BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Scents of burning wood, sage and sweet financial freedom filled the air at La Casa de Maria yesterday, where leaders of the retreat and conference center celebrated a three-year fundraising effort by burning its mortgage.
The 26-acre parcel of land tucked away in the hills of Montecito has long been a place for spiritual renewal. But in recent years, a 7-acre slice of the oak-shaded retreat had been plagued by a $4 million debt.
Until recently, that is. Through generous donations from friends, neighbors and the community, La Casa de Maria fought its way out from under the financial cloud in just three years.
“We are ecstatic,” said Stephanie Glatt, director of the center. “It’s a miracle. We’re preserving it for years to come.”
As dozens looked on, she stood on the steps of the chapel and held the mortgage high. With a slow, liberating rip, Glatt tore the document in half before approaching a fire pit and tossing the scraps in among the embers.
“We made it,” she said, describing what the act symbolized. “It’s a victory. We did this together.”
After a brief program that included dance performances, visitors were asked to write down something they had recently completed in their lives on a small strip of paper. Following the ceremonial burning of the mortgage, many approached the fire to feed their own scraps to the flames.
Led by The Sisters of The Immaculate Heart, La Casa de Maria is welcoming to all comers. Many nonprofit groups choose to hold retreats or conferences at the center, Glatt said.
It’s essentially a place of peace and respite, she said, an escape from the concrete jungle that allows visitors to reconnect with themselves and each other.
Steve Jacobsen, executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara, attested to the rejuvenating qualities of the retreat.
As the former pastor of Goleta Presbyterian Church, he used to commonly schedule trips to the center.
“People went away healed, empowered, transformed,” he said. “…The healing power of this ground and this heritage is tangible in so many ways.”
So when the retreat started struggling financially in the early 2000s, he said the burden of debt began to weigh heavily on many who visited. Jacobsen described a dark corner that seemed to loom in the background during those years.
He praised the grit, courage and determination of the retreat’s leaders to fight off that darkness and preserve La Casa de Maria as a place of spiritual peace.
“What a thing it is to be here today and burn that darn mortgage,” Jacobsen said.
Lillian Lovelace, a philanthropic supporter of the center and its neighbor, said she never doubted the strength of its leadership. She described how she had moved to Montecito from Los Angeles 36 years ago and found herself living next door to the retreat, sharing a long border.
“We had no idea that right next door there was something very close to paradise,” she said.
Lovelace said center’s leaders could have easily sold off portions of the property to pay off their debt — slicing off organic gardens or wooded pathways to even the balance.
“But no, it remains intact,” she said. “We are here today because they were able to pull it off.”
However, the $4 million campaign is just the first phase of an overall effort to rejuvenate and renew the retreat center.
Phase two involves renovating and refurbishing its buildings, from meeting and retreat rooms to its Immaculate Heart Center and chapel. Plans also call for renewing its landscaping in an environmentally friendly way, in addition to bolstering its programs and scholarships.
“We can be a model of sustainability for those who come here,” Glatt said.
The second phase of the campaign carries a price tag of $2.88 million. But again, it’s only the start of efforts to keep La Casa de Maria a vibrant and welcoming space.
“There’s probably going to be a Phase 15,” Glatt said.
After a Chumash blessing from Julie Tumamait-Stenslie and her daughter, Rane, as well as the mortgage burning, guests and retreat leaders mingled and celebrated with drinks and food from the harvest.
Although the center still has plenty of work ahead, Glatt said she is simply glad to be rid of its debt.
“It’s all up hill from here,” she said.
Monday, November 3, 2008
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF REPORT
Vandals struck at First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara during the weekend, spray painting anti-religious symbols and statements on the building’s doors and pavement.
Reports indicate the vandalism occurred either Friday night or Saturday morning, although it’s unclear if the graffiti is related to Halloween. Church officials were cleaning the walls and pavement Saturday afternoon.
Attempts to contact church officials yesterday were unsuccessful, as were calls to police to determine if a report had been filed. The church, at 2101 State St., describes itself as a progressive, justice-oriented Christian congregation.
“First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara, United Church of Christ, declares itself to be open and affirming of women and men of all ages, ethnic origins, abilities and sexual orientations who desire to participate in its worship, life and ministry,” according to a statement on its website.
Friday, October 31, 2008
BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Local law enforcement agencies are significantly stepping up their presence in and around Isla Vista this weekend in anticipation of a Halloween celebration that will be predictably rowdy.
According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, 231 arrests were made in Isla Vista during last year’s Halloween celebration and 411 citations were issued, the majority of which were alcohol related.
Isla Vista is renowned for its Halloween festivities, which consistently draw as many as 30,000 people to the seaside college enclave.
This number of revelers nearly doubles the town’s population of roughly 17,000. And year-after-year, trouble accompanies the party.
“Many don’t realize that the Halloween celebration in I.V. is far from glamorous,” said Drew Sugars, a public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department. “Alcohol poisonings, sexual assaults, drunken fights and unruly crowds are just some of the difficult tasks deputies face in the early morning hours, much of it simply too graphic to be shown in print or on television.”
Sugars said the most challenging time for law enforcement arrives after 1 a.m.; long after news crews have called it quits.
Sugars said the Sheriff’s Department, with the help of several other agencies, will have more than 200 officers on the streets over the weekend.
“Due to the danger posed to people and the impact on the community, the Sheriff’s Department will continue its policy of maximum enforcement during the Halloween weekend,” he said.
The increased law enforcement presence doesn’t come cheap to taxpayers.
In 2006, the Sheriff’s Department budgeted $228,000 to cover the one weekend event.
Sugars emphasized the Sheriff’s Department won’t tolerate underage drinking, saying mobile booking units will be set up to handle the large number of intoxicated people.
Avoid the 12, a multi-agency effort to battle drunken driving, is allocating four extra patrol cars with the sole purpose of preventing intoxicated drivers from entering or leaving Isla Vista.
Sugars said patrols around Isla Vista and Goleta will also be stepped-up to battle drunken driving.
A statement from the Sheriff’s Department didn’t say if any roads around Isla Vista would be closed, though in the past, several road closures have occurred. Attempts to reach Sugars for comment on road closures were not successful.
Sugars said parking will once again be extremely limited in Isla Vista, with all cars barred from parking on Del Playa Drive from 5 p.m. today until 8 a.m. on Sunday.
The California Highway Patrol announced yesterday it will conduct a sobriety checkpoint tomorrow in the Goleta area.
During a DUI checkpoint last year, the CHP made eight drunken driving arrests. The checkpoint will be operated from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. The location of the checkpoint has not yet been announced.
While Isla Vista is a major focus of local agencies, CHP officials urge parents to keep a close eye on young children as well.
“Halloween is an exciting event for children, but streets are dark and traffic is heavy,” said CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba. “While children are putting on their costumes, parents should remind them about basic pedestrian safety — stay with parents or a group, cross at the corner and check for traffic before crossing the street.”
Sgobba said the most effective way to keep children safe is to accompany them house to house.
He said parents should also take precautions to ensure costumes are safe. One way Sgobba said this could be accomplished is to attach reflective tape to costumes, and encourage children to wear makeup rather than masks to increase range of vision.
“This day can be a time of fun and fantasy for children,” Sgobba said. “Don’t let it turn into a tragedy. Make safety a priority as you go from door-to-door.”
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Surfers, swimmers and beachgoers have long enjoyed the benefits of water quality monitoring at Santa Barbara County’s most popular beaches, getting the heads-up when bacteria levels hit unhealthy levels.
That warning system came into jeopardy recently, when both the state and county cut funding for the testing program due to budget shortfalls.
But with the help of a local nonprofit organization and the city of Santa Barbara, data on water quality at local beaches will remain available to beachgoers, at least through the winter.
“We want them to have that information so they can make smart decisions about when to go in the water and when to stay out,” said Kira Redmond, executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
The organization is pitching in thousands of dollars to ensure beach monitoring continues at 12 local beaches.
Santa Barbara city officials also made a decision to pick up the slack by testing at main creek discharge areas — Arroyo Burro Beach, Leadbetter Beach, and East Beach at Mission and Sycamore creeks.
“It’s additional work for us, but we felt that it was providing important information to the community so we shifted a few things around,” said City Creeks Manager Cameron Benson.
County officials, facing a major budget crisis, cut their funding for winter testing during their latest budget cycle. Gov. Schwarzenegger recently dropped state funding for monitoring during spring, summer and fall months, although the state’s Water Resources Control Board is looking into alternate funding sources.
As a result, the county’s Environmental Health Services stopped taking water samples at local beaches for the first time in more than a decade. Attempts to contact officials involved with the monitoring program yesterday were not successful.
A statement on the county’s website notes the weekly testing is being discontinued due to a loss of funding. The latest results date back to Oct. 6.
Since 1996, the county has been testing along its coastline at the most frequented locations — particularly those near creeks or outfall areas. In recent years, specialists have been taking samples at 20 beaches from Jalama to Rincon.
State law has required testing during the summer for more than a decade — AB411 passed in 1997 and mandated that beaches with storm drains that are visited by more than 50,000 people per year be monitored from April to October.
But the county went above and beyond, testing during winter months when better waves draw more surfers and inclement weather results in more runoff.
So when Redmond learned that the county was cutting their funding for the winter, she said Channelkeeper began planning to step in and cover testing from November to March.
“It’s not real smart to be cutting it when there’s more rain and more people in the water,” she said.
The second blow came when Gov. Schwarzenegger withdrew approximately $1 million used by the state Department of Public Health as grant money for local agencies to support beach testing.
Redmond is hoping state officials can pull together enough money through other sources to keep the program going through next summer. Channelkeeper has a budget of $23,000, she said, which should cover five months.
“We’re trying to raise money,” Redmond said. “We’re going to do it until the money runs out. We are definitely looking to the ocean-using public to donate to the cause.”
Benson said while the city already conducts weekly and quarterly water quality tests at local creeks and Arroyo Burro Beach, tossing in the additional locations is expected to cost about $5,000. He said the city plans to sample only through the winter months.
While acknowledging the budget shortfall that resulted in the county’s program being cut, County Supervisor Janet Wolf said water quality has always been a top priority for her. She is offering $4,000 from her discretionary fund to support Channelkeeper’s testing efforts.
“It’s important to let surfers and beachgoers know the quality of the water,” she said. “I just think it’s a vital public health matter.”
Her colleague, Supervisor Salud Carbajal, echoed those sentiments, calling anything in the realm of health and public safety a great concern to him.
But the county is in a serious budget crunch, he said, and the state’s budget fiasco is likely to result in more cuts that will have a local impact.
“I think it was unfortunate,” Carbajal said of the necessity to cut the county’s funding, “And now that the state has hit us with the other whammy, we have lost some important services in that area.”
He’s been working with several local nonprofit foundations to increase support for Channelkeeper’s efforts to keep the program alive.
“This is such a public health issue that we need to explore sooner than later how we can address it,” he said. “My antennas are up and I’m looking under every rock and stone.”
The question of whether the state can come up with money for summer months should be answered in less than a week. State officials are meeting on Nov. 4 to consider a proposal to use Proposition 13 bond funds dedicated to improving water quality as a stopgap measure.
Water Board Chairman Tam M. Doduc said in a recent statement that significant progress on preventing and cleaning up beach pollution has been made in recent years and testing has been a key component.
“This will be a decision for the full board, but we are all aware that progress must be backed up with rigorous test results,” Doduc said. “We know there is still the threat of contaminated water and there are still some beaches where there has not been enough progress. That is why testing is so important for the health of swimmers, surfers and young children who splash in the waves.”
Hilary Hauser, executive director of locally based Heal the Ocean, said if that funding comes through, the county will be set for the warm months of 2009.
But the following winter will remain a question mark.
“It’s not just the health of the public, which is huge,” Hauser said. “Surfers are in the water in the winter more than they are in the summer. But also to lose this consistent data is very significant.”
For example, she said, the Environmental Protection Agency uses locally collected data to determine which areas of the ocean and coastline need to be targeted for cleanups.
For now, Channelkeeper and the city’s Creeks Division will head out to the beaches every Monday to take samples. Results should be posted at www.sbck.org and possibly at local surf shops and Heal the Bay’s website.
“We will figure out a way to make sure the information gets out there,” Benson said.
BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
A 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy who was convicted by a Santa Barbara County jury of voluntary manslaughter in a 2007 gang killing will be sentenced on Jan. 8, 2009. The boy faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor in the case, said out of consideration for the victim’s family, he would have preferred sentencing occur before the holidays.
“They want to know what’s going to happen to the person who killed their son,” Dozer said. “The longer this case languishes in court the longer they have to deal with these issues.”
Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, 15, was tried as an adult for the March 14, 2007 murder of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares.
Linares was stabbed eight times during the mid-day brawl that broke out in the intersection of State and Carrillo streets. The boy was found dead in a planter behind the Saks Fifth Avenue shopping center.
Juarez was the lone person charged with murder Linares, but jurors said after the more than two-month trial that they couldn’t unanimously agree the boy was guilty of that crime.
Both the prosecution and defense called the jury’s decision a “compromise verdict.”
In court yesterday more than a dozen of Juarez’s friends and family wore white shirts that said, “Teens do not deserve adult punishment,” on the front around a picture of Juarez, and the phrase, “So teens are treated like adults in the system but not in the community? That’s not fair,” on the back.
Juarez’s legal counsel, Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, said she requested extra time for sentencing in order to file a motion with the court seeking a new trial.
Atkins said she doubts such a request will be granted, though she believes the motion is important to explicitly state on the record some issues that arose during the trial that the defense objected to.
After Juarez was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter on Oct. 15, Atkins said she planned to file a “fitness” hearing, or a request to allow the boy to be tried in juvenile court.
She said such a request is often considered when the defendant is found guilty of a lesser crime than originally charged. But now, Atkins said she doesn’t plan to request the hearing, saying she could find no legal basis for it.
Along with voluntary manslaughter, the jury also found Juarez guilty of committing the crime to benefit a criminal street gang, which carries a mandatory 10-year sentence, and personally using a knife on the victim, an offense that carries an additional year. The maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 11 years.
At the Jan. 8 sentencing hearing Dozer said the victim’s family will testify and a sentencing report prepared by the county Probation Department will also be presented.
Dozer anticipates the defense will also call witnesses, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Atkins has a child psychologist, who wasn’t allowed to testify during the trial, take the stand during sentencing.
During the trial, Atkins said such a psychologist would have testified about juvenile brain development.
DAILY SOUND STAFF REPORT
Authorities are releasing additional details about a collision on Highway 101 on Wednesday morning that sent a vehicle plunging 100 feet off a cliff and landing upside down.
California Highway Patrol officials said a 23-year-old Ventura man in a Chevy van rear-ended a Toyota Highlander in the southbound fast lane at approximately 7:30 a.m., causing its driver to lose control and veer off the cliff north of the Evans Avenue offramp.
The crumpled vehicle ended up on its roof near the railroad tracks, CHP officials said. Its occupants, 58-year-old Etelina Figueroa, of Carpinteria, and an 8-year-old girl survived the crash with bruises and complaints of pain, CHP Officer Dan Barba said.
“Both were wearing seatbelts, which undoubtedly saved their lives,” he said in a news release.
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy who arrived on scene shortly after the incident rappelled down the cliff using his rope kit and helped extricate the victims from the wreckage, fire officials said.
Both victims were taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment and Figueroa was admitted for observation.
The driver of the Chevy van, Patrick Joerger, lost control of his vehicle after the initial collision and hit a truck towing a woodchipper in the slow lane, Barba said. Both vehicles slowed to a stop on the right shoulder, he added.
Joerger suffered minor injuries, authorities said, and the driver of the truck, a 47-year-old Ventura man, was taken to the hospital, treated and released. Alcohol or drugs are not being considered a factor in the incident.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
The St. Bonaventure Seraphs entered Peabody Stadium last night as the 38th ranked team in the country and looked every bit the part.
It didn’t matter whether they were fielding kick-offs, rumbling down the field on offense, or stifling Santa Barbara’s usually high-powered offense, the Seraphs established its stranglehold on the Channel League with a 51-21 victory over the Dons.
St. Bonaventure racked up 458 total yards to Santa Barbara’s 282, and rallied behind three touchdowns from Devon Blackledge.
But Blackledge wasn’t the whole story. Three other Seraphs piled on scores, and even when St. Bonaventure’s second-string offensive corps was in the game, yardage continued to pile up.
On the defensive side, the Seraphs successfully put pressure on Santa Barbara quarterback John Uribe, who was 26-of-55 with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Dons, who have averaged 33 points per game, tied its season low of 21, while the Seraphs, who have averaged 30.5 points per game, scored its season high against the Dons.
Santa Barbara head coach Will Gonzales said the theme of the night boiled down to the number of weapons standing on the St. Bonaventure sideline.
“They sure have a lot of athletes,” he said. “[We’re] playing an all-star team. That’s no joke. They got points every which way because they got athletes every which way.”
The closest Santa Barbara got to staying in winning position came in the first six minutes of the first quarter when they stopped St. Bonaventure after nearly intercepting one ball and forcing a fumble.
Santa Barbara punted the ball on its first possession, and with exactly six minutes remaining in the quarter, St. Bonaventure quarterback Logan Meyer found USC-bound running back Patrick Hall for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
On Santa Barbara’s next possession, the Dons rattled off nine plays, including a clutch fourth-down conversion, but ultimately turned the ball over while attempting to convert a second time on fourth down.
St. Bonaventure wasted little time making the Dons pay. Meyer handed off to Blackledge, who rumbled down the far sideline for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Seraphs a 14-0 lead.
With three seconds remaining in the first quarter, St. Bonaventure attempted to punt, but a botched snap gave Santa Barbara stellar field position at the Seraphs’ 30-yard-line.
On the first play, Uribe took to the air and found wide receiver Roberto Nelson in the end zone for Santa Barbara’s first score.
But just as the Dons looked to make a game of it, Blackledge fielded the kickoff at the St. Bonaventure 30-yard-line and dashed down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run, brining the score to 21-7.
The Seraphs’ second special teams score of the night came less than a minute later after the Dons punted the ball into the arms of St. Bonaventure wide receiver Isaiah Burton, who sprinted for a 65-yard touchdown.
St. Bonaventure head coach Todd Therrien commended his team for executing well on special teams, but said he wasn’t surprised.
“Every single on of our guys are a threat to score when they get the ball in their hands,” he said.
St. Bonaventure scored the last point of the first half with seven minutes remaining on an 8-yard run by Hall, his second touchdown of the night, which left the score at 34-7.
If the Dons were hoping to open up the second half with a statement, it didn’t work out.
On the first play, Uribe tossed an interception, which St. Bonaventure turned into a touchdown four plays later on a 1-yard run by Marcus Langkilde.
During the Dons’ next offensive series, Uribe was sacked twice before the Dons failed to convert on fourth down.
Asked if he told his team to focus on the dangerous passing threat posed by Uribe, Therrien said putting pressure on the quarterback is a priority every week, no matter whom they’re playing.
With 8:10 remaining in the third quarter Blackledge tacked on another score, a 29-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to 48-7.
On the Seraphs’ next possession, field goal kicker Derek Kirk came up short on a 49-yard attempt, which Therrien said would have been a school record.
The Dons came back to life at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Uribe found Nelson in the end zone again for a 12-yard touchdown.
Kirk redeemed himself on the Seraph’s next possession when he nailed a 38-yard field goal, which rounded out scoring for St. Bonaventure.
Uribe tossed his third touchdown pass of the evening, a 14-yard rocket to Kyle Leonard to leave the score at 51-21.
While there’s little doubt the game was well over at this point, Therrien put Blackledge back into the game, a decision that infuriated some Santa Barbara fans, and didn’t go unnoticed by Gonzales.
“I think they’re pretty much indifferent to the score,” he said of the Seraphs.
Asked about putting Blackledge back in, Therrien said two of his tailbacks got injured, and whenever he puts Hall into the game opponents get really mad, so he essentially had no other choice.
“You’ve got to have somebody [out there],” he said.
Despite the loss, Gonzales said he was proud of the Dons for showing some fight down the stretch.
“Although the score was lopsided, they didn’t quit,” he said. “And that’s all a coach can ask.”
With the win, the Seraphs, 7-1, remain undefeated in league play and will face Dos Pueblos in Goleta next Friday. The Dons, 3-5, will take the field next week against San Marcos at Peabody Stadium.
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
It took many years of planning, but officials unveiled a completely overhauled community clinic at the Franklin Neighborhood Center that now boasts expanded waiting areas and exam rooms.
Community leaders applauded the $1.14 million renovation as a much-needed upgrade in order to provide primary healthcare for the residents of the neighborhood.
“This is truly a community clinic,” County Supervisor Salud Carbajal said.
Approximately 75 percent of its visitors live in the area, he said, and many rely on the healthcare services offered, from pediatrics to urgent care.
Judy Stebbens, the clinic manager for the Franklin and Carpinteria centers, said the difference between the renovated clinic and its former self is night and day.
A year ago, patients had to cram into a small waiting room that only had 13 chairs, she said.
“People were standing in the hallway or sitting on the floor,” she said.
Now the clinic boasts a spacious waiting area with 30 seats and a separate waiting room for infants.
But perhaps the most visible change is the increase in exam rooms — more than doubling from three to eight rooms.
“It was just poorly designed,” Stebbens said of the old setup. “It was never intended to be a health clinic.”
With the increased capacity, she has already seen an increase in the number of patients, up by at least a third.
“I just think the word is out,” she said.
In addition to gutting a section of the 10,592 square-foot building, which was built in 1974, the redesign included new flooring, new lighting and decorative tilework.
Elliot Schulman, the county’s public health director, said in the years before the building was constructed, the clinic was housed in a trailer.
“This has been a long effort,” he said. “…It has gone through a number of iterations to get here.”
The demand for service at the neighborhood clinic is undeniable, he added, noting that the center logged 11,000 patient visits last year.
A former nurse at nearby Franklin Elementary School, Congresswoman Lois Capps said she has had a particular interest in the project.
“It’s always been a very important corner, a very important block,” she said. “…This is a lifesaver.”
She said she plans to use the community clinic as a model to show her colleagues in Washington, DC, how to provide critical healthcare to the most vulnerable in the community.
While Thursday's rededication ceremony brought out public officials and community members, Stebbens said the clinic has actually been open for several months, since construction wrapped up at the end of July.
“It’s surreal,” she said. “To see it come to fruition and to walk through the waiting room full of patients, it’s just so rewarding.”
BY CHERI RAE
After several mini-makeovers over the years, La Cumbre Plaza is now undergoing a dramatic facelift transforming it into something unrecognizable for many long-time Santa Barbarans.
The shopping center, once loaded with locally owned shops and affordable chains—where the middle class purchased practical items and might even have splurged once in a while—is now streamlined and spare, luxury and lifestyle.
The Plaza’s directory of stores equates consumers with their goods with its “The Life of Style” theme. Under the photo of a model sporting an emerald-hued top the copy reads, “I am smooth, and completely flattering. I am your fall jacket, and I am proof that envy comes in all shades of green.” Under the photo of a woman’s torso clad in a tight black dress and two thick ropes of pearls, the type states, “I am adored. I am priceless. I am your cherished necklace, and I show the world how precious you are.”
One little wrinkle remains: who will actually have the inclination—or the money—to buy anything there?
Fashnionistas like Sarah Palin and her pals wouldn’t bat an eyelash shopping for conspicuous consumables at Coach, Tiffany, or Louis Vuitton. The recent, extravagantly catered grand opening event for the luxury leather boutique featured champagne, silver and attracted guests who arrived in limousines. One of the newer shop windows touts its jewelry collection with the reassuring words, “…extreme elegance, detailed by hand…worth every penny.”
But the average Joe probably wouldn’t feel at home here anymore, unless he takes the family out for dinner at Pizza Mizza, or shops at the longtime anchor store Sears, the homegrown Outfooters or the packed-to-the-rafters toy outlet known as Kay*Bee. The humble part of the plaza is tucked away, and the shops are all clustered at the far end, away from where the chichi—or are expected to.
On two different occasions when I visited last week, I counted more fitness walkers and coffee drinkers than shoppers populating the ever-more-elegant emporium. In fact, during those two weekday visits, the place was as deserted as a schoolyard on a Saturday. To be sure, some of the emptiness might be attributed to the massive construction going on, transforming the last recent renovation from a warmer arts-and-crafts style to a sleek version of ubiquitous Southern California mall architecture reminiscent of Orange County’s Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
The plaza still hosts the Wednesday Farmers Market from 1 to 5; signs featuring sumptuous produce encourage shoppers to “think global, buy local and support local growers at the indelible Farmers Market.” The description of the event as “indelible” is puzzling, but perhaps a reassurance that it will not suffer the same fate as the long-running Art Walk—that was, in fact, removed from here, and has relocated to the Marketplace in Goleta.
Fifteen years ago, during the last economic downturn, I wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times about factory outlet shopping in Santa Barbara. The piece was so popular I expanded it into, “The Santa Barbara Bargain Book.” It was a slim, lighthearted volume dedicated to “the Santa Barbara shopkeepers and restaurateurs who strive to provide an alternative to Anywhere, U.S.A.” Every consignment shop, factory outlet, vintage clothing retailer, house and garden shop, eatery and entertainment venue listed was a locally owned business that offered good value for the money spent. Each was a distinctive part of a unique city where mom-and-pop could still pursue their dreams, and bargain hunters could stretch a dollar, meet some interesting entrepreneurs, and purchase some unique, distinctively Santa Barbara items unavailable anywhere else. The thrill of the hunt, in discovering out-of-the-way places and people, was part of the fun.
Today that out-of-print book reads like a catalog of broken dreams of the middle class.
Most of those establishments—and many of those who contributed to the book—are now long-gone. With rents too high and business too slow, they’ve given way to a collection of corporate-owned retailers, indistinguishable from one another, wherever they’re located.
This is a time when former shopaholics now proudly call themselves “recessionistas,” and adopt shopping habits to match. Financial guru Suze Orman counsels against the purchase of unnecessary luxuries, particularly expensive designer handbags. And local realtors send e-mail blasts about investing in foreclosed properties.
At a time when substance matters more than ever, the “Life of Style” currently promoted by La Cumbre Plaza is a classic case of misunderestimation, so to speak, of what most Santa Barbarans can afford. And can afford to do without.
BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Santa Barbara’s next generation of football talent is staking its claim as one of the best ever.
In the first eight games of the Youth Football League season, the Santa Barbara Chargers haven’t lost. Along the way, the Chargers have outscored opponents 306-18.
Even more impressive perhaps is the 25-member team has notched a couple of near-perfect games, during which defensive coach Anthony Giovanacci said opponents didn’t gain a single offensive yard.
“The kids are just more physical than any other teams around,” he said.
While the Chargers have seen success on the football field, it’s the determination the team of 12-,13- and 14-year-olds has shown in the classroom and during free time that impresses head coach Paul Espinosa most.
Since taking over as head coach in 1999, Espinosa said his focus has been on ensuring his team plays as one unit despite what side of town a player may live on.
And that’s not always easy, he said, noting that each year a new group of kids, some from Santa Barbara’s gang-riddled East and West sides, end up on his team.
“It’s both sides of town and now these kids are playing together as one,” Espinosa said. “I’m very proud of them.”
From poring over report cards to conducting meetings with parents, Espinosa said he and his six assistant coaches keep close tabs on the behavior of the athletes.
When disciplinary problems arise or grades begin to slump, he said team members sit out until the issues are remedied.
“We go beyond football,” Espinosa said. “They’re good kids. They’re staying out of trouble. They’re doing something positive.”
At a Chargers practice yesterday, Giovanacci said two players did homework instead of practice to bring their grades up.
The coach said he feels the Chargers and the Santa Barbara YFL league in general are successful examples of what young people can do when they’re provided opportunities.
Giovanacci reemphasized that the point goes beyond simply being great on the football field.
“Having a great football team is a good thing, but having these kids leave this team as great human beings is the ultimate goal,” he said.
Giovanacci pointed out the makeup of the Chargers is the same as those teens currently facing murder chargers for three recent gang-related homicides in Santa Barbara.
Even in the midst of such violence, he said it’s impressive these athletes have steered their young lives in the right direction. And much of that success could be the result of football.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these kids stay out of trouble,” he said. “[Coach Espinosa] cares just as much about their off-field behavior as their on-field behavior.”
Charger’s tight end Polo Torres, 13, said his favorite part about being on the team is playing football with friends.
Asked if the East and Westside gang rivalries negatively impact the team, Torres said it does not.
“It doesn’t really affect us because we play as one big family,” he said.
Coaching the Chargers is a longstanding family tradition for Espinosa, whose father coached the team from 1974 to 1999, when he took the reins.
During his father’s tenure, the 32-year-old Espinosa played on the team and said it was a valuable, positive outlet.
“It kept me entertained,” he said. Now “we’re trying to keep these kids as entertained as we can.”
That being said, the emphasis is still very much on football and having a good time. And so far this season, the good times have come at the expense of other teams.
As the defensive coach, Giovanacci said he feels the Chargers’ dominance on the defensive side of the ball has played a major role.
He said the intent is never to hurt anyone, but other coaches have criticized the Chargers for being too physical.
“In football, that’s the ultimate compliment,” he said.
The Chargers’ mettle will be put to the test this Saturday at Bishop Diego High School, where they’ll square off against undefeated Westlake.
Regardless of whether the Chargers finished the season undefeated, Espinosa said his squad has already been invited to a tournament in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend.
He said the only problem is funding. In order to make the trip, he said the team has to raise roughly $7,500 between now and then.
Espinosa said anyone interested in contributing to the travel fund could reach him through the Web site http://www.htosports.com by searching for Santa Barbara Chargers.
Giovanacci said it’s common at youth football games for parents to pass around a donation jar each time their team scores. The money goes to the program for equipment and travel, he said.
This year has been especially bountiful for the Chargers, but they’re still short on funds.
“We’ve scored so much that we’ve raised triple digits in one game,” Giovanacci said.
The Chargers’ game against Westlake starts at 3:15 p.m. and is free.
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy and several firefighters rescued two people after their car skidded off Highway 101 near Summerland and landed upside down near the train tracks, fire officials said.
At approximately 7:45 a.m., authorities said a collision involving multiple vehicles occurred in the southbound lanes of the highway south of the Sheffield Drive exit, sending a car over the side of the hill.
An off-duty deputy happened upon the scene moments after it occurred, in addition to two Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District employees on their way to work, said Charlie Johnson, a spokesman for the fire district.
“The off-duty deputy, upon learning that one vehicle had gone over the side, ran to investigate and saw a badly crumpled vehicle upside down on the railroad right-of-way and noticed an arm sticking out, waving for help,” Johnson said in a news release.
After grabbing his first-aid kit and rope pack, the deputy fashioned a rope system and rappelled over the side to reach the vehicle, authorities said.
Inside the wreckage, he found an 8-year-old girl and a 58-year-old woman, both conscious and alert, Johnson said.
“The young girl appeared to be uninjured while the adult female complained of back pain,” he said. “With the deputy’s assistance, the young girl was able to crawl out to safety.”
Two firefighters rappelled over the side moments later and helped extricate the woman, Johnson added. Both victims were stabilized on backboards and carried along the tracks to Lookout Park, where they were transferred into a waiting ambulance.
Johnson said medics took both patients to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for observation and treatment.
“It got a lot of attention early on and looks like it had a good outcome due to seatbelts being used,” he said.
California Highway Patrol officials did not have additional information they could release when reached yesterday afternoon. More details are expected to be released today.
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Education leaders, community members and parents in support of Measures H and I made their final push during a press conference yesterday, calling on the community to vote for both school-related taxes when they head to the polls next week.
If approved, the measures would assess a $27 parcel tax on homes in the elementary school district, located mostly in the city of Santa Barbara; and a $23 parcel tax on those in the high school district, which stretches from Montecito to Goleta.
Funds raised by the proposed taxes, approximately $2 million, would be used to bolster math, science, technology, music, arts and theater programs. Supporters said the measures are necessary given the economic climate and the state budget crisis.
“We are facing some difficult times at the state,” County Supervisor Salud Carbajal said, adding that he was speaking as the father of an 8-year-old boy currently in the public school system.
“More than ever we need funds like these to sustain our educational programs and institutions,” he said. “…We can’t invest enough in our schools.”
He said two additional elements included in the ballot measures caught his eye: an expiration date in four years and an exemption for senior citizens facing financial difficulty.
Campaign leaders said the measures also provide for annual independent audits and a citizen oversight committee to ensure the funds are used as planned — for programs rather than administrative costs.
While there is no organized group against either measure, several self-described taxpayers and homeowners — Richard Foster, Harry and Carmen Rouse, and Alwyn and Dolores Hartnett — authored a ballot argument against Measure H, the high school district tax.
“The Santa Barbara School District has a horrible record of delivering what they promise to do,” the opponents wrote in their argument. “Secondly, they have had years of chaotic, revolving door leadership. Thirdly, if this passes they will be back in four years demanding even more money while threatening to terminate your favorite program.”
In their statement, opponents cited increases in the superintendent’s salary while teachers were being laid off and improper use of Measure V bond funds in recent years as reasons for distrusting school officials. Attempts to contact several of the signatories were not successful.
Mark Ingalls, a member of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and co-chair of the campaign, said other than cases of scattered opposition, he has seen widespread support for both measures.
“It’s a very grassroots campaign, but again it’s a very grassroots issue,” he said. “…This sends a really strong message to our youth and students that education is very important.”
During a gathering at Santa Barbara Junior High School, several local leaders and community members also lent their support to the ballot measures.
Congresswoman Lois Capps noted three of her children graduated from the junior high, pointing out its architecture and recently refurbished Marjorie Luke Theatre as examples of how education has always been important to local residents.
She also described it as imperative that voters see the connection between public schools and the economy.
“If you are concerned about the state of our economy, and who isn’t these days, you should be exactly focused on passing Measures H and I,” she said.
Linda Phillips, president of the Santa Barbara League of Women Voters, also made note of the state budget struggles and said the two measures will help local schools make it through the next few years.
Describing how the taxes equate to between 50 cents and a dollar a week, Phillips said the social benefit of supporting crucial school programs far outweighs the cost.
“When my children were in the high schools here, they profited from all the programs this supports, from math and science to music and theater,” she said.
Measures H and I have received endorsements from the Santa Barbara Teachers Association, the County Democratic Central Committee, Partners in Education and numerous elected officials.
The measures will need to receive approval from two-thirds of the voting public in order to pass.
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
More than 700 cardboard cutouts of children blanketed the grass of the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens yesterday afternoon, a visual representation of the number of abused or neglected children countywide.
Held by the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the “Forgotten Children Campaign” rolled through Santa Barbara in an effort to raise awareness and inspire volunteerism for some of the most vulnerable members of the community.
“You don’t have to be a foster parent, we know that can be intimidating,” said Maria Long, executive director of Santa Barbara CASA. “You don’t have to be a CASA advocate.”
There are many other ways to support kids in need, she said, gesturing at dozens of organizations with tables set up at the courthouse — such as Noah’s Anchorage, Family Care Network, Angels Foster Care, and Child Abuse Listening and Mediation.
“We want people to understand more about the kids, to step forward and stand up,” said Michael Piraino, CEO of National CASA.
The need is certainly undeniable. CASA volunteers serve 156 youth locally, following them through the dependency system and advocating on their behalf. Another 136 children remain on the waiting list, Long said.
Foster care services are similarly overwhelmed. Some children are being sent to foster or group homes in Bakersfield, Fresno or Los Angeles because there aren’t enough local homes, she said.
Still, Piraino remains optimistic, stating that he believes the county will be able to meet the needs of every child in the community one day soon. However, it’s going to take the support of nonprofits, community groups and volunteers, he said.
“Government systems of child welfare, child protection, can’t do this all on their own,” he said.
Judge Jim Herman, the county’s presiding juvenile court judge, sees many of the children referenced yesterday on a daily basis — those abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents.
“A large number of the youth who come through my court end up in foster care,” he said. “They are sort of a hidden population in our community.”
He expressed hope that yesterday’s event would spur an upswell in volunteerism. His support for CASA volunteers is particularly strong; he calls them “angels” rather than advocates.
“They spend more time with the child than anybody,” Judge Herman said, describing how they find out about medical needs, hobbies, dreams and much more. “They bring me the whole child.”
As a result, he said it’s easier for him to make decisions about visitation rights, supervision or whether children should be returned to their biological parents.
Ultimately, he wants to see the campaign spark a greater understanding of the foster care and dependency system as well as an increase in CASA volunteers and foster parents.
Long first encountered the Forgotten Children Campaign during a trip to the nation’s capital in June, where thousands of cutouts had been set up near the Washington Monument in what turned out to be the inaugural display that is now working its way around the country.
She joined hundreds of other CASA representatives and carried a cardboard cutout on Capitol Hill, speaking with the nation’s leaders and asking for their support.
“That really touched me and I started thinking, how can I bring this here?” Long said.
A few months later, she watched as dozens gathered up cutouts at De la Guerra Plaza before setting off down State Street on a march to the courthouse.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Allegations of dirty politics, smear campaigns and election law violations are flying in Goleta as the race for two seats on the City Council enters its final week.
Two candidates, former Councilmember Margaret Connell and Planning Commissioner Ed Easton, filed a complaint with state officials yesterday alleging a political action committee has failed to file campaign disclosure forms required by law.
The group, known as the Coalition for a Healthier Goleta, has funded several campaign mailers and recently purchased a television spot attacking the candidacies of Connell and Easton.
While the two candidates certainly took issue with the claims in the advertisements — using terms such as “hatchet job” — Connell said the main problem is the coalition’s failure to provide information about its financial backers or its leadership.
“They must report who is financing their campaign and how they are spending their money,” she said. “This kind of outrageous flouting of the Fair Political Practices Commission rules makes for a sicker Goleta, not a healthier Goleta.”
Easton said the recently purchased TV spot is particularly mendacious, alleging it distorts Connell’s record, implies falsehoods and has no basis in fact.
“Seven days of this ad will sicken everyone,” he said. “…What’s worse is it’s done with anonymous dollars.”
As of yesterday afternoon, the coalition had yet to disclose contributions to its war chest for two consecutive filing periods. Election law requires groups to provide campaign finance information if they spend more than $1,000.
Calls made to Roy Zbinden, a former candidate for Goleta City Council and the only local contact listed for the coalition, were not successful. A woman who answered said Zbinden is out of town and had no way of passing along a message. She was not sure when he would return.
A San Francisco firm is handling advertising for the coalition and its treasurer is based in Los Angeles, according to Connell and Easton’s campaigns.
Connell said she doesn’t expect state officials to take any action prior to the election, but expressed hope that those responsible will be fined or dealt with appropriately.
Connell and Easton, who have emerged as a slate ticket of sorts against Councilmember Jean Blois and Goleta businessman Don Gilman, called on their opponents to condemn the actions of the coalition and urge its leaders to pull the advertisements.
Reached yesterday afternoon, Gilman said he has yet to see any new advertisements by the Coalition for a Healthier Goleta, but decried all negative attacks.
“I don’t approve of any smear campaign,” he said.
Gilman added that he doesn’t know any of the coalition’s leaders or backers. He did admit to shaking Zbinden’s hand at a campaign forum, calling that his only experience with the former council candidate.
“That’s all I know of him,” Gilman said. “I know nothing about the rest of it.”
Blois also denied knowledge of the coalition’s leadership yesterday afternoon.
“I know nothing about the committee,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t condone any group that wasn’t filing properly and reporting properly.”
Gilman countered any implication they were involved in the actions of the coalition by attacking other political action committees involved in the race.
Gilman cited a mailer he received yesterday from a group known as Friends of Goleta that portrayed Blois driving a bulldozer titled the “Development Express” over a pile of dirt labeled “Goleta.”
On the other side of the mailer, he said, is an endorsement of Connell and Easton.
“This ought to wake up some people as far as smear campaigns go, because it’s blatantly misleading and half-truths,” he said.
Blois said she has noticed an increase in negative campaigning toward the end of previous elections in Goleta’s short history.
“It’s just too bad when it gets nasty,” she said. “I would much prefer it if things were on more of a positive note.”
Nonetheless, she made a point to note several campaign contributions to Connell and Easton in recent weeks.
“[They] have raised an enormous amount of money,” she said. “Practically half of it has come from hotel owners, which is interesting.”
A review of campaign disclosure documents at City Hall confirmed the Coalition for a Healthier Goleta had not filed any forms.
Friends of Goleta — which ran advertisements and sent out mailers in favor of Connell and Easton — listed contributions of $9,274 and expenditures of $6,626.
Richard Whited, a commodities trading advisor at a Santa Barbara-based trading firm, is credited with making $6,200 in donations to the group.
Another committee, known as the Goleta PAC, reported receiving $39,800 and spending $40,155 this year — largely on mailers, advertisements and door hangers in support of Blois and Gilman.
Donations to that group include $10,000 from the Shelby Family Partnership, $5,000 from Irvine-based R.D. Olson Development and $1,000 from Pacifica Commercial Realty. Goleta PAC also received $3,000 from the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, along with $7,000 in non-monetary donations.
As far as the candidates themselves, Connell and Easton have raised more money this year than Blois and Gilman.
Connell reported contributions of $52,913, with $33,460 coming in the month of October. She has spent $38,000, leaving her with approximately $17,000. Significant donations include $10,000 from South Coast Inn, $3,000 from Pacifica Suites and $2,000 from Friends of Salud Carbajal.
Easton received $49,343 in donations including $31,475 this month, and has spent $40,682 on his campaign, leaving just under $10,000. South Coast Inn and Pacifica Suites donated $10,000 and $3,000 respectively, while Ramada Limited gave $2,500.
Blois brought in $13,098 this month for a total of $24,510 and spent $12,494. She drew donations of $1,500 from the California Real Estate PAC and $1,000 from the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast.
Gilman received $29,809 — with $18,323 pouring in during October — and spent $28,759. His donors include the California Real Estate PAC ($1,500) and the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast ($1,000), as well as Conquest Investments ($1,500) and the Santa Barbara County Firefighters Government Committee ($2,500).
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Santa Barbara city officials agreed to concede that a violation of open meeting laws may have occurred during a city committee meeting last fall, thus settling a lawsuit filed by Ampersand Publishing, the parent company of the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Attorneys for the publishing company alleged the city’s Transportation and Circulation Committee violated the Brown Act by discussing a matter not on its posted agenda — namely a redesign proposal for De la Guerra Plaza that the newspaper has consistently opposed on its editorial pages.
City Attorney Steve Wiley said the discussion was clearly inadvertent and innocent, but said the city decided to save itself the headache of litigation by admitting a possible violation.
“It’s better than wasting time in a lawsuit that really was unnecessary,” he said.
No damages will be paid in the agreed-upon settlement, city officials said, and each side is responsible for its own attorney fees and court costs.
Requests for comment from Ampersand attorney Barry Cappello were not returned yesterday afternoon.
Wiley explained the alleged violation resulted when a commissioner missed an earlier meeting during which the De la Guerra Plaza redesign project had been discussed and wanted to read his written comments at the next meeting.
While city officials can bring up topics not on the agenda to a certain extent, such as asking questions and requesting that staff members get back to them, Wiley said a judge might have taken issue with the discussion.
“It kind of got more problematic when some commissioners started answering questions and responding to him,” Wiley said.
He said mediation between the city and Ampersand occurred in late August and the City Council recently agreed to the proposed settlement.
Although Wiley declined to speculate about Ampersand’s reasons for bringing the lawsuit, he said it is clear “they don’t like what’s being discussed with the De la Guerra Plaza project.”
News-Press representatives have long been opposed to the redesign, stating their objections to its latest iteration during a Planning Commission meeting in February.
Closing the driveway loop through the plaza, as was proposed, would displace approximately 35 parking places, including those near the newspaper’s main office at the west end of the plaza.
After collecting feedback from a variety of city commissions and committees, redevelopment staff sent the project off to a City Council subcommittee for review earlier this year. It’s unclear where the proposed redesign stands now.
Wiley noted in a news release that the city strives to comply with the Brown Act during all public meetings. The city has more than 30 boards, committees and advisory groups consisting of local citizens who advise city leaders on policy decisions, he said, and some minor or technical Brown Act violations may unintentionally occur on occasion.
BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Santa Barbara police are on the lookout for a man who allegedly pulled a gun on unarmed officers during a routine probation search Monday afternoon and escaped with illicit drugs.
Authorities said Daniel Aguilar, 34, brandished a handgun at two county probation officers as they searched his girlfriend’s residence in the 200 block of S. Canada Street before leaving with a box of cocaine.
Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte, a police spokesman, said numerous officers and the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team conducted a lengthy search of the surrounding neighborhood but did not locate the suspect.
The incident began at approximately 6 p.m., when two uniformed probation officers visited the home of 30-year-old probationer Yvonne Mata in a mobile home park, authorities said.
After meeting Mata outside and entering the trailer, officers began their standard search and discovered marijuana and a locked metal box, Sgt. Duarte said.
Mata told the officers that her boyfriend, Aguilar, had the key to the container, police said. The 34-year-old arrived during the search and agreed to open the box, authorities said.
“Probation officers opened the box and realized it contained cocaine,” Sgt. Duarte said in a news release. “Aguilar immediately retrieved a handgun from his person and held probation officers at gunpoint inside the trailer.”
The officers continued speaking to the suspect and ultimately convinced him to leave, Sgt. Duarte said, adding that Aguilar took the cocaine with him as he left.
Police arrived on the scene shortly after being called by the probation officers and took Mata into custody for possession of a controlled substance for sale and probation violations.
As of yesterday afternoon, authorities were still looking for Aguilar. A $500,000 felony warrant is out for his arrest for assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, false imprisonment, possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of a handgun as a felon.
“Aguilar is considered armed and dangerous,” Sgt. Duarte said. “Anyone having information on Aguilar’s whereabouts is asked to contact authorities immediately.”