Finding a Solution
Regarding the May 3rd, 2022 Montecito Association meeting topic of trailhead parking at Montecito Hot Springs. Many years ago, at the launch for the “Campaign for Hot Springs Canyon” both Kellam De Forest (Pearl Chase Society) and I were in attendance at the little green park on the corner of East Valley and San Ysidro roads.
Afterwards we conversed and I discovered that both of us were opposed to these historic springs being conveyed to the Forest Service. One of our shared concerns was that the Forest Service was too constrained in budget, staff, and priority to properly manage the springs. From then on Kellam and I attended every public meeting regarding these springs. Sadly, my good friend and mentor Kellam De Forest is not here to attend this Montecito Association meeting, but I can hear his voice like yesterday.
Kellam and I knew that these springs were the last of the many mineral waters that placed Santa Barbara on the map when California became a state. The springs deserved recognition, including access for the historically significant springs and the long linage of human interaction.
Kellam and I came very close to incorporating as a nonprofit for the long-term caretaking of Montecito Hot Springs, but we simply could not obtain an audience with Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and the donors to consider alternatives.
Imagine if Hot Springs Canyon were a nonprofit that was managed in such a way that allowed recreational and educational opportunities while resolving capacity, sanitation, waste management, and danger from fire. Had that path been taken we would not have the need to meet and discuss trailhead parking.
There still remains opportunities to interact with these springs that honor and protect while resolving concerns by impacted neighbors. With Santa Barbara County and NGO’s partnering with the Forest Service, these springs can be managed as a conditional use permit without development of the area with roads and hard structures.
As I understand it, the Santa Barbara County Master Recreation Plan has not been released to the public yet. There is still time to find a holistic solution for the hot springs through that plan. Adding or deleting parking spaces is not an enduring solution when it is the springs itself that need a management plan and path towards implementation.
Hot Springs Social Justice
As a hike leader for the Sierra Club, I have been finding that parking at trailheads has become the most challenging part of leading hikes. Hot Springs was one of the few trailheads that did not have a problem. Until local property owners decided they had a unilateral entitled right to keep people out of their neighborhood.
They did this by illegally placing boulders, plantings and other structures in the public right of way that had been used for parking for at least the 40 years that I have lived here.
It was galling to read the “news” article by Kelly Mahan Herrick about the property owners suing the County for enforcing the public’s right to park in the public right of way. It was an utter inversion of reality for the property owners to claim that their rights are being infringed for illegally occupying the public right of way.
Thousands of dollars of tickets were issued for parking in places that had been legal for decades. Yet law enforcement did nothing to ticket the property owners for their illegal behavior. I applaud our County officials for finally applying justice. It is an outrage for these wealthy people to suddenly care about CEQA and the environment. When did they apply for CEQA approval for their illegal encroachments on the public right of way?
Where else in the County would people even think of placing boulders along the road to keep people from parking in their neighborhood? Only these moneyed individuals think they are above the law. Back in February, I published an article “Justice for the Little People?” about this sort of injustice.
Hiking is one of the few activities in our community that is low impact and low cost. The issue is not about environmental protection. The issue is pure social justice. The historically available parking in the public right of way must be restored. The public must prevail over the interests of the moneyed minority and their sense of special entitlement.
(Editor’s Note: This is in reference to the “Village Beat” column in the 28 April – 5 May 2022 issue of Montecito Journal by Kelly Mahan Herrick with the title “Neighbors Sue County Over Trail Parking”)
Please Assign a Journalist to Cover Montecito Water
Journalist Melinda Burns produces fact-based professional coverage of Montecito issues, including an award-winning, 22-minute 2019 documentary on the debris flow, called Montecito/January 9, 2018, and an MJ cover piece, “We Pulled Off a Miracle on Randall Road: $18 Million Debris Basin Project Set to Begin,”my favorite MJ article from last year. Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised to read an attack on Ms. Burns’ work by Bob Hazard. This individual embarrassed the MJ when he served as the most visible participant in Montecito’s “water wars” – an alleged $256,000 attempt to stack the boards of, merge, and then privatize two local nonprofit water utilities. Ms. Burns wrote several articles between 2016 and 2020 exposing Mr. Hazard playing dual, ethically-conflicting roles, first as a volunteer writer-editor at the MJ “covering” our water and sanitary boards, second and simultaneously, as an underwriter, fundraiser, and organizer of the political campaigns for individuals seeking directorships on the same boards. This despite complaints to the MJ editors, such as that on December 20, 2018, from then-Montecito Water District President Dick Shaikewitz, a local attorney: “The ethical considerations for news stories are to ‘avoid outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.’” I remember thinking that the MJ was fortunate that Columbia Journalism Review stopped handing out its famous Darts and Laurels; the scandal would have embarrassed our village. In the aftermath, a group of citizens under Gwyn Lurie and Les Firestein purchased the MJ, imposed professional journalism standards, brought in well-respected writers to cover topics like antisemitism and racial and sexual issues in the schools, and expanded coverage of the arts, culture, and nonprofits.
There appeared to be a rare slip in editorial quality control regarding Mr. Hazard’s recent harangue under the heading “Local News.” It was pure opinion, aimed at Ms. Burns’ recent investigative series on the Montecito Water Board and the Montecito Sanitary Board – now 90% controlled by the politically homogeneous, self-described “water security team” that Mr. Hazard’s dual roles helped elect. Ms. Burns reported on: a $5-million wastewater recycling project involving the Santa Barbara Cemetery inexplicably cancelled; low morale and huge staff turnover; a rush toward unionization by worried rank and file employees; public funds spent on a law firm hired for public relations related to the merger; the sudden resignation of Gary Fuller, the sole independent Montecito Sanitary District board member, with more than two years left on his term. The manager of Carpinteria’s water agency notes that shipping Montecito’s wastewater to Carpinteria for storage and treatment prior to recycling – the pet project still pushed by Mr. Hazard and his friends – is dead in the water, so to speak. And – perhaps the most illuminatingly – her reporting suggests that if the boards go ahead and attempt to merge, they can do so without a vote by Montecito ratepayers.
Speaking as a Montecito ratepayer of 12 years, and as a retired Wall Street Journal reporter who reveres the MJ, I entreat Ms. Lurie Firestein to bring us facts on these issues, and from an unbiased professional reporter. Please devote to our village’s water and sanitary boards, and to our new groundwater management agency, the journalistic scrutiny the paper gives to the Montecito Association, zoning, local schools, political elections, COVID, and hiking trail conflicts. Clearly there are lots of facts about Montecito water issues worthy of being flushed out.
Eileen White Read
Support for Salcido
Those of us who live in Santa Barbara County should be extremely proud to call Dr. Susan Salcido our County Superintendent of Schools. Susan is without a doubt the finest educator I’ve ever known, and I do not say this lightly. Prior to my retirement, I was an Assistant Superintendent at the Santa Barbara County Education Office and worked closely with Susan for over 10 years. My experience with her was extraordinary.
Susan is extremely intelligent and considered in her approach, an exceptional problem solver, an excellent communicator, and most importantly, a leader whose decisions are keenly focused on improving the lives of the children and families she serves. She is the type of leader who works in partnership with others – she rolls up her sleeves and does the hard work. Susan is humble to the core, and performs her responsibilities with grace, kindness, and compassion.
The position of County Superintendent of Schools is enormous, and Susan’s highly successful district and county office leadership experience have uniquely prepared her for the rigors of the position. It is for good reason that Susan has earned the deep and abiding respect of educators across Santa Barbara County and throughout California.
Occasionally we are fortunate enough to meet a person who possesses so many strong attributes that others marvel at their diverse abilities and strong character, and Susan falls squarely into this exclusive group. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Susan, and I wholeheartedly support her candidacy for re-election in June.
Way Too Many Letters to the Editor
Enough with all the letters from Bryan Rosen. If you’re going to publish something from him every week (and always on the same topic), please consider a column instead, and let him rotate with other concerned citizens; this would avoid the endless back-and-forth angry arguments about the Hot Springs Trail and its attendant parking issues. I can’t think of another periodical that gives over so much column-space repeatedly to a single letter writer. This seems like poor journalism policy, or none at all. If Mr. Rosen would ever write in a positive vein, I might rein in my criticism, but so far it’s been all critical, negative, accusatory vitriol.
Superintendent Salcido Earns an F
When it comes time to vote for County Superintendent, I will NOT be voting for Susan Salcido. Salcido is well aware that there have been a number of questions and concerns about what happened to Cold Spring School District Measure C Bond money. Many of us have written to her, begging her to do her job and order a full forensic accounting of the monies.
Instead of requesting a free independent state run FCMAT forensic audit to get to the truth and end the conflict, Salcido refuses, claiming “there is no evidence of fraud.”
Apparently, she is fine with millions of dollars of bond money being spent ILLEGALLY without a required Independent Oversight Committee. She’s also fine with the fact that Superintendent Amy Alzina claimed falsely that a committee existed when it didn’t (see Montecito Journal November 5, 2020).
I myself requested all documents related to the spending of Measure C money and what the District turned over was dismal and lacks the original contractor bids and invoices standard in these situations. Moreover, $80K was spent on architect plans for an administration building that was not on the bond measure. Are you ok with that Salcido? Sadly, I already know your answer… you are.
But the icing on the cake is that Susan Salcido was honored by Superintendent Alzina and the Cold Spring School District (the first time in District history that such recognition was given!) in April 2021 around the time that many residents were requesting the independent FCMAT forensic audit.
I see how this adds up: Salcido holds off on requesting a forensic audit and the very people who are being scrutinized honor her for it. Residents aren’t stupid. There is no reason for Salcido NOT to order one except that she got persuaded by the very professionals in question. I have a simple question for Salcido, if the district was innocent, why would they oppose a forensic audit? If I hadn’t done anything wrong, I would welcome independent verification. Susan Salcido doesn’t deserve to serve her community with another term, because she has failed to serve us in this term.