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

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

By Cheri Rae

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her time, she succeeded.

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

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

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

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


Pearl Chase First Lady of Santa Barbara

A we celebrate Pearl Chase Week, let’s thank Cheri Rae who last year finished, “Pearl Chase First Lady of Santa Barbara“! If you haven’t bought it yet, this incredible mini book is on sale at Chaucer’s, Santa Barbara Arts, Lewis & Clark and the Book Den. You can get it online at Amazon too for less than $3. It is a must have for all Santa Barbareños. Kellam de Forest, legendary preservationist and historian offers a few words about the book.

pearlchase_300x520“Cheri Rae’s little book provides, at last, a succinct account of Miss Chase’s life, accomplishments and contributions to Santa Barbara.  Such a book has long been needed to answer the oft-asked questions by visitors and newcomers alike ‘who was Pearl Chase and why was she important?‘  It is hard even for me, who knew Miss Chase, to rattle off her all her contributions and to explain her importance.  Now here is a book that answers these questions and more. I learned things about her I hadn’t known before. The book does not pretend to be a scholarly tome, but is a well-written and informative narrative of who Miss Chase really was, a must for anyone who wants to know more about Santa Barbara.”

Kellam de Forest


Picking Up Sticks at Franceschi Park

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

You probably know by now I keep a camera with me at all times. When I see something interesting I shoot it, strange, I shoot it. beautiful…

This morning I parked in the spot I featured earlier on SB View, the three parking spots above Orpet park. I pulled in and decided to walk around. These are only a few of the photos I took heading up Mission Ridge.

It was nice because no cars passed me, almost total silence. I dropped down into lower Franceschi park because ten years ago I shot some photos and wanted to shoot the same scenes.

As I walked down I could see much vegetation had been cleared. Even ten years ago I noticed plants had been removed from the switchbacks in the lowest part of the park. Today most sides of the pathways were barren. And it’s not from the drought. The plants that were here had been here for decades.

Here’s the reason I’m writing this. I saw a stack of limbs, three inches thick and 8 to 10 feet long piled up. As I walked down I saw more of these used as barriers to keep people from cutting across the switchbacks. The very same switchbacks that once had vegetation, TO STOP THIS!

Now it’s mostly a barren hillside and someone is using the limbs, like “Pick Up Sticks.” This is a lawsuit in the making. Someone, maybe not city employees is using the stacked limbs to thwart those cutting. Regardless, the cut limbs should be removed from the park.

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The Rewards are Many

Steve Cook is back with his column Santa Barbara by Bicycle

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to ride when the weather is turning and it’s a bit cold out. This morning I woke up early and decided to ride to Carpinteria and back for a workout. As I headed down the hill to cross the Westside towards the beach, there was a chill in the air, and the clouds were dropping a few sprinkles on me. I suppose the nice thing about living on a hill is that you think twice about cutting the ride short and going back. It’s much easier to just keep those pedals turning and head down to the flatlands.

Sunrise at the Harbor
Sunrise at the Harbor

Upon reaching the harbor the sunrise was stunning so I pulled over to take a quick photo. If you look closely (click on the photo), you can even see the pelicans rising over the sandbar, and someone in the foreground sharing the same view.

Onward towards the Bird Refuge, then up over Channel Drive, out the bike path and past the Biltmore, through South Jameson, across the freeway, on North Jameson continuing on to the Ortega Ridge bike path. That path is so nice as it cuts the hill climb down to nothing compared to having to climb the winding road up the ridge as in years past. In fact, I no longer feel guilty taking this easy shortcut!

Continuing through Summerland to Via Real, and into Carpinteria, crossing the bridge at Santa Ynez Avenue, then heading East on Carp Ave. It always amazes me how nice Carp is to ride in — people give me plenty of clearance when passing, and don’t rush to cut me off with dangerous “right hook” turns like they sometimes do in Santa Barbara. As I passed the post office my odometer hit 15 miles and I decided to take the next right on Concha Loma, then headed back over the Eighth Street bridge (walking over the bridge, of course). This is a great little pedestrian bridge that was rebuilt a few years back right over the unique Carpinteria creek. The creek leads to the marsh on the beach — if you ever have a chance, head on down Linden Avenue to the State Beach Park and stroll along the beach for some great sights and ocean views.

Getting back on my bike, I continued on Eighth Street until Linden, then turned right on Linden, and left onto Carp Ave to take the same route back to Santa Barbara. The nice thing about this ride is that it’s generally flat. The hills are not sharp and are easy to climb, and the downhills allow a bit of speed to make up the time lost climbing them.

The one thing I’d like to talk about in depth is a particular challenge riding westbound on Cabrillo Boulevard by the Bird Refuge. I ride on the road as the multi-use path is encumbered with walkers, runners, strollers, pavement cracks and debris which is not too amenable for riding at speed. So, I ride on the street, legally, in the traffic lane.

However, when I get to the S-curve I need to keep an eye in my mirror for trucks approaching behind me. I cannot depend on the 3-foot to pass law alone when it comes to my safety. I’ve had two close calls in the last couple of months on this curve with trucks passing me “in the lane” instead of changing lanes to pass. This morning it was a Marborg truck with a large roll-off bin mounted on the back. This truck takes all 12-14′ of the lane width — there is no room for any other vehicle, in this case a bike, to occupy the same lane. This is a four-lane road and there is plenty of opportunity to change lanes to pass, but if I’m too far to the right trucks and other wide vehicles can make the wrong judgement call and pass in the lane. In September, a Berry Man company truck missed my head with its mirror by inches during a same-lane pass. This can prove to be fatal, as it was for Matthew O’neill up in Foxen Canyon a few months back. Lane positioning is an essential tool for a bicyclist to guide other vehicles and help them make safe passing decisions.

When I see a truck approaching from the rear, I “take the lane”, centering myself in the right-most lane, thus causing the truck to make the proper (and legal) decision to change lanes to pass, or to slow down and wait for a safe time to pass. I used this technique last week when I noticed a truck and horse trailer approaching from the rear as I was riding Highway 150 east of Carpinteria. This persuaded the driver to slow down, and pass when there was no hill blocking their visibility or oncoming traffic. The driver slowed and waited. They did not honk or express any anger — they understood my safety was paramount. When they passed me I waved in thanks to them and they waved back to me. In each case it may have cost the other driver 1-5 seconds at most to wait for the safe and proper time to pass. This is not too much to ask of others on the road to keep traffic accidents at a minimum. Here, you’ll find some good details on the 3-foot to pass law; some of the laws that pertain to bike riding in California; and lastly, some good tips for courteous cycling.

All-in-all it was a great ride and I’m glad I didn’t turn around just because it was 50 degrees outside and threatening rain. Had I done so I’d have missed a sweet sunrise, a 31 mile workout, and a pleasant walk over the Eighth Street bridge.

SB to Carp and Back
SB to Carp and Back

If you’re interested in riding and want to know how to get started, consider taking a class from a League Certified Instructor at the Bicycle Coalition. If your business or organization would like to have classes taught onsite, please contact me at scook.sbbc@gmail.com

Read more about Getting Around Santa Barbara by Bicycle in my blog: sbupclose.com or follow me on Twitter: SantaBarbaraUpClose

I’ll be looking for you on the road. If you see me on my ElliptiGO bike, say Hi!


This Date in Local History: Stearns Wharf Fire

Just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18, 1998, a fire broke out on Stearns Wharf near the Moby Dick Restaurant. Immediately a four alarm fire was declared and every firefighter in the city responded. The whole wharf was made of wood and the planks are soaked in creosote which acts as a wood preservative. Unfortunately creosote is also highly flammable.

According to one account, firemen drove their fire trucks right onto the burning wharf to the edge of the fire. Then armed with chainsaws they cut out a section of the wharf between them and the fire, and made a stand. Their strategy worked. The Harbor Restaurant and gift shops were saved. Lost were the Moby Dick restaurant and two other businesses. The mayor immediately declared without hesitation that Santa Barbara would promptly rebuild the wharf as fast as possible.


Our Life with Pearl Chase

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

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

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

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

el-mirasol-condo-sketch

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

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

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

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

But she had never had to face a battle like this one
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In our battle to keep Santa Barbara low rise, we attended endless council meetings under her direction, and tried to inform the public using her media savvy. Pearl and her small group founded SAVE OUR CITY (SOC) as a focal point for community support.

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

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

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

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


Cruise Ships Bring More than Revenue

This April, The Crown Princess brought nearly 60 passengers who had been stricken by the norovirus to Santa Barbara. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed. This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. These symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.” Yesterday, the same cruise ship brought 172 infected people to Los Angeles. It was the fourth recent outbreak and leads to the question of the week:


Take A Moment to Appreciate Pearl Chase

Very few cities possess the natural beauty, civic pride and historic charm of Santa Barbara, but it didn’t just happen by accident. The city of Santa Barbara, as we know it, was shaped by thoughtful stewardship and tireless advocacy—and no one did more than Pearl Chase, who was born on November 16, 1888.

As we remember her birthday, please take a moment to honor the woman who did so much to shape and preserve the city of Santa Barbara. Visit a few of the sites she protected, and enjoy the sights still here today.

Walk along Chase Palm Park, and give thanks to her stewardship that kept development away from this coastline and preserved this extraordinary view of the ocean open to everyone. Take a moment to read the plaque honoring Pearl Chase and her brother Harold.

Stop in at the Courthouse and take a look at the bronze bust of Miss Chase inside the building that she inspired. The plaque reads:

Dr. Pearl Chase (1888-1979)
Citizen leader of Santa Barbara for 70 years in community development, conservation, historic preservation, social responsibility and the arts.

Take a stroll through the ruins of Mission Historic Park, which were saved thanks to her leadership in organization a committee that had the vision—and the ability—to raise the funds to protect the environment and approaches to the mission. As Miss Chase noted in an oral history in 1971, “The location of the Mission in Santa Barbara, upon a hillside above a steep creek, which was known as Mission Creek for many years, is almost fantastic….” She continued, “We have tried consistently to take advantage of the fact that several of our most valuable historic buildings are in an urban area, but we don’t want them to be swallowed up by it.”

And take a moment to ponder what could have been at the bucolic setting of Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden—and the rest of the city—if Miss Chase hadn’t led the effort to prevent construction of two nine-story condominium towers on the site.

PS: Add to the list of places to appreciate Miss Chase: The Santa Barbara Persidio and La Purisima Mission. Besides her support of Spanish Revival architecture, she was instrumental in the outlawing of billboards and the regulation of signs in Santa Barbara.


Sandpiper Sunset Clouds

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Sandpiper Sunset Clouds
Sandpiper Golf Course is one of the best places I can imagine to spend a few hours, especially this time of year when the sunsets are really getting spectacular. There is something about their beautiful little slice of our coastline the clouds seem to do particularly magical things just as the sun hangs low in the sky to highlight their amazing texture and beauty.

-Bill Heller


Happy Birthday Pearl Chase

classic pearl chase with flower 80 years oldToday we celebrate the birthday of Pearl Chase, which ought to be a day of recognition in this city that owes her so much. So much of the natural and architectural beauty we see around our community is directly attributable to her influence and vision.

In her day she wielded great power, but never held political office. Throughout her long life she was honored by organizations and individuals near and far. In her later years, the community gathered for commemorate her milestone birthdays.” – Cheri Rae