intrepid, and an International Business Trade Fair. Way to go Dons! You can follow the Dons Net Cafe on FaceBack, Instagram, and Twitter. Give them a ‘like’ and send them a note of congratulations!

beer_pairKudos to Telegraph Brewery for making USA Today’s list of the top 25 beers you need to try before you die.
Their Reserve Wheat was declared “the best wheat beer you’ll ever drink” by the magazine. Their tasting room makes a great happy hour spot in this area, open till 9 PM Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 PM Friday and Saturday. They also do rotating art displays to keep it fresh. We’re delighted to have you guys here on the Eastside!

Milpas on the Move: In The Headlines

By Sharon Byrne

Our little community is making some big news this week. First, I got a chance to taste some new sandwiches coming out at one of our local eateries. I sampled chicken grilled in olive oil with guacamole and pico de gallo on an artisan roll. I tried a burger with applewood smoked bacon and white cheddar. I also tried a crispy chicken sandwich with a spicy mayo on a potato roll.

They were all surprisingly good.

Why surprisingly?

I was tasting them at the McDonald’s on Milpas.

When I was a kid, McDonald’s was THE bar for the American standardized experience. A Quarter Pounder at the Milpas McDonald’s tastes exactly the same as one in Spartanburg, South Carolina, or Munich, Germany. OK, when I was a kid, the Euro McD’s did taste kind of funny, and they had some different menu items, but the experience McDonald’s trotted out to the American consumer was universal, and it was their strongest marketing tool in going international. No matter where you are, you can count on the McDonald’s experience to be absolutely standard. Other industries followed the McDonald’s lead. When you check into a Holiday Inn or get your latte at Starbucks – you know what to expect, whether you’re in Freeport, LA or LA in California.

So this idea of custom artisan sandwiches is a big departure from the ‘standard fare everywhere’ concept McDonald’s pioneered and continues to dominate. Owner Dave Peterson told me the idea came from McDonald’s customers, and the company listened. Today’s restaurant patrons are a more sophisticated, health-conscious set, and they want to see menu choices that reflect this consciousness. So they changed their cooking methods for these sandwiches, and adapted the kitchen to handle freshly-made guacamole, pico de gallo, and more.

The second reason these new sandwiches are newsworthy: McDonald’s is test marketing them in our area. You can order these new customized artisan sandwiches at the McDonald’s in Santa Barbara, but you can’t get them in Ventura, San Francisco, or LA.

Fast food has always been an intensely competitive space. Burger King and Wendy’s historically cropped up across the street from McDonald’s. Chick Fil A carved out a niche in crispy chicken sandwiches. The Habit, a local phenomenon, was named best fast food burger nationwide. The space is always churning with big players, nimble competitors, and continual downward pressure on profit margins. The latest trend in fast food is the breakfast market – everyone’s jumping in. You can now get breakfast at Taco Bell, for example. McDonald’s pioneered the breakfast sandwich when Herb Peterson hatched the Egg McMuffin, at the McDonald’s on Milpas. McDonald’s once proudly displayed ‘over 1 billion served’ signs. Now, they’re pioneering again, and going into customized artisan sandwiches. If the concept proves successful in our local test market, it will go nationwide. Stop by and try one for yourself.

The Horrible, Destructive Power of Gossip

By Sharon Byrne

The Spanish word for gossip is chisme. In its most destructive form, it can ruin reputations and destroy livelihoods. From casting aspersions to deliberate misinformation spread to maligning people with longstanding good names, I feel like I’ve seen it all on the gossip front recently.

gossipGossip is a natural human tendency. Some of it is done under the pretext of sharing news and information that builds cohesiveness in a community – “I heard Fresh & Easy is closing stores in California. What’s going to happen to ours? Oh it’s staying open – good!” “Our school principal is out on medical leave – we should do something for her.”

But sharing news that’s personal…if someone wanted me to know about his divorce, well he’d tell me, wouldn’t he? Besides, gossips are surely going to also gossip about me to others. Best to steer clear of them.

Ever notice how people seldom question gossip? They scrutinize cable news commentators more closely than they do the source of wild gossip. Gossip is granted instant believability that leads to its rampant spread.

Even more insidious is the intentioned indefensibility against gossip. The one gossiped about is never granted the luxury of presenting a defense. Gossip lets you destroy someone’s reputation without the risk of revealing yourself as the destroyer.

There is no honor in maligning someone under the guise of anonymous gossip.

Gossip moves like water in a stream, whispering past the rock it accuses, touching it only briefly, moving quickly on, while the rock has no ability to respond to the water. Smaller rocks can be swept away in a torrent. Larger rocks are eroded over time. Gossip destroys good people without large public stature that can resist such assaults. Good names that took decades to build can also be badly damaged by gossip.

In some parts of our community, gossip is aggressively dealt with as ‘ratting’ out. An affronted subject, having learned of rumors being spread about them, will hunt down the source and confront them. Punishment can be swift and harsh. That’s the street way, but you get the point. Unchecked, gossip can be very dangerous.

Here’s how dangerous:

– A wonderful police officer was accused of spreading a rumor. He was stunned and hurt. The gossip attributed the rumor to him deliberately in order to lend it more credibility. They also sought bring down his good name in order to elevate their own stature.

– A businessman was the victim of a protest intended to shame him as a race traitor. His crime? Supporting the creation of a business district to make the area more welcoming for families. Sadly, the racial shaming stuck. All his good works for years for the Latino community were dismissed on the spot. The perpetrators defend what they did as social justice, and got in their cars back to UCSB or LA, never stopping to think for second about the destruction they’d wrought on a man, his family, and his business.

– Chisme that started as mutterings about late night money transfers quickly transformed into wild rumors of jihad and terrorism. These rumors incited the murder of a store clerk for the crime of talking on his phone in Arabic on a dark street late at night while walking home from his job.

Gossip lets us cast aspersions over what others are doing while providing zero evidence, safely cloaked in the gossip’s anonymity. We can reframe good works as nefarious enterprises with sneaky aims. We can ruin someone’s reputation, their livelihood, their relationships, and their lives – things that took decades to build…in seconds.

A gossip has two nightmares: the first is confrontation. It’s why they start off with, ‘don’t tell anyone I told you this…’ Stop the would-be-gossiper right there, turn the lens back on them, and ask them what they think they’re doing? Why would they set out to ruin someone this way?

The gossip’s second worst nightmare is becoming the target of gossip. In order to inoculate themselves against this fear, they first pretend this will never happen to them, but of course they know subconsciously they are lying to themselves. So they trade lies about others like currency, in the vain hope that by being a source of gossip, they can control against becoming the victim of what they perpetuate.

Gossip now manifests online in anonymous comments sections. Anonymity breeds a particularly loathsome version of it in these forums.

When you’ve been maligned, you will long for some sort of due process to combat it. With gossip, there isn’t any.

The only defense is aggressively halting its spread. Seek to do that whenever possible.