Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

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By Anna Marie Gott

As a result of the Loma Fire the City Council is having a Special Meeting tomorrow at 6:00PM. The topic? Considering Emergency Actions To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas. What does that mean?  Clearing the homeless encampments along the railroad tracks, off ramps, hillsides, creeks and sidewalks due to the fire risks and rehousing them elsewhere.

The big question is: Where?

Right now, the City is eyeing the Carrillo Castillo Commuter Parking Lot again. This time it will be a mega encampment instead of a "Tiny Homes for the Homeless" project, which residents successfully halted a few years ago. In my opinion, the plan is much worse and there is absolutely no guarantee that the operation will cease after the fire season.

That said, we do need to clear the encampments due to the fire risks. To do this an emergency order must be passed and sites need to be identified to re-house those from the encampments. The emergency order is easy. The hard part is finding a location where the homeless people can be relocated and where they will stay put.

Why? Apparently if the location is too far away from their regular haunts they may not be willing to stay at any of the locations the City wants to set up to house them. On the other hand, how many of us want a City Park or another property in the middle of a neighborhood turned into a mega encampment?

The Council will want to use a City or County property. That said, ideal locations would include: a kitchen, bathrooms, a large space for indoor housing, office space for services, space for mobile showers and a laundry, and perhaps even spaces for tents in a parking lot. If a building wasn't available then the space would have to be large enough for a mobile kitchen, bathrooms, mobile showers and a laundry, tents and space for services. - A large parking lot or grass area will be needed for any location without a building.

Prime locations where we have the facilities or land for operations of this nature include:  

  1. City Hall's parking lot,
  2. The City Planning Department's parking lot,
  3. The Public Health Department off of Hollister,
  4. The Veterans Hall on Cabrillo,
  5. The Elephant Bar off of Hollister,
  6. Any of the City's parking garages,
  7. The Garden Street parking lot,
  8. The Clark Estate, which has a huge lawn and is remote, and
  9. Our City Parks parking lots

Of note, there are over 900 homeless individuals in the City with ~75 age 18-23. There are some families too. So, we will need to open multiple locations throughout the City for distinct homeless populations.

With this said, one area where we should not place more homeless shelters is District #1 until each District has opened its own encampment shelter. Why? District #1 already has two shelters. PATH on Cacique and the United Way on E. Yanonali St.

In my personal opinion the City should avoid PATH as a partner in any location. Why? This is based on the multi-years long problems residents have had with their facility and their lack of compliance with the conditional use permit.

What would I advocate for? I ranked my list from top to bottom and the 1st location I would like to see with an encampment is City Hall. 

Topic: Emergency Actions To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas
When: Tuesday, May 25th @ 6:00PM
Email: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov, Clerk@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov

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PitMix May 26, 2021 01:28 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Our share of the homeless is (# of homeless)/(US pop) * (SB County Pop) = 554000/340000000*446,500 or about 728 people. How about we provide services to all of the people that are from SB Co, and then the most needy, up to 728, and then bill the towns the other people came from for their services for anything we spend above this? Mr Carbajal should be trying to get us reimbursed for this extra money but it is much more convenient for national politicians to pretend it is a local problem, not a national one.

Escrubjay May 26, 2021 01:07 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

I watched the whole council meeting yesterday and I was so disappointed that nothing came out of it but a discussion of what has already been discussed. I was really hoping that they were going to announce a site or sites that will be used for the monitored homeless camps and dates for when the camps were going to open. Nothing. They talked for over 2 hours and came up with nothing.

a-1622079654 May 26, 2021 06:40 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Agree with you escrub jay! What was also interesting was the Noozhawk article focused near entirely on what Harmon said and on what A. Gutierrez said ---she spoke near the end, saying very little, but accurately quoted. Councilmembers Jordan and Friedman spoke much more but weren't quoted. Molina is a good reporter but in council meetings he is wowed by both Harmon and A. Gutierrez with the result that the overall report is not an accurate representation of the meeting.

SantaBarbaraObserver May 26, 2021 01:01 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

We are a small city. Our population is <100k. It is not a small city's duty or responsibility to house and care for people at large. This is simply not the responsibility of a city of our size it is the responsibility of the State and Federal government. We SB residents already spend a sizable amount of our tax dollars supporting people and property, gifting housing to a few lucky folks while removing acres of land from the market is a big part of the city's housing woes. --------------------- --------------------------- What we locals need to do is make it as inhospitable as possible for vagrants and bums to be here. As far as the illegal camping goes: Plant cactus, roses, bougainvillea, etc. in all the camping locations, add rocks and gravel where needed and keep them clear of tents and trash. Not only will it look better, it will remove their shelter. Enforce trespassing laws and public nuisance laws. But most importantly, stop the handouts and free services. Make it as difficult as possible to be a bum here and the bums will move on. The more we provide services and freedom for these bums, the more bums we have. Remember, the bums want their lives to be easy but as most Santa Barbara residents know all to well, living in Santa Barbara is anything but easy.

edney May 26, 2021 12:32 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

If you put the homeless in the Sears building you will destroy the restaurants and retail there.
Cars will be broken into, restaurant patrons harrassed for money, the stores will be shoplifted into poverty and the store owners will become homeless too.

LA rented a bunch of hotels for the homeless and paid $100HR for security staff.
The homeless folks propped the doors open so people could engage in prostitution in the rooms, drug dealers walked down the halls with drug menus. People were stabbed and shot. Nice accomodations mean nothing to some people and those folks won't modify behavior.
The accomodations and locations need to be gauged to the lowest common denominator, until folks are sorted out into low, medium, high risk

Voice of Reason May 26, 2021 11:39 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

In Los Angeles, city officials grappling with an ongoing homelessness crisis have turned to an idea that for decades was politically unpopular and considered radical: a government-funded tent encampment.

Other cities, including San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa, Fla., have opened similar programs in recent years. But the high public cost of LA's first sanctioned campground — more than $2,600 per tent, per month — has advocates worried it will come at the expense of more permanent housing.

https://www.npr.org/2021/05/25/999969718/high-cost-of-los-angeles-homeless-camp-raises-eyebrows-and-questions

SBLetsGetAlong May 26, 2021 11:25 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Shocking that after the 2018 declaration of emergency regarding housing and receiving millions in grant money that 3 years later the City declared another homeless emergency.
And yesterday’s meeting shows that they have put zero thought into the issue in those years.
Way to go! You’re definitely not getting my vote.

Byzantium May 26, 2021 10:36 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

What part of turning high value oceanfront real estate like the Clark Estate into a national vagrant magnet makes sense? I am missing something. Re-location of vagrant camps is not our problem; it is their problem. They came here under their own power, and they can leave the same way they came. Haul in the welcome mat.

Minibeast May 26, 2021 09:03 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Ban wood burning City-wide. No burning wood in our parks, out in the scrub, or in fireplaces, barbecues, fire pits, chimineas or any place within the City limits. Stop the sales of bundles of firewood outside stores and cords of firewood online. SBPD and Fire Dept. will strictly enforce the no wood burning ordinance. ------------This helps in three major ways. 1) Far less risk of house fires and encampment fires raging out of control. 2) Healthier, cleaner air for us all. 3) Helps combat Climate Change. And a 4th benefit: Advertising to tourists that our City is smoke-free.

SBTownie May 26, 2021 09:13 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

You're not wrong. Wood burning is a major source of particulate pollution. Backyard smokers, etc. too. I don't mind if it's occasional, but we have some serious wood burners in our area who for 6+ months out of the year combust wood on a daily basis and my air quality meter can literally show exactly how and when it affects the PM count. Currently the city is more interested in banning natural gas, which I personally feel will lead to further wood combustion via fireplace, fire pits, etc. We'd be better off if these were gas installations. Places like Alaska, the UK, and Scandinavia (Copenhagen had such a bad problem with trendy new wood burning fireplaces that they contemplated paying residents to give them up) have severe pollution issues from wood burning. New wood burning "stoves" (really more like a fireplace that warms your home) became a major trend in the last decade and people started installing them en masse. Many of the fireplaces falsely advertised that they combust "cleanly," when really they're spewing particulate matter. I wish people understood air pollution more. We seem to think of it as a car exhaust or smoke-belching factory problem when really households are contributing greatly to the quality of air in their own areas - laundry exhaust, household cleaners (VOCs), home smoking projects, wood-burning fireplaces, etc. can all substantially and negatively alter the local air quality in a given neighborhood. This has very, very real effects on the health of residents both in the immediate and long-term.

fewtile May 26, 2021 08:51 AM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

The Clarke estate is Santa Barbara property; and utilizing it for the homeless isn't really such a bad idea; it could very well be attractive to the homeless. It would also put pressure on the Estates guiding body to actually do something with the property, instead of letting it molder and use it only for Fundraising parties for the local elite. (moving the homeless closer to Montecito might shake things up a bit more too)

a-1622001055 May 25, 2021 08:50 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

If you provide temporary shelter, you get to sidestep the CDC guidance, the Boise decision, and order people out of the encampments. That's how we get ourselves out of high fire danger from encampment fires. The stellar performance last week should not provide a backstop to avoid dealing with the persistent threat posed by encampments. The CDC is in Atlanta - it doesn't burn down on a regular basis like California. They never had to contemplate this threat. If city leaders were on their game (and they're not, but one can hope) they could use this to really accelerate progress on getting people out of homelessness, and start working to functional zero, when homelessness becomes rare, and is turned around fast.

a-1622000189 May 25, 2021 08:36 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Thanks to Anna Marie Gott for this. This fire was started by a homeless arsonist, not by an encampment resident. An important start would be to clear the brush. Perhaps it would be helpful to clear the encampments of brush and make the locations clean and safe and allow a limited number of people to live there. And also use public parking lots. The City Hall parking lot makes sense; it doesn't serve many businesses; also, the County parking lot would make sense. But does Santa Barbara want to have semi-permanent tent camps in its downtown?

a-1622002498 May 25, 2021 09:14 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Interesting that councilmember Harmon supports the City Hall parking lot but her reasoning was odd: she seems to think that that lot belongs to the Council and that having it used for homeless shows that "we", the council, is giving up what is theirs. BUT that parking lot belongs to the city residents NOT just the councilmembers and staff who park there. Sounded like grandstanding by her. Jordan's suggestion of the downtown Staples building is good.

LincolnLady May 25, 2021 08:11 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Thanks for the article, Anna Marie. I like JB86's idea about hiring some of the homeless to clean up the overgrowth. A-1621983703, good idea too. Settling these people near El Sueno would work the best for the homeless (and all of us), due to the multiple resources available there. Just keep them out of the county dump or they might get sick. Las Vegas has had a homeless program that has worked. Check this link: https://www.clarkcountynv.gov/residents/assistance_programs/homeless_help.php.

edney May 26, 2021 12:13 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

If you hire them, they have to test sober every day, twice a day (so they don't come back from lunch high or use heroin in the toilet.)
You have to insure them via Workers Comp and Liability like any other employee and I am confident that more than one will develop a permanent back injury.
Liability is another issue that arises... hells bells, they are already setting fires by accident, who is going to insure that?
I've worked with homeless people who were brought in to do pick up and clean up before.
They accomplished very little, show up late, they argued over everything, they fought. One guy showed up to work late on a stolen scooter, and was being chased by the cops. He ditched the scooter in Casa Dorinda old folks home and tried to blend in with his fellow clean up workers. He also failed a field sobriety test. At 8:30AM.
Even if you could fire them, it would take courage because they will try to hit you with a rock, stick, whatever.

Even inmate work camp guys don't want to clean homeless trash.

City of SB put out a request for proposal on homeless clean up and you should read the scope of work. Its a nauseating list on paper, plus there will be maggots and flies everywhere

chico berkeley May 26, 2021 02:02 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

With you on that Roger
The thought of using that estate I used to care for as a subcontractor, is nauseating.
I suspect the person who said that has no Idea of the history of the estate and what it meant almost 100 years ago. It was an incredible feat that even today would be hard to copy.

JB86 May 25, 2021 07:05 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

All well and good to relocate to safe spaces, but we know some homeless won't go for it and continue to camp. How about a serious effort to abate fire hazards by clearing undergrowth all along the 101? Is that too simple and low-tech for the sociologists steering homeless policy? I know, such an effort would not support hiring more social workers, psychologists and administrators. My landscaper knows exactly how to address this, for $25 or less an hour. In fact, maybe some of the homeless could be hired for this work?

SBTownie May 25, 2021 05:08 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Open the lots. Let's open as many lots as it takes to assert that we provide "reasonable alternative accommodation" for these people (the requirement of the 9th circuit court ruling stating you can't eject people from public land without this) and then force them into these designated areas. Hygiene services will be provided. Beyond that, you're on your own. Without these lots, nothing will ever be done. We are not going to build thousands of units of housing for these people, nor should we. Due to the court ruling, this is basically our only option.

Transparent May 25, 2021 04:22 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Thanks Anne Marie. I agree with most and thank you for raising this, wow! (Even if you won't agree with my thoughts.)

We need to pick a place with security and rules that are strictly enforced and followed. We can then rigidly enforce laws and move encampments out of ALL other places, because we will know there is an appropriate, humane, and helpful option.

Now, we know that MANY of our "unhoused neighbors" won't use it, well, because their "lifestyle," beachfront views, and preference is to engage illegal behavour. For those folks, I say tough nuggets. Go to a different town, or possibly to jail... but no more camping in prime real estate, ruining our parks, scaring off our tourist economy, and nearly burning down the city 3 times a day. The homeless that want a hand-up, we are THERE FOR YOU. For the homeless who want handouts and illegal recreation/occupancy, no patience from me... We need to Stop The Enabling!

a-1621983703 May 25, 2021 04:01 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

City Hall parking lot (not De La Guerra plaza) would be great! So would the County's main building parking lot on Santa Barbara St / Anacapa St. The BEST spot would be all the empty parking at County Public Health / Behavioral Wellness off El Sueno Rd. The jail is right there (in case things get out of hand), a 7/11 up the road, and all the services people trying to get out of homelessness actually need.

Chip of SB May 25, 2021 03:55 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

I’m glad the city is finally looking to do something about the “homeless” population. I’m also very dissappointed they are only planning to move them. The city is not planning to discuss doing anything to address the addiction and mental health issues that are the root cause of “homelessness.” It is also interesting that the city is not planning to do anything to address the fuel problem. Even if the city manages to move the “homeless” out of the fire prone areas they have identified, these areas will remain fire prone. Why can’t the city come up with a plan to make the fire prone areas less fire prone, like clearing all the fuel? I predict the city’s effort will accomplish nothing.

a-1622003745 May 25, 2021 09:35 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

The law says they cannot deny people the right to sleep in public. It does not say they have the right to sleep anywhere in public. The city and county absolutely can move them out of fire prone areas and into parking lots or sidewalks or airport property. Put them in a hangar with a coupe of portable toilets and some food vouchers.

Byzantium May 25, 2021 05:39 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

We have two local state legislators (Limon and Bennett) - their job is to write necessary legislation. What is on the books is not working. They are responsible for changing this. Hold them and their next re-election accountable, until they make necessary changes.. We elect our representatives to do the people's will; not become their capricious victims. Nor is any lower court decision ever the final answer. SB must join or lead a consortium of other communities and appeal this very recent and arbitrary unfunded 9th Circuit court mandate. They have a reputation for being the most over-turned court jurisdiction in thee country which means many of their "decisions" simply cannot pass legal review.

bosco May 25, 2021 03:20 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

How about outside of city limits? If that doesn't work than I say we disperse them around San Roque, the Mesa, Hope Ranch and the Riviera. Maybe it will help drive housing prices back down to earth.

Remember, if you build it, they will come. District 1 has born the brunt of this due to the idiotic decision to place homeless shelters on the waterfront.

mp805 May 25, 2021 02:56 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

Thank you as always for the info Anna! I remember when you had the op-ed regarding the tiny homes in the parking lot of Carrillo Castillo Commuter Parking Lot and how we came together on that issue. I think creating a space in the city hall parking lot would greatly accelarate a solution. :) I know its not a city owned spaced but the sears building is empty right now with a large parking lot.

Byzantium May 25, 2021 09:31 PM
Council Meeting Tuesday: Emergency Action To Abate Encampments In Fire-Prone Areas

County wanted to rent the Sears Bldg as an overflow "covid" medical site for a million dollars a year. Cheaper than current costs to the community letting this issue run amok. And when this medical care site is full, the city puts up the biggest NO VACANCY sign so even the 9th Circuit Court can read it.

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