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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Santa Barbara View Poll Question of the Week

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On the Docket… Cajun Kitchen’s Gator Boy Mural

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider the mural installation on the side of Cajun Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara (Chapala and West Canon Perdido Streets) which is known locally at Gator Boy. The Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) voted 5/1 to approve the mural but conditioned it for only one year after it was found to be unacceptable as permanent art for the location. The City Council will hear the appeal filed by restaurant business owner, Juan Jimenez.

The Santa Barbara City Council is expected to side with the HLC. According to the Agenda… “In granting a one-year time limit, the Commission compared the art mural to the most recent mural approved on lower State Street as a temporary mural installed on the south elevation of the Hotel Indigo. In contrast, that State Street art mural was sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art as a temporary exhibit, by a nationally renowned artist, does not serve as advertisement for a business, and was reviewed by the Visual Art in Public Places Committee (VAPP).”
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“The HLC was opposed to allowing the as-built mural to permanently remain in its current design and cited several reasons why the mural could not be approved as painted. It was noted that, while it is appreciated as an expression of art, it is not an appropriate permanent improvement located within El Pueblo Viejo (EPV). The Commission indicated that one method to gather support and get a mural installation approved is to go through the public art review process.”

“Staff is of the opinion that the painted “gatorboy” mural can be considered a logo sign advertisement that speaks more to the type of business that is being conducted within the building. The HLC does not typically accept or allow after-the-fact exterior alterations to buildings, especially if they believe the alterations are inconsistent with their EPV Design Guidelines. The HLC prefers to have some initial input on location, size and type of art exhibit that is proposed for permanent placement within EPV, especially if the art has not been vetted or reviewed by (VAPP).”

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Should Santa Barbara City College be Engaged in Sports Recruiting?

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To the Editor,

In the discussion about Measure S, SBCC portrays the educational institution as passive in simply required to take in every student who wants to attend.

It’s clear from watching their sports teams that they are engaged in recruiting efforts to bring students in from other areas.

SBCC_LogoThe quarterback on the football team, for example, has been described in recent sports reports as a freshman from Seattle. Seattle? Isn’t there a single community college for him to play at closer to his own community?

Similarly, I know that a high school student from Temecula has been recruited by SBCC to play for its new women’s water polo team. I guess Santa Barbara is a lot nicer place to play than in the Inland Empire.

And I have heard that in the baseball program, most freshmen are automatically red-shirted. In a two-year school? And they are planning a big tryout “camp” for potential players, from the area and beyond, to attend in December.

I would like to see a full accounting from SBCC about the amount of sports recruiting they do and what it costs, in time, money and effort.

Somehow I think we’re paying a very high price for them to play games at the expense of local taxpayers and at the expense of local kids having the opportunity to play for the local community college.

I will be voting NO on Measure S.

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What Will Measure P Actually Do?

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I spent a lot of time recently trying to understand what measure P will actually do. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it will essentially preserve the status quo and prevent a local oil boom that might result in 10,000 or more new wells. Here’s how I arrived at this conclusion: First, here’s a look at the concerns of both sides. The concern of the oil industry seem to be two: 1) existing wells will be shut down and, 2) they will not be able to drill thousands of new wells using the more intense methods now needed to get the oil out. The concern of the proponents of P are three: 1) that too much water will be used, 2) concern about aquifer pollution and 3) climate and air pollution concerns.

Opponents call it the oil shutdown initiative. In order to understand how the county might enforce this, I looked at statements made by the County Counsel’s office. Opponents of Measure P are saying 100% of existing wells could be affected. What does affected mean? Does that mean they’d be shut down or something else, like they’d have to get a permit? Listening carefully to recordings of the Board of Supervisors meetings and the Planning Commission meetings addressing this issue, I found that Santa Barbara County Council Mike Ghizzoni was asked about this. He cited the landmark California Supreme Court case, Avco Community Developers vs. South Coast Regional Commission. He applied the Avco standard to the Measure P and concluded current production will be allowed to continue.

Near the end of a later meeting, Sept 3 of the Planning Commission, Bill Dillon of the County Counsel’s office said that existing wells do not even have to come in and apply for an exemption if they already have a permit. “if they have a vested right and they are sure of it, they do not have to come in” (for an exemption). They do have the option of applying for an exemption just to have that determination if they want to, or have some doubt.

It seems that the shutdown concern of the industry is unfounded, but their second concern is real. They may not be able to drill their 10,000+ new wells. At the Planning Commission meeting Santa Maria Energy (one of the 16 companies operating here) states that they have approval for 136 wells on 32 acres but what about their other 4000 acres and the 7,700 well locations they have planned? This is just one of the companies indicating they plan to ramp up oil production, most of which do to propose to use high-intensity oil extraction.   Continue Reading →

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Clock Tower View Closed Soon for Renovation

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Clock Tower View, Closed soon for Renovations

I’m often surprised at how many locals have never been to the observation deck at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Clocktower. It’s a wonderful experience, even for those of us who may be used to looking at the beauty of Santa Barbara all the time. A wonderful experience that is, if you can easily navigate the tight metal stairways winding up the last story from the top of the elevator.

But that is all about to change for the better. Thanks to the caretakers of the courthouse a new project is underway to extend the elevator the last story all the way to the observation deck. But unlike some of the accessibility stories you hear where someone sued or complained to get action, the story behind the project is very positive. The courthouse has had ADA accessibility plans in the works for some time, but this particular project was accellerated by the people who forged ahead, rather than let it stop them. Even though the climb to the top was tough there are many who make the trek apparently even in the face of extreme difficulty. Inspired by the people who felt the experience was worth the effort, the Courthouse Docents urged the powers that be to fast track the project. Led by a guy who’s love of the history and heritage in his care is quite apparent when you talk to him, the County Architect Robert Ooley, the project got the green light this week.

Of course, extending the elevator another floor is no easy task. Starting January the Clock Gallery and the observation deck will be closed to the public to allow for construction, which is slated to run through July 2015. So if you’ve never been to the top because you’ve just never got around to it, now is a great time to go before construction starts! Of course if you’ve stayed away because of the climb, your wait is almost over. Either way, during the construction I’ll do my best to bring the wonderful views right to you.

You can find out more about this project and others in the works at http://www.santabarbaracourthouse.org/

-Bill Heller

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Saturdays with Seibert: Full Moonrise

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Tuesday evening a full moon rose over the harbor teeming with activity.  Surfers caught waves at Sand Spit, SUP’s and kayakers enjoyed the very warm weather & waves rolling into the harbor.  One guy even went for a paddle and took his dog.

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EcoFacts: Lighting the Way

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

blauwe_ledNobel prizes were awarded this week to the inventors of blue LEDs, including Shuji Nakamura, a professor here at UCSB. You may ask what the significance is. Red and green LEDs were invented in the 60s. It took until the 90s for these fellows to create higher energy blue light from a light emitting diode, which, when combined with red and green form white, enabling multi colored and white lighting. Then came the screen technology we use daily in our phones, computers, tvs, etc.. and, those LED lightbulbs, which are even more efficient than CFL bulbs, don’t have any mercury in them, and can last for decades.

The costs of these bulbs, like the screens that proceeded them, have been dropping, making them more economically viable for us, but also for those who have been previously without any form of electric light. Using so much less power, they can easily be powered by solar.

I have been enjoying a small lightweight solar powered LED lamp for my work, and lights for my bike. I don’t need to buy batteries for them and the bulbs will last for thousands of hours. But think of what these devices can do for people who have been using kerosene lamps, buying the kerosene and breathing the fumes. A third of all people have either no or limited access to electricity. LED technology is a boon in these regions, as it is for everyone.

If all lighting in the U.S. was replaced with LED forms, electricity consumption would drop 20%, the amount produced by nuclear power plants, or by half of all coal used today.

The timing of this Nobel is pretty cool, too. This year, old fashioned incandescent bulbs of the 40 and 60 watt variety will no longer be manufactured, following the demise of the 100 and 75 watt varieties. I miss that light a bit, but its time has clearly passed. For beautiful warm light, we’ll just have to go outside.

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Save the Gator Boy

The unapproved mural on the side of Cajun Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara has locals rallying to save the mural via a social media campaign, #savethegatorboy!

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Vintage Views of Santa Barbara, California

Can any Viewers recognize these old eateries, the location and/or date? Answers below

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Nite Owl at 530 State St. and the Rice Bowl Cafe at 532 State St. as seen in 1980.

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The Dodgers of Santa Barbara

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150It was already bad enough that loyal Dodgers fans could only watch a handful of games this season, due to the failure of Time Warner to negotiate acceptable prices with cable and satellite providers. Cox in Santa Barbara, it should be noticed, didn’t even carry the final six regular season games that were finally allowed the right to broadcast by an Orange County station.

Heck, we could hardly even hear the legendary Vin Scully call the games on radio, since the Ventura station has a tendency to drift once the sun goes down. And we die-hard fans were stunned, unable to watch two Dodgers’ no-hitters in a season that seemed to offer so much promise.

We consoled ourselves: At least we could watch the playoff games—except the exciting Dodger win on Saturday night, carried only on MLB Network. And the idea of making it all the way to the World Series this year almost made the long blackout worth it.

So it was particularly sad to see the Boys in Blue strike out in the first round of the National League Division Series, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. Again.

That refrain of “wait until next year” is getting old. But Dodgers fans, especially those is Santa Barbara, have high hopes and long memories. For nearly three decades, from the 1940s through the 1960s, Santa Barbara was home to Dodgers’-affiliated minor league teams.

That classic old 6-acre, WPA-built major league-sized ballfield at Laguna Park was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Saints. Play was suspended during World War II, but began again in 1946, with the debut of the Santa Barbara Dodgers, a strong team in the California League.

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Laguna Ball Field Circa 1940

The relationship between Santa Barbara and the Dodgers continued after the team moved west, until 1967, when management announced that the Dodgers had lost $100,000 on the team that was drawing tiny crowds, so they moved to the always-more-affordable Bakersfield.

And as has been noted here before, the old ballpark didn’t last much longer. It was demolished in 1970 to make way for a parking lot for city buses. It was an unceremonious end to America’s game in Santa Barbara, by way of a historic team.

But baseball fans in this town are getting used to it. In fact, Santa Barbara was once home to Ernest Thayer, after he wrote “Casey At the Bat.” The classic American poem ends, much like the Dodgers’ season:

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

Wait until next year.

Santa Barbara Dodgers

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Two Years of the Santa Barbara Sentinel

sentinelThis week marks the two-year anniversary of the Santa Barbara Sentinel. The publication debuted October 5-12, 2012.

The “conversation paper” launched with 24 pages, including a spread provided by Santa Barbara View. Two years later, the Sentinel is a bi-weekly publication with twice the page count and a growing advertising base. You will also find multiple articles every issue by Cheri Rae and Sharon Byrne.

From all of us at Santa Barbara View, congratulations and happy anniversary!

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Re: El Encanto Parking Woes/ Progress

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I’m writing on behalf of Belmond El Encanto, as we’d like to offer a response to the article “Saturdays with Seibert: El Encanto Parking Woes/ Progress”

We’d like to start by graciously thanking Daniel for highlighting Belmond El Encanto’s recent improvements in managing our employee parking and rectifying a complaint that has existed for decades. The managerial team has implemented a very thorough transportation program for Belmond El Encanto associates and will continue comprehensive street monitoring and patrolling to ensure that employees remain compliant with our commitment to our neighbors and city.

With regards to the perimeter of the property, we were very disappointed to see Daniel’s critical commentary. He is correct that Belmond El Encanto is being very mindful of water conservation, thus allocating our precious resources judiciously. With that said, most guests continue to praise our 7-acres of garden landscaping, from the drought resistant plantings to the lush pathways and arbor and lily pond. The team is disappointed that his view is that our landscaping is “sad” and that “it’s obvious nobody seems to care,” this which is simply is not the case. Belmond El Encanto is compliant with city water usage mandates and is doing the very best we can to maintain the integrity of our grounds during this severe drought.

If you could please publish this response on our behalf, we would be most appreciative.

Sincerely,
Ty Bentsen
Managing Director | THE BRANDMAN AGENCY
ds

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Under The Overbearing City

By Sharon Byrne

City_SealI’ve spent a lot of time with the city lately. There were a few bright moments, like SBPD / Public Works/ Caltrans hyper-fast response on an encampment, and the bust of the RV meth and prostitution ring near the Nopalitos Way Post Office – great work from SBPD. The Architectural Board of Review went for the Yes We Can! Project, so we’re about to start turning our trash cans into art projects.

But other experiences… rankle. Sometimes, the city and its advisory boards can take on Dark Overlord tendencies. Like the way an irritated TSA agent can hold you from making your flight, sometimes government over-reach becomes over-bearing. Anyone who has ever tried to get anything through the city’s planning process can relate.

Attempting to navigate the city’s process for getting special event banners on Milpas:

“Banners are illegal. Not allowed. Besides, we don’t feel this artwork represents the newly emerging identity of the Milpas area.”

-       Sign Committee to the team responsible for the newly emerging identity of the Milpas area.

At the same hearing:

“Why don’t you do flags on poles, like they do on State St?”

Because the city doesn’t invest money on Milpas like they do on State St? Someone has to pay for those flagpoles and flags.

Oh, guess that would be us.

We suspect that drivers attempting to read small flags posted under a large tree canopy on the far side of a 5-lane road while driving 30 mph in traffic will generate accidents. Lots of them.

Sign Committee retort:

Well overhead signs (banners) would cause way more accidents…

Apparently Caltrans is just a bunch of fools then because they post highway signs overhead, rather than on cute little flags with inscrutable art by the side of the freeway.

The Taste of Milpas

“Wow. You did all this with just businesses and non-profits? That’s amazing! What did your city do to help you?”

-Neighborhoods USA judges, during the Neighborhood of the Year competition in Eugene, OR. We competed against several city neighborhood departments that have implemented amazing programs in their communities.

What did our city do to help make the Taste of Milpas a success?

Cue the crickets.

Wait…. The city hung our Taste banner last year, and that was a big shot in the arm for the community. This year, we can’t get through the city’s planning process to do same. Though the city allows banners for some of its parks and rec programs.

And the beat cops came through. They made darned sure Milpas was clear of problems during the Taste, and they brought hordes of wonderful PAL and Explorers teens with them to volunteer.

What happened those community beat cops? Gone. This is how it unfolded:

  1. “I’ve been reassigned. Wojo is now your beat officer until the end of the year.” Officer Gutierrez
  2. “I am actually the director for PAL right now…” Officer Wojo
  3. “Officer Reyes will be filling in on the Eastside.” Sgt. Harwood. Officer Reyes is the Westside Beat Officer. So now he’s covering an area formerly covered by 3 officers? Hope he’s taking his vitamins!
  4. Chief Sanchez to City Council: “We’re working on making some new hires, one of whom will help fill the coordinator space. We’re getting there, and we hope to get back to the four (beat coordinators).”

Cue Judy Garland singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. Doncha’ love how the community is the last one to find out their community police are gone? Well, technically, the City Council was the last to know.

Curious: Why is State St getting $150,000 of taxpayer money for rent-a-cops while we lose community-based policing?

Permits for the Taste of Milpas:

CA Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC):

The area needs to be enclosed and fenced with ID checks for alcohol sales. Hire security guards.

SBPD:

Everything ABC said, and put out trash bins. Your stage might need a building permit. (be very afraid)

SBFD:

“Required: a fire lane 20 ft wide to be able to close off the Ortega dead-end.

That dead-end is about 30 ft wide. Losing 20 ft would make it quite the skinny venue. No one over 1 ft wide admitted? Fire backed off this requirement as long as we could meet this one:

A gate at the back needs to be opened, and manned during the event in case people need to get out during emergency.

Conflicting direction from that given by SBPD and ABC.

Public Works:

Pay $155 for temporary no-parking signs you post. Rent and set up your own traffic control equipment.

SBFD: You also need to post 2A10BC (size) fire extinguishers every 75 feet on the block.

Aaaarrrghhhh!!!!!

I know the city has to protect itself, and make sure we don’t do crazy stuff like put on pyrotechnic festivals in drought-parched shrubbery fields. I get it. Some city employees are quite helpful, while rolling their eyes over the increasingly onerous regulations. I wish the city put more thought into their value-add, but ultimately, the city has every businessperson’s fantasy: an absolute, ironclad monopoly.

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