Bicycling Blunders

Shame on locals who don’t read Steve Cook’s weekly Santa Barbara by Bicycle column, which promotes bike safety. Steve will share another adventure Friday.

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A Bird’s Eye View of Santa Barbara, California

The place to be for Earth Day… when it comes to celebrating all that’s green, Santa Barbara was voted by as as Top Ten City to visit for Earth Day.

Recommended reading… Matt Mazza, the likeable Editor-in-Chief of the Santa Barbara Sentinel, has published a new book called Leaving It All Behind: One Family’s Search—a true travel tale told in real time about his family’s voyage around the world.

Huell Howser had a love for Santa Barbara… this Friday, Santa Barbara will plant a tree to honor the legacy of the gregarious television host. The ceremony will take place at the Santa Barbara Mission lawn, 2201 Laguna St. at noon,

This date in Santa Barbara County… W.W. Broughton published the first issue of the weekly Lompoc Record on April 10, 1875. Two weeks later, when the Lompoc dairy lands were sold at auction, the trustees of the Lompoc Valley Land Owners’ Association voted another $1,500 to assist Mr. Broughton in publishing his newspaper.

Speaking of local anniversaries… yesterday, Santa Barbara’s historic Granda Theatre celebrated 90 years since first opening its doors on April 9, 1924. You will see their black and gold flags flying over downtown Santa Barbara this week.

Santa Barbara celebrity Julia Louis-Dreyfus poses nude for Rolling Stone.

Today is the due date for the first installment of one’s property taxes… a day when Santa Barbara homeowners have to write absurdly large checks to Harry Hagen, county tax collector. The County website is up-to speed with credit card and electronic check payment options. You can also pay by phone, 1-866-308-8872.

Rusty’s lighthouse is closing… the seven other pizza locations remain. The lighthouse location was made famous by George Virginio Castagnola, who started as a Depression-era, door-to-door fish salesman, who then became synonymous with seafood in Santa Barbara via The Lobster House at 15 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

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Cruise Ship Brings More than Revenue

The eighth cruise ship of the spring season is bringing more than tourism dollars—it is bringing passengers who have been stricken by a norovirus. The Santa Barbara Public Health Department inspected the ship this morning after 59 passengers were reportedly sick on the Crown Princess. From reports, the non-sick passengers were allowed to come ashore after inspection this morning, while those stricken have reportedly been encouraged to stay in their room for the remainder of the trip.

Cruise Norovirus Harris PollAccording 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.”

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Setting a Low Bar

Weekly column by Loretta Redd

The confluence of power and politics dates back to the beginning of governments.   Money is power, of course;  it pays for the means to influence the decision-making of a voter or a legislator.

I don’t know of a single person who thinks there isn’t enough money spent on campaigns.  I don’t know anyone who thinks the obscene and growing contribution amounts are good for our Democracy.  I don’t know any individual who thinks money guarantees the most qualified and capable candidate will win.

Unfortunately,  I also don’t know a single person who believes they have any hope of changing the system.

But we do.

Campaign-FinanceAt least locally.  While the Supreme Court eviscerates any hope of campaign finance limitations, billionaire Sheldon Adleson has Republican candidates genuflecting before him in the very Capital of Greed, Las Vegas, and three California Democratic legislators are pink-slipped for bribery, we still have the right, the authority and perhaps the imperative to ‘course correct’ in our own backyard.

If indeed, all politics are local- I want some of you brighter, better schooled readers who live with the anxiety that our democracy really is slipping through our fingertips, to put a measure on the ballot somehow limiting the amount of money raised for a City Council election.

Placing limits on a donor’s “freedom of expression” sounds reasonable to most, until it thwarts our preferred candidate’s advantage. But if we capped the amount of money that could be raised for a Council seat, then our local influence peddlers, (be they Montecito millionaires or Milpas migrants, local land developers or public unions) would  be neutralized or neutered, depending on your perspective.



Every city in California has its own campaign finance ordinances, and no two are alike.  Limits vary in individual contributions, campaign caps, aggregate giving, reporting periods, disclosure and other factors. True, the State of California writes the overarching campaign laws, though I wouldn’t credit Sacramento with being the paragon of integrity these days.

Finance comes down to fear.

Running for office is terrifying.  Being a candidate for public office is as vulnerable as it is egoistic, as strategic as it is idealistic.  Appearing before throngs (one hopes) of mostly strangers- some of whom believe in you, and some who are hostile to your beliefs- is tough.  And all the while, you’re trying to say something that gets them to write you a check.

This last election sent at least two City Council candidates into 6 figure contribution-land…and for what?  A 35% voter turnout and the privilege of looking down the barrel of our $400,000,000 UN-funded liability of retirement costs and unpaid for projects.

The next City Council election is stirring into action those who felt left out of the money game and believe district elections will magically guarantee them better representation.  They’re wrong, of course, because it will only increase influence peddling and set geographical ‘districts’ at war with one another.

The City has a public portal for Campaign Finance Disclosure where you can search any candidate’s name or filing number, and view every contribution made.  It can only tell part of the story, as some corporate and union monies are ‘bundled’ so the individual check writers and smaller donors are not identified.    There are also contributions from groups you’ve never heard of,  like the Peace Officers Research Association of California,  who write checks  for a couple of grand at a time. Why would they do that if they weren’t hoping to “buy” favor, or perhaps return it to those who may have served their interests (i.e, salaries) in other elections.

I admit, I’m frustrated.  Trying to figure out a way to have financial integrity in the political process, even on a small scale like Santa Barbara city, is daunting.

Our last Council election, where more than $300,000 was raised and spent, succeeded  in having one-third of those registered to vote even bother to stamp and return their envelope, I’d say there wasn’t much ‘bang for the buck.’

The City of Santa Barbara already has an ordinance called the Voluntary Expenditure Ceiling,  inviting each candidate to agree to a $50,000 cap.  The only sure way to convince those running for office to agree to the Expenditure Ceiling, is by pledging  to vote only for those who do.

Adopting the Voluntary Expenditure Ceiling for our next City Council election is having a standard of elections higher than that of our nation’s capital.  Unfortunately, that isn’t setting a very high bar, but it is a clear and easy place to start.

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The Hazards of Freeway Living

In 2011 on Santa Barbara View, Cheri Rae detailed the hazards of freeway living,

In the rush to densify Santa Barbara, the planners and promoters of Plan Santa Barbara have advocated the construction of high-density housing along transportation corridors. A study released in December, 2010 reveals that the health risks in living in close proximity to a freeway extend beyond the acknowledged pulmonary and cardiovascular effects. It concluded the closer a woman lived to a highway during pregnancy, the greater the risk of her bearing a child with autism.”


Ordinance To Establish Air Quality Design Standards For Development Near Highway 101

Today at their weekly meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council will finally come around to that reality. The Planning Division and Community Development Department will present an ordinance to Establish Air Quality Design Standards For Development Near Highway 101. According to the Agenda, “extensive exposure to higher air pollution levels next to freeways is correlated with increased health risks. State air pollution control agencies recommend that cities limit development of sensitive land uses such as residences and schools next to freeways.”

The PDF left details the Ordinance’s: executive summary, background, components, standards, implementation, impact, recommendations and analysis.

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In Discussing Social Issues, Watch Out For Those Clouds. Find the Elephant Instead. Part II

Column by Sharon Byrne

An interesting phenomenon happens when people start discussing hotbed social issues. I’ve been watching this for a while locally on the subjects of homeless and gangs. It goes like this:

Person A might think of gangs as the Mara gang leader in the film Sin Nombre. Straight from Central Casting: covered in MS13 tattoos, Darth Vader demeanor, muscled, and murderous. This gang leader hesitates not at all when putting a gun in a 12 year-old’s hand, dispatching him as a hit man. If the 12 year-old is caught, he goes down for the murder. If he rats out the gang, he’s green-lit for death. No big loss – he was a newbie. Thus the gang leader is completely insulated, and free to carry on with gang activities.

Person B, on the other hand, might think of her 14 year-old nephew, accosted by the police for hanging out with friends by the creek, just doing what normal boys do. Their hip-hop style clothing is unfortunately also favored by homies. It’s a case of mistaken identity, but the damage is done. These particular kids are not gang-affiliated, but they probably no longer see the police as the good guys after that experience.

gangNow imagine these two people, A & B, in their respective thought clouds, formed from their experiences, discussing the pending gang injunction, and the feelings they’re each likely to have. A is thinking of gang leadership, hard-core felons, and cartels. You need to deal with them firmly and swiftly. B is thinking of her innocent nephew, and how kids like this need protection from the police, not more cracking down.

Are these two likely to have a productive conversation?

Not unless one of them pauses, and says, “What is it, exactly, that you are talking about? What images and experiences are you working from?”

People in their thought clouds are like the old fable about the three blind men, each feeling an object, trying to discern what it is. The first declares it’s a tree. The second says it’s a vast wall. The third laughs, “you idiots! It’s a twig!” They argue heatedly, and nearly come to blows over it.

Turns out they had their hands on an elephant. The first had hold of the elephant’s trunk, the second, its middle swath, while the third was feeling out the tail. In the story, a king explains that they are all correct. The elephant has each part they described. But it is all of these parts, not just one of them. The point of the parable is that truth can be stated in different ways, and people with different belief systems can cling rigidly to their version, blinding themselves to the overall truth.

So let’s stop playing the part of the blind man, trying to prove the other blind men wrong. Let’s instead poke at the thought clouds, and ask what’s in there? Everyone is probably right in some way, but also very likely to be holding only one piece of that elephant.

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Weekend ReView: Deltopia. Soutions Needed.

UC Santa Barbara is back in the national news after Deltopia, the annual spring break party turned ugly. Six police officers were injured, more than 100 people were arrested and dozens were hospitalized when Deltopia turned into an unruly civil disturbance. Below is video footage from the University’s student-run newspaper.

Outside of a typical newsroom, and great reporting by KEYT, covering these tragic and alarming events is tough. So how about an opportunity to weigh in with solutions:

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Initiative to Ban Fracking in Santa Barbara Begins


State Assemblyman Das Williams Stands Up Against Fracking

This weekend, 150 volunteers and dignitaries, held a kickoff event in Alameda Park to start the process of gathering the necessary 13,200 registered county voters to qualify “The Healthy Air and Water Initiative to Ban Fracking” for the November ballot. The initiative prohibits land uses related to fracking, cyclic steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations.

We know that a majority of North and South County voters favor this ban, but we have been amazed by the level of support and enthusiasm. Hundreds of people have volunteered to help us gather signatures,” said Rebecca Claassen of Santa Barbara County Water Guardians. “We have volunteers who are ranchers and farmers who have been directly impacted by these dangerous techniques. We just can’t risk polluting our air and water from thousands of unconventional wells. It’s not right.”


Twitter photo by @cookiesinheaven

Continue Reading →

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El Encanto Parking on Alameda Padre Serra

Hot Topic Reset: Originally published by Dan Seibert on April 5.
Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert.

IMG_2884Last week I read a story in The Independent, neighbors of El Encanto being upset with hotel employees parking on city streets. There were quite a number of comments stating the obvious, that city streets are open to anyone to park on. But I agree with the neighbors in calling attention to the conditions of approval for the expansion of the hotel. I lived just below APS for more than a decade on Loma street and the 1900 block of Grand. I know the streets and how many cars normally park there. And it just so happens that I have some photos.

P1140641The first photo, above left & click to enlarge, shows APS on a Saturday morning in February, 2010. Only one or two cars. The second, photo right, was a Monday morning in February of 2014. The last, below, was on Monday this past week. I find it hard to believe that all of these cars are from local residents, as the photo taken on a Saturday four years ago shows a nearly empty street.

My point, my only point is El Encanto agreed that employees would not park on the neighborhood streets. They are not living up to it.

APS 3_31

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The Sabbath

HEALTH TIPS, By Dr. Kathleen Boisen

 Illustration by "I draw, paint and sculpt your ideas into form"

Illustration by “I draw, paint and sculpt your ideas into form”

It is said in the Bible that on the seventh day, God rests. If God could rest in creating the universe, God’s people could rest in the building of the sacred temple, or work in general. It is then believed that if we take one day off from working, deep permission arises for other things to happen. For example, love, friendship, prayer, touch, singing, rest, the inspiration of new ideas, taking a walk with a friend, reciting a prayer, caring for children, sharing bread and wine with family and neighbors… these are the intimate graces that only happen with precious time and attention.

Of course over thousands of years the Sabbath has taken many forms. My first exposure to the Jewish Sabbath was with an Israeli friend. She invited me to participate with her family and friends. Friday was spent cooking and preparing the meals for Friday and Saturday. Then we spread the meal at sundown, fantastic food, wine and bread. There were candles to be lit, prayers over light, wine and bread. Songs to be sung, and of course on Saturday, No work, just prayer, meditation, food, really delicious food, you can even have chocolate. Then Saturday ends with a great meal and time spent at temple. I thought, “eureka, I’ve found my people’”. The only catch is that it seemed like a lot of work for the women in the kitchen. My Israeli friend said, “oh yes, all the Jewish holidays are a lot of work for the women,” but the reward is great too.
Continue Reading →

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Poppy in the Morning Dew

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.

Happy California Poppy Day! “The golden poppy (Eschscholzia) is the official State Flower. April 6 of each year is hereby designated California Poppy Day.”
California Poppy in the Morning Dew
This beautiful local native appeared in the pot of one of our plants in the back yard a couple years ago. In the spring they pop up everywhere when the conditions are right. They can be a bit particular about their environment when you try to plant them, but once they are really established in an area they come back year after year. I have not seen this guy’s relatives yet this year. But I’m sure one day I’ll go out in the back yard and they will be there to brighten my day.

-Bill Heller

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California Poppy Day

Did you know… April 6th has been designated California Poppy Day?

Poppies and Daisies in the-Sprinklers by Bill Heller

On December 12, 1890, the members of the California State Floral Society voted for a flower that they thought would best serve the State of California as an official emblem. The California Poppy won the esteemed title of ‘Official California State Flower’ by an overwhelming landslide. It took almost 13 years for the California Legislature to get around to adopting the winning golden poppy as the State flower. The golden poppy, Eschscholzia, was selected as the official State flower of California by an act of the Legislature on March 2, 1903. In 1973, the law was amended to designate April 6th as California Poppy Day.

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EcoFacts: Galluping for Climate Change Answers

You’ve probably heard the news about the recent IPCC report on climate change, it was a doozy, describing in detail the potentially and quite certain disastrous effects of a warming planet due to anthropogenic (human caused) emissions. There will be a few positive effects too, but the negative ones will win out. Climate change “is having an impact on every ecosystem from the equator to the poles.”

climate-changeIf you wonder, as I do, about how we are thinking about these things in the U.S. lately, thanks to the Gallupers, we can have an idea.

Over one third of Americans worry a great deal about climate change. About the same number say that they understand the subject very well, triple the number in the early nineties.* Many more worry about pollution though, and these percentages have increased since last year. The two groups who are the least concerned are those over age 65 and Republicans. Continue Reading →

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In Discussing Social Issues, Watch Out For Those Clouds. Find the Elephant Instead.

Column by Sharon Byrne

An interesting phenomenon happens when people start discussing hotbed social issues. I’ve been watching this for a while locally on the subjects of homeless and gangs. It goes like this:

Person A encounters an elderly woman early one morning, shivering in a doorway, no shoes, only socks with holes in them. She’s very thin, filthy, suffering, and in major distress. A feels compassionate. This could be someone’s mother, or grandmother. Why is she homeless on our streets?

Person B is walking down State St with his family. He is accosted by a group of young people, wearing dreadlocks and unkempt clothing, engaging in drug use, openly. One holds a sign reading “Will Eat Pussy For Weed.”  Person B is deeply offended, nervous for his children, even more so when the youths yell at him for not giving them money. He’s disgusted and resolves never to come back to State St. The homeless are just too scary and aggressive.

Now imagine A and Person B debating the homeless issue in a public forum.

How do you think that is likely to go?

A: We must help the homeless, and end this suffering. It’s shameful that this goes on in a prosperous town. They need housing and supportive services. These are our fellow citizens. They deserve our help.

B: (erupting) HELP THESE PEOPLE? Help them on to the next bus or train out of town! Bunch of scofflaws, lawless anarchists that are actually dangerous. Lock them up! Did you know one of them raped a 15 year-old recently? The LAST thing we should do reward that behavior by handing them a free home, when the rest of us have to work our butts off for it! Are you crazy?!?!?!

Now, are A and B even talking about the same thing? Not even close. But by using the all-encompassing term “homeless”, they think they are discussing the same thing. They’re each living in a cloud of thought that they have constructed based on their particular experiences of homelessness. Neither is aware of what constitutes the other person’s thought cloud. Naturally, when their respective thought clouds collide, it’s a thunderstorm.

Now imagine A’s response to B: “You’re going to lock up starving, helpless people in jail? Brute! You’re criminalizing them for being homeless!”

IMG_3721-1024x764And pretty soon, they are completely polarized and want to beat each other up! This exact conversation is going on right now around the recent crackdown on lower State. Those who have experienced the aggressive youth hanging out there, referred to variously as yoaches, Urban Travelers, Crusty Punk Kids, or the Anarchist Set, are fed up with the lawlessness and hostility. That’s the B Camp. The A’s are clouding (pun intended) the situation with pleas for compassion. The A Camp’s image of homelessness is that of the elderly shivering woman in the doorway. Of course you don’t crack down on them. Show some compassion, people.

This happens on the gang front too… that version in Part II.

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Santa Barbara by Bicycle: Back Country Ride

Weekly Column by Steve Cook

Cruise ship anchored off the harbor with Santa Cruz Island in the distance. View from Mountain Drive.

We live in an incredible setting, here in Santa Barbara — that’s what I told myself when I crested EL Cielito Road on Sunday. The ocean view, bright and blue, was amazing. It’s always enjoyable to see these panoramas from the bike as they slowly unfold, giving my eyes a chance to absorb their beauty. Although I wasn’t able to take a photo on El Cielito, I did take one a bit further down Mountain Drive, overlooking the canyons, with a cruise ship anchored outside the harbor.

This morning’s ride started out near West Mission Street, heading under the freeway and up past the Mission. Most of the time up Mission Street I took the right lane as it’s too narrow to allow safe passing, and I wanted to prevent “right hooks” as I approached the cross streets.

Turning left on Laguna Street, and right on East Los Olivos Street past the Mission rose garden where I learned the proper way of pruning roses almost forty years ago, I continued up Mission Canyon Road to Foothill Road. Turning right, taking the lane again, then turning left on Mission Canyon Road. This road was narrow, and it was important to stay in the lane where I would be visible as I climbed up towards the Botanic Garden. Not having made this particular ride to the Garden in years, I had forgotten how much climbing was involved. It didn’t matter though, as I just set micro goals as I climbed: the next tree, mailbox, bolder, fence, etc. until I was across from the Garden entrance. Turning left into the lot, I was immediately rewarded with the show of wildflowers below in the meadow. I didn’t have a chance to visit the redwood grove, or the waterfall this time, but If you’re interested in visiting, there are many events scheduled during the coming weeks and months.

Botanic Garden Wildflowers

Botanic Garden Wildflowers – click for panoramic view

Heading back down the hill, I signaled and turned left on Las Canoas Road and started the climb towards Skofield Park. This was such a winding road, and much of it was in the shade, so I kept my lights on and blinking for the best visibility to other traffic. I positioned myself more to the middle of the road approaching the bridge leaving plenty of room to navigate and keep traffic aware of my position.

Las Canoas Tunnel

Bridge over creek on Las Canoas Road

The road kept paying out, climbing up from the shade into the warm sunlight. At one point there was a huge chestnut tree starting to bloom, but the angle wasn’t good enough for a photo. I did capture a row of California Redbud trees in full bloom. It’s interesting to note the uses for the tree’s bark, flowers, and branches.


The history of Skofield park, the pine trees in the canyon, and the family who developed the area are well documented in this article on hiking the Rattlesnake Canyon trail. The origin of the word Las Canoas comes from the Spanish word for flumes, meaning channels, which were lined with tiles and used to route the water from Rattlesnake canyon down to the Mission. The whole canyon is recovering well from the most recent fire, and many of the landscape plantings are drought tolerant. Color is everywhere to be found this time of year.  Continue Reading →

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