Coast is Not Clear, Say Environmentalists

“Disappointed but not surprised” was the general sentiment voiced by the several speakers in a press conference last Friday at Haskell’s beach. The speakers had gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the Department of the Interior’s decision not to grant the Gaviota Coast federal protection.

“The fact that the Bush administration has ignored us is not surprising,” said Edward Easton, conservation chair of the Santa Barbara Group of the Sierra Club. “It’s perfectly consistent with their assault on the environment.”

“I must say that I really didn’t expect much more from an administration with such a dismal record on protecting this country’s natural resources,” said Congresswoman Lois Capps in a statement read by a spokesman. “The Bush Administration has been underfunding our national parks, attempting to open our own Los Padres National Forest to new oil and gas drilling, and weakening a host of landmark enviromental protection laws.”

The Gaviota Coast, a 76-mile strip of coastline that stretches from Coal Oil Point in Isla Vista all the way to Point Sal on Vandenberg Air Force Base’s northern edge, is one of the last undeveloped segments of the California coast, and is home to many endangered species.

Capps, senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and local conservation groups such as the Sierra Club and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy have encouraged the government to build upon existing protections and enhance local programs as part of a “comprehensive strategy” to preserve the area.

A three-year, $150,000 feasibility study by the National Park Service (NPS) determined that coast was of “national significance” and merited permanent protections that would prevent development and urban sprawl.

Despite this recognition of the natural and cultural value of the region by the NPS, the Gaviota Coast will remain without federal protection.

Citing “strong opposition from study area landowners,” and that “NPS is not able to undertake new acquisition or management responsibilities of this cost and magnitude,” the administration recommended “no new Federal action.”

The study went further, citing “competing priorities in existing units and the need to concentrate on addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance.”

In other words, the proposed seashore faced overwhelming competition from existing parks, and the NPS had to catch up on repairs before taking on additional responsibilities.

“What the Bush Administration has done is enable this victory of private interest over public interest,” said Mike Lunsford of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy. Ariana Katovich of the Sierra Club asked, “(If) we have enough money to give corporations welfare, why don’t we have enough money to protect the environment?”

The Gaviota Coast already faces the possibility of high-density development at Naples and Tajiguas Ranch, with proposals of luxury-mansion subdivisions, and the pollution that comes from increased population.

However, according to its final report, the Department of the Interior did find that “the citizens and local governments of Santa Barbara County are already engaged in a wide array of local land protection efforts that have set a fine example for other parts of the country.

“These efforts have produced an outstanding record of locally based environmental protection by private individuals, organizations, and local public agencies.”

Thus, the NPS felt that the most effective way to conserve the resources of the Gaviota Coast would be to allow the local systems of protection to grow “without further NPS involvement.”

Despite their disappointment, the conservationists and supporters of an undeveloped Gaviota Coast did remain somewhat optimistic, and perhaps even more determined to preserve the area.

“The Gaviota Coast must now be protected by the people and the elected officials of Santa Barbara County,” said Easton.

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Fairview Gardens Thrown a Lifeline

City Council votes to give farm a year to correct code violations, replace housing for workers

For Javier Gomez Ochoa, farming isn’t a 9-5 job, it’s a lifestyle. He’s been a farmer at Fairview Gardens for 23 years, and lives with his family on the farm’s property, among the plants and trees he tends with great care.

“Farmers need to stay close to the land,” he said.

Fairview Gardens farm manager Toby McPartland agreed. “Javier and his family have been longtime stewards of this land and they’ve been feeding Goleta for many years,” he said.

Goleta’s City Council faced a tough decision Tuesday as it pondered how to deal with workers like Javier and his family who live in an unpermitted farm labor camp.

It voted unanimously to allow the farm workers to remain in their current homes for 12 months on the condition that the camp’s code violations be corrected.

After 12 months, the farm will be required to replace and relocate the camp with five yurts, mobile homes or permanent houses on the Fairview Gardens property.

The council expressed a willingness to work with the farm’s timeline, but also conveyed a stern expectation, which pleased many neighbors, many of whom said they felt ignored by the farm.

“We all know that Fairview Gardens is a teaching farm … What kind of lesson are they teaching? No one should be above the law,” neighbor Treva Yang said, one of more than 40 speakers to participate in the public hearing.

The long-standing issue, which was first reported in 2001, has left many of the neighbors frustrated at the city’s inaction with the camp’s code violations and living conditions. In turn, many of the farm’s devotees are concerned for the farm’s survival should the workers be relocated.

“Housing is a critical decision for these employees … we want to keep them on the property,” said Philip Seymour, the gardens’ land use attorney.

“There is a human element to this,” he said. “This is their home. We don’t know if we can find homes for these people” if they were to be relocated.

Several phases for the project were outlined by Steve Welton, Planning Agent for Fairview Gardens, clarifying the timeline for the council, which would have workers in new homes after 12 months, facilities annexed to the Goleta Water District and provide them with new kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Welton also implored the staff to allow Fairview Garden’s educational events, camp, community-supported agriculture tours and sales of offsite agriculture to continue while the nonprofit seeks permits for those activities. Those activities are critical to the farm’s mission, he said. Staff recommendations had included a cease-and-desist order for the activities.

The financial strain of creating new housing for workers on a nonprofit farm in such a tight timeframe was great, but Fairview staff was optimistic.

“We are confident we can pull this project off,” said Tynes Viar, director of development and sustainability for the gardens. He described a handful of grants that the farm is in the process of applying for.

Viar said the project dealt with sustainability, housing and even class. “All of the buzzwords are there,” he said.

But the stress of the farm’s financial need was clear.

“This job would be very easy to walk away from right now,” he said. “We’re here to farm … but the fact that we’re still here should say something about our dedication.”

The magnitude of the decision was not lost on the council.

“A lot of what we decide on tonight will have a critical effect on the survival of this organization,” council member Eric Onnen said.

He said he recognized that the farm depended on many of the other activities — cooking classes, sales of off-site produce, and donations — for much of its costs of operation. He had requested more financial information about the nonprofit at the May 6 council meeting, which has been provided and examined by the council.

Council member Jean Blois said she had read through the financial information as well. She remarked that the financial statements said that the farm had lost $71,000 last year, eliciting gasps throughout the chamber.

“Agriculture is a tricky business,” responded Seymour, who said the high number could be attributed to a low sale of asparagus and avocados, as well as the purchase of some new farm equipment.

Onnen challenged Fairview Gardens’ board of directors, saying that some of them had been serving more than 10 years and he wondered whether they would be able to implement change.

He said that a cease-and-desist order would take away more than 30 percent of the farm’s income. “It cannot be sustainable on onsite agriculture alone,” he said.

He challenged the gardens to evolve, for much was at stake.

Mayor Michael Bennett addressed both the neighbors and the farm. The mayor asserted that if the farm workers will be relocated, the farm will be out of business. He also reprimanded the farm’s representatives and told them that they broke the trust bestowed upon them. The mayor also added that Fairview can proceed as planned but they won’t be given a another chance.

Council member Jonny Wallis expressed a different perspective. “I’m not going to say, ‘You’re going to do it because you promised,’ but rather, ‘You’re going to do it because you must.’” She said it was the city’s turn to take on the responsibility of enforcement. “I think the weight of the city is on us,” she said.

She recommended that the gardens be granted expedited review from the Design Review Board, and that the DRB decide where the new homes should be located.

Onnen requested that detailed reports of the farm’s progress be submitted for accountability.

When he asked for a business plan from the gardens and minutes from the nonprofit’s internal meetings, Seymour said that a business plan could be accommodated, but asked that the minutes not be disclosed.

A formal public hearing in which the council will vote on the items agreed upon will take place in July or August.

General Plan amendments

The council began its final review of the “minor” proposed changes in the General Plan — those not requiring full environmental review.

The amendments remaining have been winnowed through public workshops and a grueling review by the Planning Commission. Most deal with land use policies, but others, such as public access to Haskell’s Beach and the use of “protect” instead of “preserve” in maintaining scenic views and allowing hotel condominiums have generated controversy.

Tuesday night’s hearing was brief. After short staff presentation council took public comment. The most illuminating came from developer Mark Linehan, owner of Camino Real Marketplace.

He said the floor-to-area requirements in the plan were unrealistic, and noted that, using the current guidelines, the building housing City Hall was twice as big as it should be, and Camino Real was only half as big as it could be.

The council will begin deliberating the Tract 2 amendments at its next meeting on June 17.

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UCSB Hunger Strikers Take Case to Regents

UCSB hunger strikers take case to regentsHunger striking UCSB students went to the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco on Thursday to protest the UC system’s involvement in nuclear weapons labs.

“We remain committed to withholding solid food until the regents retract their management of the weapons labs,” said Ellen McClure, a second-year UCSB student and hunger striker. “We are greatly inspired by, and appreciative of, all of the support we are receiving,” she said. One student had been hospitalized over the weekend, and later released.

Hunger strike organizer Andrew Culp acknowledges that getting their demands met immediately is “a long shot.”

“We’re interested in hearing what (the regents) have to say,” he said.

As of yesterday morning, Culp and 80 other protesters from UCSB, UCLA, UCSC, UC Berkeley and students and community members from the San Francisco area held a rally outside the UCSF Mission Bay Building. Dissatisfied with the limited public comment period and wary that they might not get their opinions heard, some of the strikers, Culp said, were “willing to put themselves in an arrest situation.”

At press time, 12 people had been detained for disrupting the Department of Energy presentation, “Transforming Complex 2030,” part of the plan to revamp plutonium bomb core pit manufacturing at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Several of the detainees are UCSB students, including fourth-year students Cricket Clarke, Adrian Drummond-Cole and Carleigh O’Donnell.

The UC system last year won a $15million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue managing the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore. Shortly after the announcement in March that the Livermore facility would start developing a new hydrogen bomb, the UC system and its private partners won another bid to continue its management of the laboratory.

“I’ve been with the UC for 35 years, since I was a student in 1972, and have great love for this institution. It hurts me that it’s involved with designing instruments of genocide,” said Tom Newman, UC San Francisco professor of epidemiology and a hunger striker. “Designing a new hydrogen bomb undermines if not completely violates Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The students participating in the hunger strike are also protesting Los Alamos’ plans to make plutonium bomb cores, the manufacture of which was halted in 1999.

“If UC were to withdraw its management of the labs, based on the fact that these facilities are pursuing illegal and immoral missions, then the legitimacy of this would crumble,” said Darwin BondGraham, a sociology graduate student who gave an informational lecture at a “teach-in” in front of Cheadle Hall Tuesday evening. “This would help the Congress to realize that a radically different path is necessary, one that focuses on disarmament, not new hydrogen bombs and plutonium pit production.”

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Mission Santa Barbara – a Jewel on California’s Central Coast

Mission Santa Barbara – a Jewel on California's Central Coast

One of the earliest structures built in Santa Barbara, the mission was the tenth in a series founded by the Spanish. Mission Santa Barbara is unusually large and is known as “Queen of the Missions.” It is a beautiful structure that is still used as a church. Full of Chumash Indian and early Spanish settler artifacts, this museum is a prime destination for many visitors to the Santa Barbara area.

Early Mission and Chumash Life

Mission Santa Barbara has excellent displays of the life of the Chumash and early settlers, such as a collection of original Spanish settlers’ tools. Especially interesting is a typical bedroom of one of the Franciscan settlers. The bed seems particularly Spartan by current standards.

The kitchen also has a variety of implements that date back to the early 1800s. According to an informational plaque, cooking indoors was typically done by women over hot charcoal. These authentic rooms help to give a glimpse of what life was like in the early days of the mission.

Courtyard with Fountain

The mission has two fountains, an enormous one in front of the structure, and a smaller one in a courtyard, pictured below. The courtyard contains a garden that was used for prayer and is filled with succulent plants such as hardy cacti and flowering plants that do well in drier climates. Tourists are not allowed inside the sacred garden, but one can sit on benches that surround it and admire the calming view.

Picturesque Church Graveyard

The church has an enclosed graveyard associated with it, where Friars and their relatives are still being buried. There are a number of mausoleums, one of which is shown below. Many descendants of the original founding families remain in the Santa Barbara area and wish to be entombed at this site. Also buried in the graveyard are 4000 Chumash Indians.

The Santa Barbara Mission Remains a Parish Church

Mission Santa Barbara

The Mission of Santa Barbara is a remarkable structure that is a popular tourist destination for visitors to the Central Coast and an active parish Church. With a stunning altar, one is forbidden to speak in the area of the building used for worship. The structure is an excellent museum of the life of the early Spanish settlers in the region and also showcases Chumash culture. The flier provided to those who visit the museum is a greatly informative source of information of the history of this remarkable Mission. A trip to this building is highly recommended if one is visiting Santa Barbara.

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