Throwback Thursday: The First Automobile Sighted in Santa Barbara, California

This week in Santa Barbara history, the very first automobile was spotted—September 20, 1900 to be exact. Here’s the story from historian Walker Tompkins:

1899 locomobile steamer“Although the first automobile ever sighted in Santa Barbara may have been the one appearing in the 1899 circus parade, W.S. Sherman was said to have owned the first automobile in town, taking delivery on Thursday evening, September 20, 1900. Townspeople watched in fascination the next day when he took it out for all to see. His sensational new purchase was a locomobile steamer, made by Stanley. The model was called a ‘Locosurrey.’ This truly horseless carriage was priced at $1,200 and was operated as a rental machine with headquarters at Short’s Bike Shop, two doors south of Caesar’s Alley, leading to De la Guerra Plaza and the city hall. For a half dollar, Sherman would give a customer a ride around two city blocks.”

Comments { 0 }

Do Lawns Belong in Southern California?

by Lockwood de Forest, Jr.
from Garden Magazine and Home Builder, 1924

NOTE: The current drought has posed many issues of concern, but it’s hardly the first time in our city’s history. Our friend and occasional contributor, Kellam de Forest, often offers much-needed context to community discussions. Here, Kellam provided us with this 1924 article written by his father, Lockwood de Forest, Jr., the noted landscape architect. He and his wife, Elizabeth Kellam de Forest (Kellam’s mother) wrote and published The Santa Barbara Gardener magazine from 1926-1942.


Lockwood with Kellam in a tent

This article questioning lawns offers some insight about the thinking behind Santa Barbara’s early landscaping, and remains timely 90 years later, although most of us have no estates to plant and maintain, the drought-tolerant suggestions are helpful for the gardener of even just a few potted plants—and practical information about alternatives to our increasingly brown lawns, a longtime issue in our community.

Almost everyone is familiar with the advertisement showing the world in the process of being covered with paint. The same effect results when lawns are spilled indiscriminately over our California hillsides.

Lawns have become so much a part of the garden scheme that they are used without adequate thought by most of the people who buy our estates in Southern California. Because of the low annual rainfall, which comes only during the winter months, the natural scenery is brown for most of the year.

The easterner accustomed to much green grass feels this to be an objection and plants lawn indiscriminately over his estate. The result, for most of the year, if the grounds are on a hillside and visible from a distance, is of an overturned can of green paint.

The lawn as a foundation for a naturalistic garden scheme in Southern California is based on a false note. In England, where the naturalistic style of gardening originated, the lawn is the natural expression of the country and was the logical foundation of the naturalistic gardens there. But here in the South West, it is as foreign and unnatural as the most formal development.

The climatic conditions of Southern California are not dissimilar to the Mediterranean coast of Spain, France and Italy. A study of the older gardens in Italy will show very little use of lawn. To be sure, most of the old gardens were of a formal character; it was not until the English gardenesque style swept Italy that so-called naturalistic gardens were made and lawns were used.

A study of the gardens in Italy shows that this older type of arrangement brings about a greater harmony between the house and the natural landscape. Surely the lawn is a foreign element in the countries just mentioned and is as surely a foreign element here. No foreign element can be used as a successful part of a purely naturalistic treatment. No formal or semi-formal treatment makes a suitable foreground to an entirely foreign near middle-distance. If these facts are kept in mind the proper use of the lawn in the gardens of Southern California is assured.

The practical consideration of lawns in California imposes many more limitations than the artistic. Lawns have to be artificially watered most of the year. This becomes a high upkeep expense in labor and means a high installation cost of a sprinkler system to take care of the watering. In many communities, lack of water or low pressure makes a sprinkler system out of the question. Our lawns are not permanent; they do not improve from year to year until they make a glorious sod as in England. Every so often they die our or get into such a condition that it is advisable to replace them.

These considerations make a large lawn prohibitive to most people and inadvisable to many more. A perfect lawn makes an unequalled green carpet, but a weedy, half-green lawn is only one degree better than bare ground, the one degree being the prevention of dust. Don’t plant more lawn than you can take care of.

The problem of an artistic use of the lawn resolves itself into screening it from an inharmonious natural landscape of bare brown hills. The problem is simplified somewhat if the garden is located in a valley or on fairly level ground, Tall shrubbery of any kind will hide all but the mountains, and in Southern California, the variety of shrubs obtainable is so great as to make any combination of texture and color of foliage possible.

A screen in a formal development is most easily obtained by a wall, or fence, or hedge. Large hedges can be produced quickly here by using Monterey Cypress. The effect is similar to the Italian Cypress screens used in Italy, but are started very much more quickly and with much less expense. There are numerous other satisfactory hedge materials, but none as rapid growing or as cheap as the Cypress.

The problem of the lawn area on the hillside or hilltop estate is when the most difficult to solve satisfactorily. One of the most common solutions is the lawn terrace ending in a balustrade or wall. There is no better setting for a somewhat formal residence. An objectionable middle-distance can be screened by a planting of trees below the terrace. There are many varieties of trees that grow so rapidly that the expense of screening from below is nominal and amply repays the time spent in waiting for a finished effect. From a practical standpoint this is an ideal arrangement, as tree or shrub roots are eliminated from the lawn. Trees of rapid growth are of necessity gross feeders and only with difficulty can the ground beneath them be kept attractive. By having the trees planted below the lawn terrace, the unsightly area of the roots is hidden.

The more common of the drought-resistant, rapid-growing trees that require little or no attention after planting are: The varieties of Eucalyptus, most of the Acacias, Monterey Pine, and Monterey Cypress. Another customary solution is the Mall or Alee, of lawn bordered by flowering shrubs or flowers, backed by ornamental trees or an orchard, and ending in a pergola or some architectural feature.

If the slope of the hill is not too great, this makes a very attractive scheme. The upkeep of such a development is greater than that of the lawn terrace although the first cost is often less. The informal lawn on a hillside is very difficult to handle. It can be very beautiful where it makes a background for the shadows of large oaks or other trees, but unless the feeling of nearness to the glorious purple and gold hills is removed, a semi-formal development will rove more in keeping than absolute informality.

The most logical place of the lawn on the Southern California estate is immediately around the house, as a ground cover where the surrounding planting cuts it off from near-by elements, or as a carpet in a completely enclosed area removed from the house. The small economical lawn leaves a large area to be developed in some other manner. A succession of gardens is often effective but always expensive to build and maintain. There can be rose gardens, flower gardens, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, Spanish gardens, and varieties of formal and semi-formal gardens without end. Lawns may be used effectively in many of them and no expense be spared.

But a problem arises when the owner of an estate wishes to work out an effective planting that can be maintained with a minimum of labor and expense. Drought-resistant shrubs are the most economical ground cover to maintain here. They make an interesting transition from the house and lawn to the native hillside. The material that is most natural is, of course, the native shrubs themselves. Ceanothus in variety, the California Holly or Christmas Berry, the Wild Cherries, the Wild Sumachs, and the Coffeeberry are among those most often used.

There is a wealth of material that harmonizes well with the foregoing imported from all over the world, including Pittosporums, Bottle-Brushes from Australia and New Zealand; varieties of Cotoneaster and Pyracantha from China; Rosemary, Spanish Broom, the Strawberry Tree, Mediterranean Heather, Portugal Laurel, Butcher’s Broom, from the south of Europe, and others from Africa, Asia, South America and Mexico, It would take volumes to mention them all, but it is easily seen that the greater part of the Southern California estate can be successfully, attractively and economically planted without lawns.

Comments { 4 }

Your Thoughts: Santa Barbara City Infrastructure

The Santa Barbara City Council is hosting public workshops to get your thoughts on the condition of the City’s basic infrastructure, including streets, sidewalks, libraries, community centers, police and fire stations, and park and recreation facilities. The first workshop takes place on Wednesday, September 24 at the Central Library – Faulkner Gallery, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM. They want your input on how the City Council should prioritize funding, so feel free to share your thoughts here and below is their video:
Continue Reading →

Comments { 29 }

Three Feet for Safety Act Goes into Effect

In September of 2012, the California State Assembly passed a bill that would require motorists to provide three feet of space when passing bicyclists. SB 1464 passed after a raucous debate that took nearly 30 minutes. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown signed the law where drivers who violate the law and collide with a bicyclist will receive a fine of $220! Today, the Three Feet for Safety Act goes into effect.

The law will require:

  • drivers, when overtaking a bicyclist in the same lane and same direction of travel, to pass the bicyclist with at least three feet of clearance.
  • Allows drivers on a two-lane road to cross a solid double yellow centerline, when safe, to pass a bicyclist with at least three feet of clearance.
  • When drivers overtaking a bicyclist cannot give at least three feet of clearance, they must slow down to a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and roadway conditions and only pass when it’s safe to do so.

Comments { 24 }

Letter: Italian Stone Pines along Anapamu Street


By John Robert Russell

As a former resident and practitioner of Landscape Architecture, in Santa Barbara (16C West Mission Street) – 1964-1970, I continue to follow events and issues in Santa Barbara by reading Santa Barbara View and the Santa Barbara Independent, on a regular basis.

My wife and I remember, well, the marvelous canopy created by the Italian Stone Pines (Pinus pinea), along Anapamu Street. I have followed earlier articles and the strident actions, by many in the community, to ensure their protection.

Your recent article, reminds me of the many European examples, that I have seen during my travels, where various types of permeable paving were used to ensure the long term life of street trees and plaza trees. Many of these installations have been applied for countless decades. Some examples, not only, consist of permeable paving around the base of the tree, but, also, can be found as part of the sidewalk, as well as a large field in the street adjoining the tree. A broad selection of paving types and application can be found here.

Hopefully, the Historic Landmarks Commission, the City and interested citizens, can form an updated policy for preserving these special Stone Pines, as well as for replacement trees and other street trees, in Santa Barbara, that are threatened by the current drought and access to limited amounts of moisture they are able to obtain.

Important to note, it is not only water that is critically important for most trees, but, access to air, for the roots to properly mature and support tree longevity.

I will follow the Stone Pine story with considerable interest. All the Very Best,

John Robert Russell
Professor Emeritus – Landscape Architecture
Ball State University – Muncie, IN
2405 E. Boston Road
Bloomington, IN

Comments { 6 }

Italian Stone Pines on Anapamu Street

By Cathy Berry

Italian Stone Pine A manual of the coniferae 1881

Of the Italian umbrella, or Stone Pine (Pinus Pinea), there are a few plants growing nicely both in town and in Montecito; the largest, however, in our county and to my knowledge in Southern California , grows at the main ranch of Santa Cruz Island – a striking association being in the center of an Italian-speaking village.” ~ EO Fenzi, Santa Barbara exotic flora: a handbook of plants from foreign countries grown at Santa Barbara, 1895

ispSanta Barbara has had a long and poetic love affair with plants – from the indigenous to the most prized of hybrids. If we look carefully, we can see the history of Santa Barbara as told through the array of plants around us.

When the Chumash were caretakers of the land in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, they reveled in the flora that nature provided: the sacred white sage, and the tall loose toyon bushes, full of ripe red berries; the fragrant blue-green California juniper; the gnarled manzanita with its low, lyrical branches; the venerable oaks, white-, red-, live-, and black-, as well as the profusion of wildflowers and grasses that blanketed the hills.

The landscape was as nature decreed for ten thousand years, and more.And then, not even three hundred years ago, the Spanish arrived. They brought with them grapes, olives, figs, and orange trees. I imagine the senoritas also brought cuttings from their favorite Spanish roses back home. But the Spanish were ranchers, not farmers. They seldom broke the crust of the earth except to plant their modest vineyards, orchards, and kitchen gardens.

The padres who arrived with them contributed a permanent change in the landscape when they ingeniously marked the path from mission to mission by sowing mustard seed. Each spring, the neon-yellow blossoms created a road that guided travelers from one mission to the next.

Even today, the Camino Real, the Royal Road of old, is visible alongside Highway 101 thanks to the mustard that has continued to appear every year after the rains.

In the time between the discovery of gold in California and the completion of the first railroads, it was the hardy, independent wealth-seekers, and the already independently wealthy, who arrived on our Western shores. They were the first of an American tide that changed the sylvan landscape forever. Many of those first wealthy visitors soon became residents, and they brought their visions of gardens that were more dreamscape than real. Thanks to their vast fortunes, they were able to bring those visions into reality on the previously uncultivated land of Santa Barbara County. We can still enjoy these magnificent gardens in places like Lotusland, Casa del Herrero, and Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden, which was once the site of the fantastic El Mirasol Hotel.

Lynn Johnson and Michael O’Leary, authors of the book, All Aboard! Images from the Golden Age of Rail Travel (1999), note that the turn of the century marked a time when “the rails became the property of everyone”.

And when “everyone” began arriving in California, they brought their love of plants and flowers. It was in the 1890s, as well, that global travel became more prevalent, making a vast array of plant life available for the first time.

Dr. Francesco Franchesci, himself an Italian transplant, worked with others in Santa Barbara to form the “Southern California Acclimatizing Society”. EO Fenzi, the man quoted at the top of the page is the very same man as Dr Francesco Franchesci, eminent local plantsman. (He changed his name for family reasons.)

2756789839_3ebc859c9aThe Society gathered specimens and seeds from every corner of the globe, planting them in the Santa Barbara sun and soil. With every success, they offered their plants to those who lived in temperate climes, as well as those who could only grow these new exotics in greenhouses and conservatories. But whether grown in the out-of-doors, or under glass, plants from South America and South Africa, from Europe, Asia, and even Australia, from mountains and deserts, were now in the provenance of all.

For those who lived in Southern California, the earth and climate became the great equalizer – everyone, rich and not rich, could grow prosaic plants, and the exotic ones, too. Imaginations blossomed along with the plants.

A legacy from that era remains today on East Anapamu Street.

2756796873_54213d8809_mAccording the the 1940 edition of the Trees of Santa Barbara, it was about 1908 when Dr. Augustus Doremus, Santa Barbara Parks Superintendent, obtained seeds of the Italian Stone Pine (pinus pinea), from a source on the French Riviera.

Dr. Franchesci propagated the tough little seeds, and Dr. Doremus, a resident of East Anapamu Street , planted them along his street. From those tiny seeds have grown the mighty row of trees that line both sides of that very shady road.

The current USDA website indicates that of the entire United States, only two spots are home to the Italian Stone Pine: Santa Barbara, and a tiny spot in the Bay Area in Northern California. The pines are, indeed, a rare treasure in America.

So the next time you glide under the ink-green shade of those arched and beautiful trees, think back to Doctors Doremus and Franceschi, for they were two who imagined the future as they held tiny seeds in their hands.

Comments { 4 }

Santa Barbara Marine Layer

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Santa Barbara Marine Layer
Although nothing like our friends to the north in San Francisco, Santa Barbara is a favorite hang out for something the weather man calls the “Marine Layer”. It’s basically a layer of air cooled quickly by the water making it hug the ground under the lighter warm air above. This cool layer has a tendency to slide into the coast as the sun is setting, bringing with it some beautiful swirling fog. Once in a while the effect is so pronounced that from the right vantage point you can see it rolling in like a beautiful blanket.

If you take the time to watch it, you can almost imagine an animated living breathing thing the way it swirls and moves so gracefully. This year we’ve seen a little less than usual of our beautiful fog friend, but there are still some amazing moments!

-Bill Heller

Comments { 6 }

EcoFacts: What We Drink

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

Although soda sales are down in the U.S., they are still rising, globally. More interesting is that while soda sales in general are down 3% and have been declining for nearly two decades, diet Coke and Pepsi are down much more – 7% here in the U.S.. Bottled water, energy drinks and ready to drink coffee and tea sales are up.  People are becoming slightly more health conscious, or speedy. Maybe smarter too, as they are also drinking Coca-Cola’s Glaceau Smartwater.

Of Coca‑Cola alone, there are 1.9 billion servings sold every day, around the world, that’s one per person for more than a quarter of the global population, daily. Pretty incredible numbers, for something that is, in the balance, not healthy for us or the planet.

cokelifeSome may welcome Coke’s new product Coca-Cola Life, a lower calorie, stevia sweetened alternative. In any case, you can bet that the soft drink companies will be rising to whatever challenges consumers give them (or appearing to anyway), whether it’s diet, health, water needs or environment. PepsCo and Coke’s plant based plastic bottles rest probably more in the appearances category.

Speaking of water needs, another Coke plant was closed in India recently, for extracting too much water and leaving polluted effluents in its wake. Plenty of the refreshing beverage is still being bottled there though, 57 more plants are in India, and more than 900 exist around the world. In some of those places, one might have to choose a bottle of soda over the unsafe water, just for something to drink.

The manufacturing of the containers alone – whether plastic, glass or aluminum – uses lots more water than the container contains, so this remains a consideration with sustainability issues for these corporations, and especially for the possibility of a future where clean water can be drunk by all.

Comments { 5 }

Saturdays with Seibert

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Regarding Cheri’s post this week about the poor condition of the Italian Stone pines on Anapamu, the opposite is true of the Jacaranda trees. For some reason they seem to be thriving on little water and high temperatures. Looking dark green and lush, this photo is on Foothill near Patterson. – Dan


Comments { 1 }

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Local Congresswoman Lois Capps points out that the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act is Saturday. In the wake or recent events, we thought it worth a post; so if you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at You are not alone.

Comments { 0 }

Hike to Inspiration Point

Hike to Inspiration Point – Out and About with SBGirl

Holy Hotness, Mother of God it’s HOT!

These were just a few things I was muttering as I hiked the 800 foot elevation gain and ~2 mile Inspiration Point hike the other day.

trail2Not that I am suggesting that you don’t go on this hike! Quite the contrary, I would say that if you live in Santa Barbara and have not done it, “what are you waiting for?” For those of you planning a visit, this hike is a “must see”, just like the beach, the Mission, the Courthouse, etc. It truly is the quintessential Santa Barbara Hike. I would just recommend starting early in the morning or waiting until the shade of the late afternoon so you don’t experience the inferno I did!

This hike is essentially the “backside” (some would say the continuation) of the Jesusita Trail that starts at the end of San Roque Road. That trail winds its way up to Inspiration Point from the other side of the mountain and is almost 7 miles round trip to the top and back. Starting at Tunnel Trail, you’ll get a nice workout of 4 miles round trip (maybe a little less) with the same payoff at the end. That glorious, awe-inspiring view!

And what a view it is. Views from the top of Inspiration Point provide breathtaking and panoramic views of the coast, the Channel Islands, the Santa Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara.


trail1As I was on the trail what struck me the most was how much the 2009 Jesusita wildfire forever changed the landscape. The views are still amazing, but the combination of this horrible drought and the aftermath of that fire are alarming; especially for those of us who’ve been on this hike prior to both of these cataclysmic events.

For those of you who may not know. The Jesusita Wildfire broke out on May 5, 2009 and burned 8,733 acres, destroyed 80 homes and damaged 15 more. The cause of the fire is thought to be related to a use of a power tool near the Jesusita trail.

When I got to the top, it didn’t feel as hot for some reason. A breeze had come in and I enjoyed one glorious view. Even when you can’t see out to the Islands, there is no doubt that you’re in paradise.

IMG_0274To get to the trailhead, drive to the end of Tunnel Rd. and park your car. Be sure to park with your tires completely within the line or you will be towed. Walk up to the road by the large water tank and metal gate on the right. This is the trailhead. You’ll be on a paved road for about a mile. Once you get to the dirt road, veer to the left. Wear sturdy shoes and a hat and bring lots of water. Enjoy!

Comments { 4 }

The Loraxes and the Arborist

The Italian Stone Pines on Anapamu are suffering from drought and are on our minds. One year ago this week Cheri penned the below article—at the time, only one of the trees was dead, now 4 are gone. Last week, the Santa Barbara Independent had this update  after reading that article, here is a column from the View Vault to compare and contrast what has and hasn’t been done over the last 12 months to save the trees.

For more information on how you can help the City of Santa Barbara help trees during the drought, specifically the Italian Stone Pines, call (805) 564-5433 or click here.

By Cheri Rae

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

–Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

cherilogo-150x150When the City Arborist/Urban Forest Superintendent Tim Downey was summoned recently to appear before the Historic Landmarks Commission, the subject was, of course, trees. But not just any trees. Specifically, he was asked to report on the health of the Historic Doremus Stone Pines of the 300 to 800 blocks of Anapamu Street, which have long been designated City Historic Landmarks.

A Little History: Those mature Italian Stone Pines form a pleasantly cool, green canopy on Anapamu even the hottest day; they smell like a forest in the middle of the city, and they provide valuable natural habitat for local creatures and even other plants. On one of the trees, an opportunistic jade plant has taken up residence, high above the ground.


Photo credit: Cathy Berry,

Beyond that, they were planted by two important historical figures in Santa Barbara botany: Dr. Augustus Boyd Doremus, who brought the seeds from the French Riviera, and his friend, Dr. Francesco Franchesci, who propagated them. Dr. Doremus (the City’s first Parks Superintendent) planted the seeds all along Anapamu Street, around 1908. The trees typically have a life span of about 150 to 200 years in optimal conditions.

When those seeds were originally planted, the street was a narrow gravel road, and the trees were free to spread their roots and limbs. Modern life has paved this piece of paradise, adding asphalt and concrete, encasing the root structure and stressing their ability to find deep water. The tough trees have buckled sidewalks, swallowed up sandstone hitching posts and cracked curbs and roadways in their struggle to survive modern life. Call it Mother Nature fighting back.

The landmarked trees have been a source of pride and have been prioritized as something worthy of great care in this town for more than a century. A careful program of trimming the roots and the tops of the trees even passed muster with Pearl Chase, who was very fond of them.

treePresent-Day Problems: But the problem now is that one of the trees was cut down a couple of weeks ago, without any advance notice to the usual powers-that-be who usually weigh-in on such matters.

The members of the HLC didn’t know about it; neither did the city employees who staff the counter and typically hand out the appropriate paperwork to allow a decision to be made about the condition of the tree.

And, the public was not informed in advance either. The big, old tree was not tagged before it was chopped down, leaving a sad, ugly stump in its place.

City Arborist Downey told the HLC that the tree had been monitored for several years and pronounced dead. He quoted municipal code noting that he has the right to have dead trees cut down without notifying anyone, without getting any permission from anyone. Downey complained that the city is having a hard time watering all the city’s trees, old and new, during this time of extended drought. Several times he referred to the city’s new Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP).

But when he continued defending his right to axe trees first and answer questions later; blamed the budget and the weather, and offered little in the way of urgent concern to protect these particular historic landmarks—the historic-minded commissioners stripped the bark off the arborist.

Turns out the HLC members had plenty of ideas about how to proactively to protect and defend landmark trees; and they did not hold back in offering valuable insights:

One commissioner suggested developing a crisis management plan; another offered the idea that creative methods of irrigation could be utilized; and other pointed out that permeable surfaces have been required of private parties—and placed in the parking lots of some parks, and ought to be considered by the City as well. Still another provided a lengthy lecture about how communication needs to improve, and at the very least, notify the HLC with a letter before cutting down a landmark tree, provide a plan for its replacement, and tag the trees so the public could be informed in advance.

When a lone dissenting commissioner complained that 15 minutes had already been spent on the subject and it was time to move along, his comment barely registered with his peers—but there were several eye rolls in the audience for the insensitivity on display.

The stump has now been ground into dust. And there’s news that another of the trees—on located across the street from Santa Barbara High School—has died and will need to be removed. We’ve lost a couple more in recent years, most notably one in front of the Methodist Church, where a small stone pine is doing quite nicely, but has a long way to grow before it becomes a canopy tree.

Personally, I’d like to see the protection of these trees prioritized, with a complete inventory of the entire stand, along with a comprehensive assessment of the current health of each one—and a plan to treat them with the tender loving care these giants in the city deserve in order to survive. After all, they were here first—and we have infringed on their breathing space, encasing their roots and cutting off their natural habitat.

Comments { 26 }

Pearl Chase Society Newsletter, September 2014

Pearl Chase Society Newsletter

Santa Barbara View is proud to publish The Capital, a monthly newsletter of the Pearl Chase Society. You can read the full newsletter by clicking on the PDF icon, left.

In Preservation Watch, Kellam de Forest provides updates on: the Arlington Apartments at 1330 Chapala Street, the revised
plans for 517 Chapala Street, The Miramar Hotel and it’s reduction to 170 rooms, distributed antenna systems on Montecito roads, and the concept of a safe pathway on the Westside of Mission Canyon Road/Los Olivos Street from Laguna Street to Foothill.

Cheri Rae previews the California Garden & Landscape History Society Annual Conference which will feature The Landscape Legacy of Lockwood de Forest from October 24-26th. David Streatfield (who will be speaking at the conference) notes, “de Forest was an engaging figure who was greatly appreciated by his clients for his wit, casual dress and strong passion for cars. His Model A Ford car was stripped down to the chassis, had Buffalo hide covered seats, and a rear platform for carrying plants.”

Established in 1995, the Pearl Chase Society is an all volunteer, not-for-profit conservancy dedicated to preserving Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes and cultural heritage. Individual memberships start at $30 a year.

PS: Italian Stone Pines on Anapamu which are suffering from drought: Parks and Recreation says that watering can only be done once a month, no mater the trees landmark status, since there is only one tank truck for the entire city. The Los Angeles Times describes a method of giving trees additional water through an irricade.

Comments { 2 }

Mental Health – Into the Vortex

Column by By Sharon Byrne, as featured in the Santa Barbara Sentinel

Elliot Rodger committed mass murder in May in Isla Vista. Nicolas Holzer murdered his parents and two young sons in August. Severely mentally ill individuals wander Santa Barbara streets, sometimes shouting loudly at passersby. One could start wondering if we’ve become the next Waco around here, and not be thought mad.

Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004, was supposed to deal with the most acutely mentally ill. The MHSA has come under fire from critics charging that it’s been a boondoggle for mental health insiders. Instead of funding critical care for the acutely mentally ill, critics contend it’s been used to fund conferences and glossy brochures. Counties get to propose the programs they will offer under MHSA, some critics say, and many don’t want to take on these difficult cases. So they don’t, leaving a huge gap in services for those most in need of mental health care.

The State Auditor’s office audited the MHSA in August of 2013, covering 2006-2011, when almost $7.4 billion was spent on mental health through Prop 63. The audit found that each county was using different approaches, and that the state’s entities “have provided little oversight of county implementation of MHSA programs and their effectiveness. We expected that Mental Health and the Accountability Commission would have used a process to monitor, guide, and evaluate county implementation that built on their broad and specific MHSA oversight responsibilities and also incorporated best practices in doing so, but that is not what we found.”

Law enforcement is often the first point of contact in these cases. Our sheriff, Bill Brown, perhaps more than anyone else in our county, has been on the frontlines on mental health issues recently.

Sheriff Brown also serves on the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission. He says Prop 63 “is a great tool to try to bridge the gap from the deinstitutionalization movement in the 1970’s”, and feels some of the funds go to good programs. He listed the Mental Health Association of Long Beach as an example. They are a “one-stop shop: mentally ill individuals can do laundry, get medical services, bank, get vocational assistance – it’s very impressive, with a lot of partners working together to make it work, including the police department. Additionally, they have a strong peer-counseling element available, working with mental health professionals to address mental illness. This is particularly helpful with the homeless because the peer counselor might have navigated that system and can help more than a professional with a degree on the wall, but who might not be able to relate to that world as well.”

The oversight commission reviews and approves requests for funding, and ‘some of those are hard, particularly when services are really remote from the folks needing them’, Brown said, citing the concern of more rural counties. There has long been a movement in government funding to allow programs to be driven by the local needs. This is the case for mental health as well. But the problem arises when Kern County has a particularly robust set of programs, while another county’s might be lagging.

Brown is hard at work building the new jail, and mental health is very much on his mind. “Jails have become the de-facto mental institutions for communities because there’s often nowhere else. PHF (the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility) has 16 beds, far too few for a county our size, and we end up having to take people out of county. People in crisis don’t have resources, commit some kind of crime, and end up in jail. The new jail is being designed in such a way that there’s a health wing being custom designed as a better way for us to manage people who have severe mental illness.’ Brown was quick to note this wouldn’t be a mental health hospital. But jails now clearly need to have some ability to deal with the mentally ill that wind up in their facilities, bringing up the key question of why Prop 63 isn’t addressing more of those cases.

Psychology and psychiatry are relatively juvenile sciences, when compared to, say, physics and chemistry. Newton’s achievements in the 17th century led to us putting a man on the moon. In contrast, Freud and Jung achieved their breakthroughs a little more than a century ago. The dark days of female hysteria, forced institutionalization and lobotomies to create more compliant housewives are still fairly recent history. Pharma-psychology is all the rage now – there’s a pill for that, whatever ailment that is.

We’re just still pretty new at treating mental illness.

Brown also worries that recent high profile instances make mentally ill individuals seem dangerous, and violent, when this is the exception, rather than the norm. “It’s unfortunate we had two back-to-back like this, here, but most mentally ill people do not commit violent crime. These instances do drive home the point that we need to be collectively behind getting people treatment, to help them and the rest of the community.”

Comments { 6 }

Letter: The Chamber Doesn’t Represent Us


I was one of 50 local business owners and founders who sent a letter to the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce asking them to endorse Measure P, the Healthy Air & Water Initiative to ban fracking and other extreme oil extraction in Santa Barbara County. This was an impressive and diverse list of leaders in technology, real estate, clean energy, farming, building and architecture, medicine and other fields whose companies employ more people than the the oil industry in Santa Barbara County.

However, I was not surprised when the Chamber came out against Measure P anyway. Nationally, the Chamber of Commerce is tightly connected with the oil and gas industry and they generally speak as one.

This was not always the case. In an earlier time, when local Chambers were more independent, the Santa Barbara Chamber recognized the fact that oil production is a risky enterprise that discourages tourism and other economic development that is the true basis for the wealth and well-being of Santa Barbara County. According to county records, as early as 1908 Santa Barbara’s Chamber of Commerce opposed construction of an oil pipeline on Sterns Wharf fearing oil pollution. In 1929, the Chamber of Commerce came out in opposition to drilling within the city.

However, today, the oil industry exerts disproportionate influence in politics and community organizations. While representing less than 1% of the County workforce and GDP, the oil industry is one of the larger contributors to political campaigns. They know that they need to grease the wheels to get away with activities that put the other 99% of our economy at risk.

If Measure P does not succeed, we are facing a huge increase in oil production using water and energy-intensive techniques that would destroy our local environment and hurt property values and business interests. This is not theoretical. The county has or expects to receive applications for nearly a thousand new wells this year, nearly doubling existing production. These high-intensity techniques have higher well casing failure rates, leaks and other spill risks and could permanently contaminate critical aquifers.

In addition, sea level rise, drought, fire and crop failure are real business risks we face in the County from increased climate change. Failure to pass Measure P would mean potentially doubling county greenhouse gas emissions at a time when responsible long-term economic efforts are better served by reducing emissions.

Measure P exempts all current oil wells and maintenance activities while protecting our county from the significant harm experienced in other places where unconventional oil production has increased dramatically. There are hundreds of similar bans on fracking and other oil production in the U.S., and there has never been a successful legal “takings” claim against one. Citizens have every right to decide whether or not to allow toxic chemicals to be injected through their groundwater aquifers.

While as a businessperson I respect many of the things the local Chambers of Commerce do for us, unfortunately, when it comes to Measure P, they are dead wrong about our true economic interests.

Regards, Jim Taylor

Comments { 8 }