Thursday, September 3, 2009

IN BRIEF : Foodbank volunteerism urged for Sept. 9

September 2, 2009 7:16 AM

SANTA BARBARA Local leaders are encouraged to participate in Leadership Day on Sept. 9 by working at Foodbank locations in observation of National Hunger Action Month.

Both the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Foodbank locations will be open for this particular service, and religious, political and business leaders are being asked to volunteer at least one hour of their time to serving the hungry that day.

Hunger Action Month is organized by Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States.

Santa Barbara County is estimated to have 135,000 residents who do not know where they will get their next meal.

For more information, visit

-Morgan Hoover

Possible conflict keeps Aceves off new library committee


September 2, 2009 7:14 AM

A possible conflict of interest prevented Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves from being appointed to a newly established City Council ad hoc library committee Tuesday night.

Because Debby Aceves, the mayor's wife, is the Goleta representative to the Santa Barbara County Library Advisory Committee, the council did not take the recommendation from council staff to appoint Mr. Aceves to the committee, created Tuesday night to aid the financially struggling library system.

Mayor Pro Tempore Eric Onnen and Councilwoman Margaret Connell were the two councilmembers appointed to the committee.

Other business handled by the council at the meeting included authorization to establish a multi-way stop-controlled intersection at Los Carneros Road and Calle Real.

"One ... intersection that has shown an increased collision rate is Los Carneros Road and Calle Real," said Goleta Civil Engineer Marti Schultz. "One way to mitigate this is the placement of stop signs."

Mr. Schultz said stop signs are the immediate answer to the intersection's problems, but added that other options may be explored in the future.

"This intersection does meet the warrants for the establishment of a stop-controlled intersection," he said. "We think ... it might be feasible to do a roundabout at this intersection."

The council also authorized the city manager to execute a professional services agreement with local firm Bengal Engineering, Inc. for geotechnical engineering and investigation and design services for the San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement Project for an amount not to exceed $524,074.

Program Manager Rosemarie Gaglione said Bengal Engineering is highly qualified for the job.

"Their reputation is that they're very creative," she said. "Final design could begin in late February."

Councilman Michael Bennett had additional ideas for the project.

"I would like to ... put a bicycle path underneath Hollister Avenue," said Mr. Bennett. "I would surely like to see council concurrence."

Mrs. Connell expressed that she also supports a bike path, and Ms. Gaglione said that "it's a great time to try to put that in there."

Councilman Edward Easton recused himself from the item, explaining that his home is approximately 400 feet from the creek and the project could affect his home's property value.

At the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the council on Sept. 15, continued discussion about the purchase of a new City Hall will occur, and public comment is sought.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

County staff has ideas for Botanic Garden plan


September 1, 2009 6:56 AM

Development of a plan for rehabilitation at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is set to go before the County Planning Commission at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the County Engineering building. The commission will receive a handful of recommendations from planning and development staff that differ from proposals submitted by garden officials.

The Santa Barbara Garden Vital Mission Plan was developed after the Jesusita Fire scorched 60 of the garden's 73 acres, and several elements of the plan have sparked disagreement.

The mission plan proposes to move the garden's cottage outside of garden boundaries; however, Planning and Development recommends that the cottage stay within the garden because an environmental impact report shows that removing it would have a "significant impact."

Planning and Development also suggests that paving in the garden be limited to a ten percent increase, although the mission plan recommends that pavers be installed on all existing trails.

The rationale behind the contradicted recommendation is that pavers are not necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and paving every trail would represent a significant impact to the garden's historic design landscape.

The mission plan suggests constructing an all-weather six-foot wide Cavalli path with vertical retaining walls.

Planning and Development recommends this path be narrower and unpaved with no vertical retaining wall because the Mission Canyon Area Specific Plan prohibits development on 30 percent slopes unless it precludes a reasonable use of property. Furthermore, Planning and Development reasons that its recommendation fits better with the natural topography.

The mission plan also proposes the construction of a Cavalli residence and office with a private septic or public sewer system, while Planning and Development recommends only the public sewer system, citing compliance with the annual Environment, Health and Safety report.

The two entities disagree on parking pullouts as well, as the mission plan proposes constructing two parking pullouts along the Gane House driveway, and Planning and Development recommends pullouts be designed to avoid 30 percent slopes, again referring to the Mission Canyon Area Specific Plan.

The mission plan also suggests increasing the number of fundraisers in the garden, the number of private parties, the number of classes and the attendance for lecture series.

Conversely, Planning and Development recommends that none of these things be increased; pointedly, part of the reasoning behind this recommendation is that keeping these events at their current limit will reduce impacts related to fire hazards.

In August, the County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission was presented with the mission plan and made recommendations of its own, including that there be no paving of trails in the garden, calling such an action "completely incompatible with the naturalistic trails that have been an important character-defining feature of the garden throughout its history and... a substantial deviation from the historic landscape design concept of the garden."

At that meeting, public commenters spoke out against the construction of new buildings in the garden.

Marc Chytilo said that "new buildings do not belong in the landmark," and Paulina Conn said she agrees and finds the new buildings "very, very massive."

Planning and Development staff will be present at the meeting to respond to questions and comments from the Planning Commission as well as members of the public.

Carbajal sends letter to governor looking for restoration of Open Space Subvention funds : First District supervisor: If funding is not restored, Gavi


September 1, 2009 6:58 AM

In a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday, First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal asked for reinstatement of the Open Space Subvention -- allowing counties to continue to participate in the Williamson Act -- in the 2010-11 state budget.

The Williamson Act allows local governments to enter into contracts with private land owners to restrict certain pieces of land for strict agricultural use.

If the funding for the subvention is not restored to the state's budget, the county could be looking at a loss of approximately $600,000.

According to Mr. Carbajal, state lawmakers need to be kept abreast of the impact of such an item to local governments throughout the state.

"I'm hoping that I add to the many letters that the governor receives on this matter," he said. "I'm just doing my little part ... to continue to keep the issue alive."

Mr. Carbajal said he has concerns about the amount of budget cuts that have been made in Sacramento.

"I question whether they actually understand the impact that they're having on local governments," he said.

The district supervisor also said he worries about those most affected by the subvention's exclusion.

"Farmers ... are the ones that will be most directly impacted," he said.

Mr. Carbajal said he knows that to maintain the beauty of Santa Barbara, open spaces must be kept viable and that if the Williamson Act is not protected, zoning for agriculture could see a decrease in the county "because of growing pressure, the price of land."

"We are not one of the most beautiful places in the world by accident," he said.

If the funding is not restored, development of the Gaviota Coast might be inevitable, according to Mr. Carbajal.

"We all know what it means to our residents," he said.

Mr. Carbajal said he and other local officials are doing all they can.

"We can only do so much," he said. "The state, to a great extent, holds the purse strings."

S.B. Yacht Club to hold annual regatta to benefit Serenity House

Morgan Hoover

September 1, 2009 7:04 AM

A past commodore of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club will chair the committee for the club's fifth annual regatta to benefit Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care's six-bed hospice facility, Serenity House.

The regatta is to be held at the yacht club 1 to 6 p.m. Sep. 13. It will include sailboat races, live music and Yacht Club barbecue, and the public will have the opportunity to view races from a spectator boat.

Tony Papa, who is the club's director, has also served as a director for the Santa Barbara Youth Sailing Foundation.

Tickets to the regatta are $75 per person and $25 per person for raffle tickets. Prizes include five days and four nights at a villa in La Paz, Mexico. For more information, visit

Report: More than a quarter of county residents have medical debt


August 31, 2009 7:04 AM

More than 25 percent of Santa Barbara County residents have medical debt, according to a new report released from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

After analyzing the California Health Interview Survey -- medical debt was added as a point of study in 2007 -- every year for the past four years, the research center estimates that 25.8 percent of Santa Barbarans currently have some medical debt.

Authors of "The State of Health Insurance in California" found that two-thirds of the 2.2 million California adults who report having medical debt say they incurred the debt while insured.

Findings include reports that 32.3 percent of those with medical debt delay receiving medical treatment when needed, compared to 16.1 percent of those without such debt.

The report also showed that the amount of debt someone incurs correlates directly with how long he or she delays seeking treatment.

Of those with medical debt, 55.4 percent reported severe financial consequences, including credit card debt and bankruptcy.

Dr. Shana Alex Lavarreda said a concern of the nonpartisan center is high-deductible plans.

"The reality is that people end up having high deductibles and not having any kind of safety net," she said.

The report found that approximately 40 percent of individuals with privately purchased insurance coverage plans chose plans with $1,000 or more or $2,000 for a family plan.

Dr. Lavarreda said the current healthcare system is not adequate.

"The whole point of insurance is to cover people," she said. "What we need is some other...option of coverage."

According to Dr. Lavarreda, the answer could lie in the proposed healthcare reform bill that is currently before Congress.

"I'm a fan of the healthcare reform that's going in right now," she said. "The last time we saw large populations who were uninsured was in the '60s, and then we ended up with Medicare and Medicaid, so hopefully we'll end up with some kind of government-funded program."

Dr. Lavarreda said the medical debt is not highly concentrated in any particular socioeconomic category.

"It was pretty evenly distributed among the poverty level so it didn't seem to be the household income," she said. "The coverage that you get doesn't do what you need it to do."

What she did find was that those who may have been laid off due to the troubled economy, causing them to lose their insurance partway through the year, incurred the greatest medical debt.

"What I take away from that is that the job-based coverage isn't necessarily doing what it should be doing," she said.

For more information, visit

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SBCC puts new Media Arts building on hold : State budget woes blamed; $50 million project was due to break ground in 2010


August 29, 2009 7:50 AM

California's budget crisis struck again this week, as Santa Barbara City College announced Friday that it will postpone the construction of a new $50 million School of Media Arts on its main campus.

It had been expected that construction on the 65,000 square-foot building, intended to bring together programs including journalism, photography, graphic design and film and television production, would be underway in 2010.

Because of the state's inability to provide funding for approved construction projects, the decision was made to indefinitely delay the groundbreaking.

The state, which had initially committed $32 million toward the media arts building, reduced its commitment to $22 million, but without a guarantee of a time for the arrival of those funds.

Although voters in June 2008 passed Measure V, which provided the college with $77 million, only $9.3 million was designated to the media arts facility.

In light of the state's reduction in committed funding and a lack of a target date for the provision of funds, the only way to go ahead with the project would be to obtain $28 million of Measure V's $77 million.

The decision was made to postpone the building's construction, as improving existing campus infrastructure is a more pressing priority.

Improvement projects include a remodel of the drama and music building, construction of the new Luria Conference and Press Center overlooking La Playa Stadium and repair and upgrade to the Pedestrian Bridge between the East and West Campuses.

Other bond construction projects will include renovations and upgrades to the Humanities Building and MacDougall Administration Center, as well as to the Alice F. Schott Center.

For more information, visit