The Homeless Action Summit

Column by Sharon Byrne


Glenn Bacheller kicking off Homeless summit

The C3H Homeless Summit was a mixed bag. The parts that were good were very good. And the off bits were unfortunately pretty off-putting, especially to the camp that needs to be wooed to the table: the business community.

The good:
They brought in an all-star cast: Becky Kanis, of the 100k Homes national campaign, Phil Mangano the former Homeless Czar under Bush and Obama (briefly), and reps from Pasadena and Fresno achieving dramatic results in housing chronically homeless individuals. Finally we seem willing to learn from those who are achieving success, a tactic called ‘Legitimate Larceny’ by Kanis. If it works, use it here.

There was the gentlest nudge from both Kanis and Mangano that Santa Barbara could be doing better at housing people. The county has fewer homeless than national averages, but the city, rapidly glossed over, has far more.

Kanis started by cleaning up Times Square in New York. She went to all the providers in homeless services to enlist them, and ended up moving forward with an unlikely team of the Business Improvement District and the police. She got results.

Refreshingly, this was one of the key messages hammered home. Don’t measure success by meals served or nights of shelter provided. Measure it by the number of homeless housed. Tackle the chronically homeless instead of the low-hanging fruit of those easier to house. Use scattered-site housing rather than shelters. Get results.

Mangano should have been a fantastic speaker, but threw out hyperbolic language on the national disgrace of homelessness, co-opting the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. in declaring that abolishing homelessness was akin to abolishing slavery and racial discrimination. He talked about using the language of business and changing the verbs re homelessness. Don’t manage the problem (thus perpetuating it). End it. He had clearly read every business-lingo-laden, self-help book out there, and tried to weave their memes into his speech. It didn’t come off as a coherent narrative, and affronted some business people to the extent that they left, especially when he took aim at ‘myths’ of homelessness: build it and they will come, homeless choose this lifestyle, and they’re not ‘from here’. He advocated using a customer-oriented approach with homeless. They don’t want programs, protocols, or pills. They want a home. So give them one. Have the community set the standard on housing the homeless, not the service providers. Now, how you sell that to service providers and everyday people busting their humps to pay rent…he didn’t say.

“Protest Bob” Hanson, the perennial homeless advocate, shouted out, “Homelessness is real! Ending it is unreal!” That produced an awkward silence. Sensing he’d struck a nerve, Bob tried that a few more times. He might be onto something. There are some that do quite well off the continued perpetuation of homelessness. Kanis called these ‘status quo mongers’, and gave permission to show them the exit route with ‘collaboration is over-rated.’ Move forward with those who can solve the problem.

The real agenda for the night was to get everyone on board with the Housing First model. Data purportedly supports this model, with housing retention rates at 90% a year later.

But the Big Frickin’ Wall that has to be scaled here went largely unaddressed: where does this housing come from? Which made me wonder: should a national problem be punted to local jurisdictions to solve? California is hosting 20% of the nation’s homeless, way ahead of New York at a distant 11%. So what is California’s responsibility to migrating homeless? And WHERE do we put housing for a housing-first model in Santa Barbara? Clearly, the county is the big player here, but land just isn’t cheap and plentiful in these parts. So while we’re finally learning from other communities about what works, that Big Frickin’ Wall of housing still looms large.

The good news is the approaches to solving the problem to homelessness are getting more realistic, data-driven, and directed to achieving results. The days of just providing humanitarian aid while leaving homeless people largely in place seem to be coming to a close. The bad news is that the solution is, not surprisingly, housing, in a community already carrying more than its fair share of homeless, saddled with a low rental vacancy rate and a high cost-of-living.

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Santa Barbara and a Tsunami

“Tuesday is the third anniversary of the Japanese tsunami,” recalls Dan Seibert. “The first wave was supposed to hit the Santa Barbara harbor around 8:30 in the morning so I joined many others at West Beach, pictures below. A number of boats had exited the harbor but nothing happened.”


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Westmont: America’s #2 Christian College

westmontWhile U.C. Santa Barbara continues to make news for all the wrong reasons, Westmont has been named as America’s #2 Christian College. According to Forbes, Westmont, a Christian non-denominational College established in 1937, tops all other Christian schools besides Wheaton. In all, 500 schools were included in the evaluation, which stressed the outputs of a college education, but the new survey notes… “this ranking is just one way to measure the merits of a school”.

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Why Isn’t My Brain Working

HEALTH TIPS, By Dr. Kathleen Boisen

Boisen cartoon March 5,  20140001

Illustration by

How many times do we hear these questions, why can’t I remember that, or what do you call that….? What’s the name of that store? I don’t remember, I forgot an appointment, oh darn. Ask anyone over 50, does it seem harder to remember things. Of course most people chalk it up to “senior moments” but is it?

The truth is that much has changed in how our brains are required to work and remember things. There is a saying, if the machine does the work…it gets the credit. So when people are using their smart phones/ iphones to remember everything, phone numbers, appointments, and other important information… our brains are actually working less and we need to find way to balance that with more stimulus to help.

When our brains work less, the pathways for memory get weaker. I have seen several people who either lost their phone, or it was damaged in a car accident, or they were separated from it and….they didn’t know any phone numbers by heart to call a friend for assistance. Their whole life was in that phone, where they are supposed to be at what time and who to call for a ride….gone in a flash.

Of course we all must have and use cell phones and ipads, our technology is invaluable and here to stay, I’ve heard that even the Amish have cell phones now a days. However our brains need to be recharged and functioning as well. Here are a few categories of assistance for the brain.

Keep a written record of certain things, ie the phone numbers of essential contacts. A small notepad that is a form of backup for your brain’s hard drive. People today sometimes seem reluctant to use pen and paper, it doesn’t look cool. But if you are caught without your electronic recordings, you’ll be very grateful to have this at hand. There are neurotransmitters and pathways that respond to writing things, making a to do list for the next day, by hand is a visual, motor connection that helps build memory and connections. I have worked with top executives (or Moms with 4 schedules to keep track of ) and had them write down their to do list around 8pm for the next day, and they have reported a huge improvement in their sleep. The brain knows when it is being asked to carry too much, and releasing it to paper is helpful.
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Alice Keck Park Peaceful Night

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Alice Keck Park Gazebo Across the Pond
To say goodbye to standard time, I thought a long exposure just after dark would be fitting. These early evenings have been wonderful for this type of photography. But I do like this time of year when we get an extra hour of daylight. An extra hour of watching the golden light play on the mountains and explore the angles as the sun finds it’s way back to warm our beautiful long summer days.

This is of course Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens. From the bench on the little island, one of my favorite spots to stop and watch the world go by. -Bill Heller

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Spanish Street Names of Santa Barbara

2 Anne of Austria (1601–1666) as a young Princess b

Anne of Austria

CALLE GRANADA (kah’-ee-eh grah-nah’dah) Pomegranate Street. Pomegranates were first brought to California by the Franciscan missionaries inasmuch as they are a favorite delicacy in Spain. Once upon a time, tradition has it, the withered coronal of the fruit caught the fancy of the renowned Spanish Princess, Anne of Austria, who promptly adopted the pomegranate as her emblem and, noting how withered the flower formed a crumbling crown, added the motto: “My worth is not in the crown.” – Rosario Curletti

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Saturdays with Seibert: This Week in Santa Barbara

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Here are some random photos from this week, starting Sunday night during the Oscar’s, I walked outside and saw the moon partially obscured by high clouds. Some plants looking good after the rain, and the “herringbone” clouds over West Beach.


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EcoFacts: Our Own Ecosystem

Eco FactsLife is a balancing act, and the pH of a system is a perfect example.Numbers higher than 7 on the pH scale are alkaline and lower is acidic, and here are some pHs of our bodily fluids:

blood =  7.35 – 7.45
saliva =  6.4 – 8
urine = 4 – 8
stomach acids =  2(ish)
small intestine = 8
intracellular fluids = 7 and higher

The systems in our bodies are always working together to regulate pH, especially our lungs and kidneys. When we exhale and pee, we are ridding ourselves of CO2 and other acidic waste products, products of breathing and eating.

How foods taste does not indicate whether or not they are acid forming when digested. For example, lemons are very alkaline, which is why they are often used in cleanses and juice fasts. Watermelons are too. I remember an alternative doctor, years ago, recommending an all watermelon diet for a short while to an unwell dear older British gent I knew, one whose diet was normally things like eggs fried in bacon fat. (I enjoyed those eggs too.)

Processed foods and sugars are acid producing as well as meats, dairy and most grains. There are hundreds of charts and lists available, and with some foods, they do not agree, due to varying properties. Check them out if interested, searching acid alkaline foods and images, or acid alkaline diets.

Sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, is a natural antacid, good for taking care of excess stomach acids, preventing tooth decay, counteracting poison oak and bug bites, and in medicine as a cure for acidosis. It’s also great for cleaning, us too!

In baking, it reacts with acids to release CO2, hence the rising properties.

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Change In the Wind? District Elections

Column By Sharon Byrne

DistrictElections3District Elections is gaining some momentum since the forum held during the last City Council race, in which nearly every candidate was against it, except those with no chance of winning. I keep trying to see the clear-cut case for district elections. What I see are separate, distinct threads of deep problems, long unsolved, being woven together, not always coherently, into a call for district elections.

I am probably not going to do this topic the justice it deserves. I am just watching the threads for now.

One that has merit is the problem of inner city neighborhoods. Didn’t think we had those here? Well we do, and they get continually shortchanged. When parts of the Eastside lack lighting and sidewalks, in a neighborhood over 100 years old, you have to wonder why. For those dedicated neighbors pushing to get basic infrastructure installed and maintained in these inner neighborhoods, it galls to see a new 1,000 steps staircase installed on the Mesa, or read about the latest improvement slated for State St.

Theoretically, the at-large system is supposed to provide citizens with 7 City Council reps that can address their concerns. But unless the good little citizen’s concerns align nicely with the Democratic Party establishment agenda, or other large agendas, help might be hard to find. It takes a lot to win a citywide election. You need party backing, lots of contributions, big endorsements, and other machinery. To get that backing, you have to attend to the backers’ concerns. I can guarantee you they’re not the concerns of the inner neighborhoods, unless there’s a convenient overlap tied to some social justice agenda currently in vogue.

A concerned resident who decides to run singing a tune of ‘let’s invest in the Westside’ will be met with polite silence in the voting blocks on the Mesa, Upper East and San Roque. The game of at-large elections is all about what you’re going to do for ME.

If they can’t win elections based on trying to fix their community, inner city residents can always call Public Works and beg. But even with that, some neighborhoods never seem to get high enough in the priority queue to get their sidewalks fixed, lights on their street, or other infrastructure needs met. There are rare cases, like the mayor going to bat for West Downtown lighting after a spate of violent crimes, but you need that willing ally on Council. District Elections provide a route to fix that problem.

Also woven into the sales pitch is the notion of Latino representation, and why we haven’t elected more than a token one to council every 10 years or so. And here the Democratic Party surprised folks at the forum. You’d think as the party of diversity, the poor, and the oppressed, they’d engage in a bit of soul-searching on why they haven’t achieved a better track record. Instead, they pushed the notion that this whole District Elections thing is a nefarious plot a la Koch Brothers to elect more Republicans.

I burst out laughing. But their agenda is clear. District elections threaten their power base and ability to keep electing their chosen farm team candidates to City Council via their solid, at-large election machinery.

The counter-argument is that these inner neighborhoods just need to vote. Except that the votes of the inner city areas, even if they register more voters, do not present any significant numerical challenge to the outer neighborhoods.

And that is probably the real reason they get underserved in the present at-large process; there’s no political penalty for ignoring them.

Well, until they riot. That tends to be a game-changer.

Latino PACs at state and federal levels get Latino candidates elected. Someone could start a local PAC, groom some solid candidates and run them. It would probably immediately be co-opted into service to the Democratic Party, the way PUEBLO was.

The final thread is a pervading sense that the activists of the 70’s are unhappy that the next generation didn’t take up their cause. Sigh.

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Green Bike Lane Added to Goleta

This green bicycle lane in Goleta is Santa Barbara County’s first. What do you think?

The green lane uses the roadway itself to communicate where cyclists should be and motorists can cross,” says Carlos Soto. “I’ve ridden many lanes like this in San Luis Obispo… they are an elegant solution that works.”


Photo by Carlos Soto, Published by the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Bici Centro

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Cold Springs Canyon Arch Bridge and Suicide Barrier… Two Years Later

Two years ago today, Caltrans announced the completion of a controversial suicide barrier for the historic Cold Springs Arch Bridge, picture below.

54 people tragically jumped to their death from the time the bridge opened in 1964 to completion of the suicide barrier in March 2012. Peter Stefan Roycewicz from Santa Monica foiled the suicide barrier, jumping to his death just six months after completion. A second man, identified as Gilbert Hererra from Santa Barbara, scaled the 9’7” tall mesh fence and jumped to his death last July.

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Date in Santa Barbara History… de la Guerra Born

delaguerraJosé Antonio Julian de la Guerra y Noriega was born on March 6, 1779, at Novales in Santander, Spain. De la Guerra, commandante of the Royal Presidio, was considered the most influential Spanish-born resident of Santa Barbara at the time of the American take-over of California. He retained ownership of five of the choicest ranch grants in Southern California, and his home, Casa de la Guerra, is today the best known Spanish-era residence in Santa Barbara, California.

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GONE Again

Dan Seibert’s feature of a Funk Zone artist, who goes by the name of GONE, ignited the discussion of muraling and art vs. graffiti and litter. Well, GONE has struck again… “I noticed a car door leaning up against a telephone pole and I thought it must have been some accident,” writes Dan. “But I looked closer and saw it was painted, and this one was signed by G*NE 2013. I took some photos and then moved it off of the sidewalk and leaned it against a tree. It’s quite heavy but it’s there for the taking.”


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Santa Barbara by Bicycle

Column by Steve Cook

Nortons1Last Friday, Roberta and I were on a roll: two days without driving the car — I don’t think we’ve accomplished this in years. It’s not that we’re trying to stop driving the car, we’re just trying to see if we can get control of our default habit of driving. We thought we’d run some errands using the tandem, but we needed to outfit it with some panniers and a rack to carry things. So, off we went to the new Open Air Bike Shop location on upper State Street.

Heading out near La Cumbre Junior High School, we took the bike/pedestrian path over the 101 freeway to Oak Park. From there, we headed up West Junipero Street to West Alamar Avenue, taking the lane for safety up past State Street to Calle Nogura, then continued through the San Roque neighborhood to the alley off of Toyon and parked in the front of Open Air. The manager of the store, Todd Frein, helped us find the right rack for our bike; and we picked out some great panniers and a water bottle cage. Once we installed the rack and panniers, we rode down Madrona Drive to Amapola Drive, then took State Street to the Post Office and dropped off our letters. Even though the lot was parked out with cars, it presented no access problem for us.

Our third stop of the day was the CVS Pharmacy at 1109 State Street, the old Thrifty’s store location with the great rocky road ice cream that was five cents a scoop back in the day. We took State Street from the post office down to De La Vina Street, and continued downtown. Much of our ride on De La Vina was done by taking the right lane so we could stay out of the car door zone, and let cars safely pass us in the left lane of this one way street. Once we got a half block from Figueroa Street, we checked over our left shoulder to make sure the left lane was clear, signaled, and took the left lane until we could make the left on Figueroa to continue on to Chapala Street where we rode into the city parking lot behind CVS. The great thing about riding a bike is we can bypass the line of cars waiting for the full lot to open, and we just park next to the building. With my mom’s prescription in hand, we decided to splurge and get some lunch right around the corner.
Next stop: Norton’s Deli for a Pastrimi Dip Sandwich. If you haven’t tried the fare at Norton’s, you’re in for a treat! When the server dropped off our order to us, he asked “would you like some ranch dressing with those onion rings?” Well, of course — we were burning calories, so we thought, “let’s enjoy the lunch.” We discovered Norton’s when we saw them on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Once we saw that show a year or two ago, we had to try it out. No regrets, we’ve been there three or four times since then! Even the pickles are great. And the bike hitching post is right outside the doorway.

Our fifth stop was dropping off things at my Mom’s place downtown. Then we headed down Olive Street to Haley Street and stopped in at Bici Centro to pick up and install a one-dollar used reflector for the bike rack. This was our sixth and last stop of the day. Continue Reading →

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Despite Rains, Drought Continues Says County

From: Santa Barbara Public Works — Water Resources Division

The recent rainfall in Santa Barbara County has been most welcome but it has not been nearly enough to end the drought.  This winter remains among the three driest winters in 100 years of rainfall record-keeping in the County.  This dry winter is the third dry winter in a row, with 2013 having been the driest calendar year on record across most of California.  As of March 3, 2014, rainfall this winter is only 46% of the County-wide average for this time of year.  However, that percentage varies across the County, with some areas such as Santa Maria still experiencing their driest winter on record. Even in years when seasonal rainfall is “average”, the rain is not enough to produce significant runoff to area reservoirs. Several storms such as the one just experienced would be required to replenish area supplies. According to County Public Works Director Scott McGolpin, “The primary benefit from such storms is to reduce water use by allowing residents and growers to stop irrigating. It also prepares the soil for future runoff and recharge of groundwater”.

After the recent rains the water volume in Lake Cachuma has risen by only one foot because the dry soils have absorbed most of the rain with very little inflow to the lake.   The reservoir is fifty feet below being full, and it is now at 39.6% of capacity.  At smaller reservoirs such as Gibraltar, serving the City of Santa Barbara, the water level is at 32%, and at Jameson, serving Montecito, it is 30%.  Detailed information on reservoir status and rainfall can be found at the County Hydrology webpage.
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