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Walker Tompkins on the 1925 Earthquake

Written by local historian Walker A. Tompkins

“Day broke around four o’clock. Although unsubstantiated, it was said that early-rising farmers noted a strange agitation on the part of animals, both wild and domestic. Birds twittered anxiously in their nests for no apparent reason; dogs whimpered and cats prowled nervously; by sunrise at 4:40, even horses and cows seems apprehensive, for reasons they sensed instinctively but that were beyond human capacity to detect.

At the intersection of State and Anapamu, a street sweeper was busy with hand broom and dustpan, collecting litter that the motorized street cleaner had missed. In the choir loft at the Old Mission, the Reverend Augustine Hobrect, O.F.M., Father Superior of the resident friars in the monastery, had just rung the Angelus bell… then, at 6:42, it came. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city.

The main shock at 6:42 a.m., estimated to have lasted only ten or twelve seconds, was followed by four large aftershocks, of six to eight seconds duration over the next twenty minutes. Continuing temblors, measuring into the hundreds but diminishing in force, unsettled the citizenry for months to come.

SB EarthquakeDuring those first terrifying seconds many landmarks vanished forever. Thirteen souls went to meet their Maker. For Santa Barbara an era that had started with the arrival of Fremont in 1846 had come to a cataclysmic close.

Considering that the city had a population of over 25,000 on that catastrophic June morning, the death total, thirteen, was miraculously small. Reconstruction began at once… Santa Barbara would emerge from ruin as a city reborn.

Pearl Chase of Plans and Planting, passionately dedicated to beautifying Santa Barbara and protecting its heritage, led the vigorous post-earthquake crusade to remake the city. Billboards would be prohibited. The architectural style was to be Hispanic-Mediterranean, recalling the colorful days of the little pueblo and its first Barbarenos.

Within three years, the premier example would be a new county courthouse, replacing the old, Corinthian-style building and its adjacent county jail and hall of records, which had been raised. The new structures would have turrets and towers, winding outdoor stairways, mezzanines, elegant corridors, a sunken garden, and the ‘fanciest county jail in the country.’

Out of the tragedy of the 1925 earthquake cam the now familiar look of a rebuilt Santa Barbara, hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

Date in Santa Barbara History: The Great Quake

On June 29th, 1925, Santa Barbara was rocked by an earthquake…

sbmissMinor temblors were recorded as early as 3:30 am on the 29th, and they continued for three hours. Then, at at 6:44 AM, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city killing 13 people and destroying over 600 buildings.

The Wharf, Granada Theater and most homes survived in decent shape. However, much of the downtown region crumbled. Hotels collapsed, the Sheffield Dam cracked, and the Mission bell towers were wrecked, picture above. All in all, over $8 million of damage was done by the great quake of 1925.

PS: As noted in the History of the City, one of the catalysts for the architectural development of Santa Barbara was this earthquake which destroyed many commercial buildings in the business district, most of which were built of un-reinforced masonry.

EcoFacts: The Sun and Us

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

The sun marks our days, it brings us joy and beauty, gives us vitamin D, and in the last few decades, worry.

sunAlthough it is a primary source of all life, some of its radiation – UV, ultraviolet – can be harmful at high levels to many life forms (PDF). In the 70s it became understood that certain common chemicals (CFCs) were destroying the ozone layer, which absorbed some of this UV radiation. Regulations were enacted to slow and cease production of these, resulting in a gradual regeneration, in the last few decades, of this beneficial layer, although not to its previous levels.

UV radiation that is not absorbed in the atmosphere (including by ozone) is highest when the sun is high in the sky. When lower, the angle is more dramatic, the pathway longer and there is more atmosphere to absorb it. It is also increased by reflection, which occurs with snowy and sandy surfaces.

More vitamin D is produced when the sun is high in the summer months. For those who might enjoy nude sunbathing, it takes 1 minute of 100% body exposure for our bodies to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. For the rest of us,10 minutes of 10% exposure suffices.

Incidence of cataracts have increased along with UV radiation, and, of course, skin cancers, which have increased dramatically in the last few decades because of the ozone layer, but not coincidentally also due to the tremendous rise in tanning salons over the same period. Those who use them have a much greater risk of getting skin cancer.

Next up: sunscreens.

Saturdays with Seibert: Painted Cave Fire

Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I saw an article on Noozhawk about today being the twenty fifth anniversary of the Painted Cave fire.  Like everyone, I remember exactly where I was when it started.  At Brophy’s with my friend Bridgette.  We went there to escape the heat and have a drink, plus the chowder and salad.  While we sat at the bar we started seeing smoke drift by.  Looking up at the mountains we could see the flames racing down.  We finished our meal and walked out on the breakwater to watch the sailboats and the smoke flowing over the mesa.
Fast forward twenty five years and by coincidence my friend Bridgette was in town on Thursday and I joined her and her daughter at Brophy’s, followed by a walk out on the breakwater.  This time it was a thick marine layer rather than thick smoke.

Santa Barbara’s Painted Cave Fire: 25 Years Ago

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara. On June 27, 1990, at 6:02 p.m. a fire started up in the mountains near a place called Painted Cave. A long drought had made the brush very dry, and a several day heat wave was further drying up the area. Just as the sun was setting, strong winds began blowing the fire down the mountain towards town.

Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled five miles downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire entire neighborhoods in it’s path. The fire jumped the combination of Santa Barbara’s six-lane freeway and the two side roads, Calle Real and Hollister and continued burning down stores, restaurants, businesses, apartment buildings, and more houses on the other side. All roads between Santa Barbara and Goleta were blocked by the fire, it was impossible to get from one side to the other.

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

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

20,000 Friends and Followers on Social Media

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

Milpas On the Move: Cops

By Sharon Byrne

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

Cognitive Dissonance at City Hall

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150For a community that usually seems so liberal, so socially conscious, and so caring about the needs of others, the hours-long hearing about short-term vacation rentals was particularly jarring. Not surprising was the number of green-ribbon-wearing individuals speaking in support of their lucrative entrepreneurial enterprise of turning their homes into hotels.

But what was surprising was their absolute insistence that they are providing a much-needed service that allows them to house short-term visitors to Santa Barbara—and their right to pocket plenty of cash, even though the current laws on the books do not allow it in most residential neighborhoods in town.

What they didn’t address was how making these properties available for out-of-towners eliminates those properties from the supply of rentals that would traditionally house local residents.

After all, they can make a lot more money by ignoring the ordinance. And making money—as much as they can, however they can—is all that matters, right?

One after another, these happy homeowners expressed how their newfound VRBO/Airbnb good fortune has enhanced their own personal lives—and the lives of well-heeled travelers who want to visit Santa Barbara from across the nation and around the world.

Those who live here, work here, and can’t find a house to rent for more than a month at a time? Mmmm, not so much.

For as long as I can remember the mantra of “workforce housing” has been chanted around here. Good heavens, we have allowed all kinds of changes in density, required low-income units in luxury projects and even thought it was fine to knock down a hospital to provide it—and now there’s less of it than ever available to locals.

But travelers from distant lands? Put out the welcome mat and give them a hug.

Some even told the oft-repeated story—known to everyone—about how living in Paradise comes at a price. Renting out their home is their only way to stay in place, they asserted time and again.

But the idea that the newly fattened bank accounts of those homeowners-turned- hoteliers has come at the expense of residents who rent—making it impossible for them to stay in place—certainly wasn’t on the minds of those who waxed poetic about their new solar roofs, fine amenities and newly landscaped properties.

It’s survival of the fittest—and the savviest with a computer and a piece of property—in Santa Barbara these days.

They asserted there are virtually no complaints from neighbors about their endeavors, and even spoke of their own nobility in serving as ambassadors to Santa Barbara and in providing work for housekeepers, gardeners and handymen. Although that might talking point have been undercut a bit when a hotel manager pointed out that these largely cash, under-the-table transactions are unfair to legitimate lodging businesses that play by the rules.

Ultimately, that’s what really rankles about this whole sad situation that has grown so out-of-control in the past decade: the rules don’t matter anymore. Even the City has said so, when it made the unwise decision to simply charge TOT and issue business licenses to skim its own money off the top of this activity prohibited by existing zoning ordinance.

A former City Council Member told me years ago that when this subject was broached with the City Finance Director as an unethical practice, it was treated like a big joke. Now it’s gotten serious: When the lawmakers became scofflaws, why shouldn’t the homeowners?

The City has lost its moral authority on this issue and the law of unintended consequences is now in play. There was plenty of defiance expressed by so many of those benefitting from this illegal activity: time after time, they asserted, if you ban it, we’ll just “go underground” and keep doing it anyway.

Ultimately, the City Council decided last night that the laws on the books that prevent renting homes as hotels should actually be enforced—and directed staff to examine permitting some sort of home-sharing short-term rentals with the owners on the property.

So what happens now is a question of what does this community—and its citizens—truly value? Will the City really spend the estimated $300,000 to enforce the ordinance it ignored for so long? Decisions made years ago turned this place into one that depends on tourists for everything, even keeping a roof over our heads and money in the bank, even at the expense of those who have worked a lifetime just to stay here.

Dealing with the vacation rental mess is just the beginning, if City Hall really wants to get serious about the need for “workforce housing.” It’s time for them to take a look at what else they’ve ignored for so long: how many homes have been turned into turned into office space for doctors, insurance brokers and all sorts of small businesses. And while they’re at it, they need to confront the complexity of how recruiting international students has affected the ability of our own kids to ever even consider getting an apartment of their own. And the real irony is the only way they’ll be able to stay here is to move away.