A Response to Water and Sanitary Districts Consolidation
Bob Hazard’s recent piece, “Should the Montecito Water and Sanitary Districts Consolidate?” needs a host of corrections, out of respect for the intelligence (and ratepayer costs) of the citizens of Montecito, particularly Water District customers. As part of the “Montecito Water Security Team,” Hazard praises a number of studies – MORE STUDIES – on studies already done, and studies on pie-in-sky projects that will never, ever happen. Montecito Water ratepayers should be asking for an audit on the amount of money MWD is spending on these studies that will go nowhere. For example:
1) Shipping Montecito’s wastewater to Carpinteria for treatment, injecting it into Carpinteria groundwater basin for Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) purposes, then shipping it back to Montecito can never happen. Because Caltrans will never allow pipes going and coming over such distances – Heal the Ocean struggled with Caltrans to get a short pipe along a frontage road from the Rincon community to the Carpinteria wastewater plant, and it took CA Assembly action to make it happen; CSD Manager Craig Murray has already explained to the consultants doing this incredible study that CSD cannot spend its ratepayer money accommodating ratepayers from another district, his answer is already No; pumps needed to pipe wastewater for such a long, and non-gravity, distance is a huge energy issue that will never be permitted. Yet Hazard praises a $250,000 study that has been initiated by the “Water Security Team” to investigate this.
2) Sanitary Districts run wastewater operations, Water Districts (are supposed to) grapple with water issues. A single board of individuals who are not versed in the unique requirements of each one is futile. Community Service Districts started out that way (including Santa Barbara’s wastewater/water resources division), they were not formed by hostile takeover.
3) Montecito Sanitary had a pilot recycle plant up and running years ago. The nearby Cemetery (which uses huge amounts of potable water to keep the grass green) wanted that water badly. The “Water Security Team” stopped the project and is now studying a recycled water operation – AGAIN.
4) Desalination. If the Montecito Water District had asked the State Water Board FIRST, before initiating studies for siting a Desal plant in Montecito, they would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies that went nowhere – because the State does NOT want desal plants up and down the coast. They want regional plants and we already have one, the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant in Santa Barbara. Yet MWD spent thousands of dollars for a study of six sites, including: Lookout Park, Summerland; Sheffield left hand turn off from 101; the Miramar Hotel property (before the hotel was built); the Cemetery, and MWD’s own property on upper San Ysidro – all ludicrous. MWD’s answer? “We’re exploring concepts.” They might as well have studied the moon.
Separate agencies have cooperated to build recycled water facilities with state funds. Prop 1 funding was being given out years ago for planning studies. Goleta said yes, Carpinteria said yes (and is now building their recycled water facility), but when it came to Montecito Sanitary District/Montecito Water District cooperating to access these funds, the Sanitary District said yes, and the chairman of the Montecito Water District board of directors said, “Over my dead body!” I was there, and I heard it.
Heal the Ocean’s recommendation is that there be an audit on MWD studies, that the “Water Security Team” be dissolved, and separate district boards be reinstated so that fantasies can stop and real business proceed.
Heal the Ocean
Kudos to Sharon Byrne for her informative articles about housing. I’ve lived in Montecito and Carpinteria. I’ve seen changes over the decades, but nothing compared to what’s happening now. The rampant push for more housing is, historically, not the answer. There will never be enough housing. We need to act to protect the uniquely special places that are Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria.
In Carp right now we have development proposals for both the Bluffs and Bailard’s Organic Farm. The latter is dangling “workforce housing” – which sounds good amidst skyrocketing prices – but “workforce housing” is a buzz word with no clear definition without answering: What is the rental price of each unit proposed? What is the average income of the local workforce? Will 30% of annual income be sufficient to rent the unit? And finally, will this be priced forever at a level that is affordable for our local workforce?
Red Tail Development’s proposal for the north end of Bailard (organic farm selling produce at 12 farmers’ markets and local restaurants) includes 128 units they would like us to believe would be affordable for the workforce, but plans label them “Market Rate” – owned and managed by the Red Tail conglomerate (not the Housing Authority) and able to be rented to anyone at any price.
The ultimate price to the community: the permanent loss of open space and agriculturally significant land in exchange for, well, more people. The City of Carpinteria has officially asked that the project be abandoned for a plethora of reasons, but it is on County land and the proponents are pushing ahead. Montecito and Carpinteria have a common concern of insatiable demand for housing at any cost. Please contact your reps and let them know what you think:
I am writing to share Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s appreciation to the Montecito Journal and Joanne Calitri for the outstanding news report about the 122nd Christmas Bird Count. We thank our CBC leaders and SBAS volunteers for their commitment. It takes a village to protect birds and our open space gems, which provide critical and irreplaceable habitat for wildlife. SBAS remains grateful for the vital support that we and the birds receive from our members along the Central Coast region and beyond.
Spring is an exciting time for nesting birds and our community, and it is uplifting to have so many local nonprofits working to protect birdlife and the Earth. In particular, congratulations to Community Environmental Council CEO Sigrid Wright for receiving the Congressional Woman of the Year Award for outstanding environmental leadership. Sigrid’s vision inspires us all to do more. Along those lines, please join us in welcoming our new Peregrine Falcon at the Audubon Aviary at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and celebrating birds at the exciting SBAS – Santa Barbara Botanic Garden collaborative Bird Month in May, the North Campus Open Space Grand Opening and Community Open House in May, and on Earth Day.
Thank you for your continued support as we work together to protect area birdlife and habitat and connect people with birds through education, conservation, and community science. Montecito Journal readers, we invite you to watch our two short films, Why are Birds Important? and How to Start Birding, at: santabarbaraaudubon.org/learning-resources/ and join us at santabarbaraaudubon.org.
Katherine Emery, PhD
Santa Barbara Audubon Society
County Wants Revenue from Ticketed Cars, Not Solutions
When it comes to the Hot Springs trailhead issue, Kelly Mahan Herrick’s Village Beat (April 14, 2022) sounds like a propaganda piece from the elites. She writes “Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi said that issues at the Hot Springs Trailhead continue, and that there have been 793 parking citations issued in the entirety of 2021, and the first quarter of 2022.” She quotes him saying, “We are taking it very seriously, and are doing the best we can.” Then she brings up the issue of emergency vehicle access, which we’ve heard so much about from officials and estate owners living on Riven Rock Road.
Enough of talking points from officials. The fact is a huge amount of easy revenue is being collected from unsuspecting hikers parking on Riven Rock (or on the dirt to the side), and yes – East Mountain Drive – where no white lines have been painted.
The county is more interested in revenue than fire safety. If there’s a fire safety/emergency vehicle access problem on Riven Rock, it can be quickly solved by putting up adequate signage stating: No Parking. A prominent sign placed a short distance up the trail explaining where one can legally park would be of great help. The problem is a big loss of revenue from tickets would occur if the county did these things. If the county were truly interested in emergency vehicle access, such measures would have been taken a long time ago. But there’s only two “No Parking” signs on upper Riven Rock.
So Mr. Arnoldi, you’re not doing the best you can. You’re not making Riven Rock better for emergency vehicle access. Cars continue to clog up Riven Rock because the county is more interested in revenue than fire safety. Actions speak louder than words. County officials know that cars will continue to come from all over since the hot springs are a big attraction. Yet we keep hearing the same old talking points. Enough already, Mr. Arnoldi, it’s time you and other officials solve the problem you state is serious.
Then, Mr. Arnoldi, you speak about ensuring the trail is vacated at dusk. The Sheriff’s Department has no legal authority to do this anymore than it has the right to close a public road at dusk. People have been walking up Hot Springs Canyon for hundreds of years, including Camacho, a Native American who lived there during the early 1800s.
Closing a trail permanently at a certain hour is a matter for elected representatives (aside from legal issues of doing so, good luck at enforcing it). It’s dictatorship when officials take these kinds of actions without public hearings and public input (have they heard of the Brown Act?). What they’re doing is the opposite of democracy, and it’s not a healthy thing.
Take for example, the process of the white lines being painted on Riven Rock. On February 25, 2021, Sharon Byrne,Executive Director of the Montecito Association, wrote a segment for the Montecito Journal entitled, “Montecito on the Move.” In it were exaggerated statements disparaging hikers for leaving trash, blocking driveways, and partying – I live in the area and have seen that hikers behave well.
Ms. Byrne described how different groups got together to come up with a solution. She wrote “Agencies are working on this, including Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor, Montecito Trails Foundation’s Ashlee Mayfield, Sheriff’s Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi, and more. We think we have a good solution, and it could extend to Mountain Drive, to ensure emergency vehicles can get there, and neighbors can evacuate safely in an emergency.” Elite groups got together and came up with a solution that didn’t work, but hurt hikers, many of them poor people who feel a need for recreation. The effort was a stab at the democratic process. Would the prior leadership of the Montecito Association have tried to solve perceived problems in such an undemocratic way? Not even the Montecito Trails Foundation argued for a fair, open public process. Aside from the question of their competence, do these groups have any concept of democracy?
It’s been said “the duty of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Instead, it’s the other way around with the Montecito Journal and other local newspapers. Do we need yet another article on the Hot Springs Trailhead parking situation that quotes officials, elites, and wealthy residents, while disparaging hikers? Why not take input from hikers and low-income people? Why not some real investigative journalism instead of taking the word of the elites? Does anyone in local media care about the numerous people being given tickets in this entrapment scheme?
Then Ms. Herrick writes “According to County rep Darcel Elliott, there is litigation related to the problems that neighbors are having with the overabundance of vehicles…” This statement doesn’t give the reader much information, nor does it tell who Darcel works for – she’s chief of staff for Supervisor Das Williams. But what is neglected in the reporting is how residents are threatening to sue the county over plans to create some legal parking spaces on Riven Rock that are out of the way of emergency vehicles. It looks like residents are slowing down a solution.
And residents of the general area have no problem calling the police to report hiker’s cars, but don’t do so when workers’ trucks stick out in the road for hours – why are workers’ trucks not a threat to emergency vehicles? For many weeks at the southwest corner of East Mountain Drive and Hot Springs Road there was a long line of such trucks, many sticking out in the road – major work was being done on the estate called, Villa Tragera. Mr. Arnoldi, would you be willing to give tickets to these vehicles belonging to people working for the wealthy?
Night Hikers Spotted
Last Saturday night, while driving home, we saw dozens of flashlights shining at the Hot Springs Trail parking area. We pulled over to make sure everything was okay. Dozens of hikers with flashlights, some strapped to their foreheads, were preparing for their hike. It was 9:30 pm. The two “No Parking After Sunset” signs were being ignored. In disbelief we watched a hiker take a puff off his cigarette before distinguishing it under his foot. Night hiking is dangerous enough but in a high-risk fire area it is an absolute threat to us all. Why is this danger allowed in our neighborhood?