Abandoned Homeless Beach Camp Cleaned Before High Tide
By Heal The Ocean
An abandoned homeless camp surrounded by trash, bicycle parts, car batteries, flooded tents, and other offal became an eyesore on the “Graveyards” beach in Montecito, at the base of the cliff below the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Heal the Ocean got a call about it from a concerned citizen, on Thursday, January 7, 2020. It took all day Friday to figure out how we could legally do anything about it – one cannot remove a homeless camp in use.
Then we learned a King Tide, the highest and lowest tides of the year, would arrive along with high surf warnings on Monday morning(today, as this bulletin is being written) and Tuesday (January 11-12, 2020). The King Tide is about a foot or two higher than average tide levels. Knowing that everything in this camp would soon be swept to sea, HTO Advisory Board member Harry Rabin alerted HTO Executive Director Hillary Hauser, on Saturday, that something must be done about it.
Being Saturday, it was difficult, if not impossible, to reach any official for permission to clear out the wreckage. While Harry made calls to fire and sheriff officers for help, Hillary got on the phone to find a cleaning crew or junk hauler that could help to carry the stuff away, just in case we were able to act.
Harry Rabin is the real hero in this case – he refused to give up. (By 2 p.m. Saturday, Hillary despaired of getting help from anybody). Finally, Harry got the help of two County sheriffs, who came to meet Harry at the site, to inspect the camp, verify that it was abandoned, give the OK and then open the gate into the Clark Estate field for truck access to the camp.
By then Hillary had engaged Big Green to come with trucks and workers to do the bagging and hauling. (Big Green is under contract with the City of Santa Barbara to do beach cleanup work in this area, but the camp was on the County side of the coastline, and the County does not have such a program, nor the funding for such cleanups.) The workers at Big Green had been working all day, and some had even gone home for the evening. But they reversed gear and arrived en masse to the site and jumped into action. By sunset, the mess had been loaded into trucks and driven away – less than 48 hours before the high tide hit on Monday morning.
Hillary and Harry have joined a working-group organized by Santa Barbara City and County fire chiefs to work on the problem of homeless encampments in problematic and sensitive areas. For the fire chiefs, the big worry is about these camps starting fires that can become instantly threatening to the Santa Barbara community – city and county. HTO’s concern is that homeless camps – which have no sanitary facilities - should not be parked on beaches or near storm drains, in creeks, or other watersheds as they pose a risk to water quality and environmental safety.
Heal the Ocean gives big thanks to Mark Walker, the citizen who called us about the situation, and to the County Sheriff department as well as Big Green, for helping on such short notice.