Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

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By Anna Marie Gott

Councilmembers, Commissioners and Board Members,

Have you noticed that Jill Zachary can't, or won't, give the public or the City Council a straight answer on when the swimming pool will be built if the Ortega Park Master Plan is approved without changes? Well, last night, from the proverbial horse's mouth, we have the "not to be shared with the community" answer.

Her estimate? It will be 8 to 10 years before a new swimming pool is built at Ortega Park. Yes, you read that correctly.

How do I know? Ms. Zachary disclosed this little tidbit to one of our City Coucilmembers, who shall remain nameless, that her best estimate is that it would take 8 to 10 years before a new pool is built at Ortega Park. 

Why? Between the grant and the lack of funding on the City's part the City won't have the money necessary to complete the project today. Preserving the historic and culturally significant cluster of murals, changing the location and size of the aquatics facilities, building a skate-park, and then completely refurbishing Ortega Park in one phase can't be done with such limited funds. This is why the Ortega Park Master Plan is in phases and the meager aquatics facility is "not part of the project".

So, if the funding won't pay for an aquatics facility and the City won't either. Who pays? That tidbit is interesting too. The "plan" is to have residents help fund the aquatics facility or wait years for the City to obtain another grant.  Now, isn't that a kick in the pants?

Now, if that isn't painful enough to hear, how does it feel to find out that there is a tiny asterisk denoting "hazardous material mitigation" that is currently unfunded. Yep, the cost is likely to go up once demolition and grading begin.

A swimming pool should have been included in the City's infrastructure decades ago. So, I'm betting that residents, upon hearing that they will have to pony up money for a pool while the Council orders the destruction of one, will cause outrage throughout the community. What do you think?

Speaking of costs, it would be less expensive if the murals were knocked down and the aquatics facility were left incomplete, which is what both the Parks and Recreation Department and the Save Ortega Park Arts Committee (SOPAC) is advocating. Knowing this, I have to question the sudden appearance of SOPAC when they crashed the April 24th Mural Workshop at Ortega Park where they advocated for the destruction of the murals in accordance with the Ortega Park Master Plan.

Stranger still, is that some SOPAC members apparently received a stipend from the City to show up at the workshop. Makes one wonder about who is pulling the strings behind the scenes especially when it looks like a City employee is behind all of this...

Right now, it appears that the City Council is damned if it approves the current plan and damned if it doesn't. 

Don't you think it would look bad politically to move forward with the current plan? I do and I'm thinking the dystopian scenario I described earlier of this week of residents calling for protests, resignations and then chaining themselves to the murals to save them can quickly become a reality.

There is a short time frame in which the City Council can take action to avert the looming PR crisis. Here are my recommendations to the Council to avoid one:

First, order a Special Meeting of the City Council or add this item to Tuesday's agenda in order to direct the Parks and Recreation Department to: Hold the necessary workshops to re-design the Ortega Park Master Plan in order to meet grant deadlines while leaving the murals in place, ensuring that residents have a natural grass soccer field, and including an aquatic facility that meets industry standards.

Second, order the Police and Fire Department and City Administrator to provide an estimate of the amount of funds the City spends annually providing services for alcohol related crimes. – It is now time to recover the costs the City spends annually to police the customers of those who profit from alcohol related sales.

Why am I recommending this?  The City needs to immediately fill the gap in funding in order to complete the new Ortega Park Master Plan in one phase. In order to do this, it needs to move forward with an alcohol ordinance and tax, if necessary, to recover the funds it spends annually on alcohol related calls for service. Why? It is currently estimated that this is 1/3 of the SBPD’s budget. - That's over $13,000,000 last year for the SBPD and doesn’t include the Fire Department.

So, with few actions and strategic decisions the City Council could reallocate what it spends annually to operate the SBPD back into community, recover the costs of policing the problems that business profiting from alcohol create which is equitable, and permanently change the way a large portion of the City's budget is used in order to fund future projects. Doesn't spending money on apprentice programs, homeless, health and wellness, affordable housing and other needed programs and projects sound grand to you?

This is an urgent matter to address and time is running out. I urge you to take or urge immediate action.

If after reading my letter addressed to the City Council you find yourself concerned about the Ortega Park Master Plan please take the time to send a quick email asking the City Council to take action on one, or both, recommendations I mentioned. Send your email to: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov, Clerk@ SantaBarbaraCA.Gov

Op-Ed's are written by community members. Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at ed@edhat.com. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.

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Lorax May 16, 2021 08:03 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I agree, Lose the skate park. Fund the pool ASAP. Keep the murals. That's the message everyone should be sending to the city council. This can be done in two phases, first the murals and then find funds for the pool and keep the grass and picknic tables in this park accesible to families, its their neigborhood.
Horified but not surprised the true stake holders, the neighborhood was not included in this Grant driven proposal, don't let the city get away with it. email the council
SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov, Clerk@ SantaBarbaraCA.Gov

coastalenquirer May 16, 2021 10:28 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Keep the murals. Lose the skate park. Fund the pool ASAP. That's the message everyone should be sending to the city council. Now: Clerk@SantaBarbaraCA.gov City council needs to do its job and step up for the community instead of letting city staff do whatever the heck they want.

banana May 16, 2021 11:02 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Ortega Park murals must be saved in the manner Manuel Unzueta and others who created and honor them believe is best. The murals are an important part of Santa Barbara's Cultural heritage. The educational, community stories behind these murals must be taught for this and future generations. This is part of the respect, honor, dignity, love, understanding, admiration and inclusiveness that uplifts those of this cultural heritage and enriches all the rest of us.
Build the proper swimming pool with or without grant funds. Keep real grass. It is good for the planet as well people. Stop paving over everything. Money is bad if the project it pays for is bad.
Alas, the City has another east side park project in the works. On May 22 and May 27. it is going to have "Open House" to supposedly get community ideas and for community to again get "potential plans". This time it's for the Eastside Neighborhood Park at Soledad and Yanonali where there is a playground, lots of oak trees and community garden. The claim is that it is "under utilized". Put any grant proposals , master plans or any other plans for this community park on hold until there can be a real community dialog about this beautiful spacious park. Otherwise we will be in the same fiasco with undemocratic, white privilege, top down staff dictating what is right for the east side community.

a-1621265931 May 17, 2021 08:38 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Pitmix, then may I assume that you have had the "privilege" of achieving a swim level that enables you to swim safely in the Pacific Ocean, waves, undertows, currents, rip tides, and all? Apparently, you assume that the entire community has enjoyed the same "privilege." May I ask how you came to develop these swim skills? Do you have an educated recommendation for how tens of thousands of low income residents might also reach this skill level, safely?

Bird May 17, 2021 09:11 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

It is easy to rope off an area or areas of East Beach for swimming lessons. There are very few (any?) rip tides off East Beach, ditto for undertows; the waves are mostly very gentle. This is scare-mongering.

"Tens of thousands of low income residents"???? There is a pool at SB High School -- effort should be put into having it open to the public on weekends or after school hours. Los Banos is often under-utilized, or so it looks.

PitMix May 17, 2021 09:50 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Just saying, between the Y and Los Banos, you have choices to teach your 3 yr old to swim. But with our ocean, you don't need a much pool surface area per resident as a landlocked midwest city with a cold winter.

a-1621275967 May 17, 2021 11:26 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Cold water pools (78-80 degrees) are used for swim competition. Warm water pools, actually cold to the skin, are 82-84 degrees. They are considered appropriate for swim lessons, novice swim team, senior aerobics, and recreational swim. The Pacific Ocean off our coast is 55-65 degrees. This is far from the industry standard for most aquatic uses.

Ahchooo May 17, 2021 10:01 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

West Beach, near the harbor, is very calm and makes for easy swimming. However, I’d prefer my children start in a pool with defined edges and clear water so the lifeguard can see well. There are no lifeguards at West Beach.

PitMix May 17, 2021 11:12 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

8:38, I learned to swim in the ocean and lakes just like everyone did for most of recorded and unrecorded human history, and still do in unprivileged places that can't afford pools. It's possible, but very very scary for people like you.

sacjon May 17, 2021 11:23 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

PITMIX - who taught you in the ocean or lakes (lakes are a HUGE difference from the ocean and we have no lakes here)? Parents? Paid swim lessons? Ever think that many of the people relying on these pools for their kids to learn safely how to swim, are not strong swimmers themselves? If you're not a capable swimmer to begin with, how are you expected to teach your toddler to swim in the ocean? Also, why so defensive?

a-1621276110 May 17, 2021 11:28 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Pitmix, the current ocean temperature is about 62. That combined with the wave action makes it very difficult to teach a novice to swim in the ocean. Use your brain man!

bosco May 17, 2021 12:16 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

As a former collegiate swimmer, swim coach, lifeguard, and swim instructor I am shocked this is even a discussion. A swimming pool and the Pacific Ocean are in no ways similar. To even try and make that argument is completely idiotic.

a-1621279894 May 17, 2021 12:31 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Very few area residents can afford gym memberships, and very few can manage driving the family to the YMCA even if they got a scholarship. They need accessible aquatics facilities.

Ahchooo May 17, 2021 02:06 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Pitmix, you are right that people can learn to swim in the ocean. But they are much less likely to than if they have a heated pool. Ideally every elementary school student would get lessons in a pool. Then they could safely do ocean sports for the rest of their lives.

bosco May 17, 2021 02:01 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Please explain to me how murals painted on the side of bathroom wall can't be repainted and have the park maintain it's cultural significance? These were painted in 70's. It's not like we're talking about cave paintings here. Are there cultural advocates using these murals as "cultural education". I visit the park often and I've never seen people talking about the murals to their children or stand and admire their "cultural significance". It was only when talk of them being taken down did people take notice. The only people actually admiring these murals in person are the homeless people that occasional use them as a urinal.

sacjon May 17, 2021 02:11 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

BOSCO - so because you have never seen parents standing in front of the murals "teaching" their kids, it means it never happens? Given your obvious whiteness and stick up your a$$ness, I highly doubt you "visit the park often." Quit lying.

bosco May 17, 2021 02:40 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Not surprising someone pulled the race card. I live a couple blocks away and use the park with the dog and kids. Mostly the fields but occasionally I take the kids to the playground when it looks like there are less vagrants around. While it's gotten better over the last few years, it's still not a safe park. You don't see very many families using it. It's mostly homeless people and a few teens playing basketball. Please, educate me on how the locals use the murals to further the cultural education of the community. Does the Junior High take classes to the murals as part their cultural education program? If so, that would be news to me. Last I checked you need people to use the park before for it's art to be seen, let alone appreciated. An aquatic center would bring people from all over the community to a place where newly recreated murals can be appreciated while providing a much needed service. Please educate me on how this can't be done with recreated murals.

sacjon May 17, 2021 02:44 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

BOSCO - again..... do you honestly think because you've never seen it happen, it doesn't? I speak to my kids about art in our community they have seen all the time and not when we're standing right in front of it. Heck, we look at photos of art online and talk about them. I know when I was a student at SBHS, we discussed those murals. So, again.... stop thinking your eyes reveal all there is to know about a subject. It's clearly not true.

bosco May 17, 2021 03:05 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

All I'm saying is I don't see the park being fully utilized (other than weekend soccer games). If these are truly that important, then the local schools should be taking students to visit them (SBJH is a short walk away). I'll gladly eat my words if the SB Junior High or SBHS incorporate these murals in their curriculum. Look, I'm not against preserving cultural heritage or even these murals. I strongly believe (as many here do) that a pool is needed and would bring new life to this park and provide a service to the community that doesn't exist. There are ways to preserve cultural heritage even if the murals are removed. The aquatic complex should take priority and the murals can be recreated.

dukemunson May 17, 2021 03:06 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

The benefit of a community pool and park that people actually want to go to and use seems to be the paramount point here. The murals are interesting, but the oldest is 40 years old and they've apparently all been altered, with some completely painted over. As such, let's incorporate some new and long term murals into the new project and create something that's a lasting benefit for all...

a-1621289486 May 17, 2021 03:11 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Bosco, I think it would be productive to admit that you've got a learning curve ahead of you. To put yourself in another man's shoes (so to speak) takes a conscious effort. It can be an enlightening and rewarding process. There is value hidden beneath what you can perceive, for reasons you cannot yet understand.

bosco May 17, 2021 03:40 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

If we can preserve both, great. But no one has yet explained why cultural preservation is depending on these original murals. Why these murals can't be recreated in a way that the community maintains it's cultural history? I'm sure there are plenty of local artists willing to create new art with these murals as inspiration for a park and aquatic center that the community so badly needs.

We all have learning curves in life. I will gladly admit I don't know everything, but that doesn't mean you do either. For everyone attacking me, take a step back and see the bigger picture. Often in life you have to make compromises to make progress.

dukemunson May 17, 2021 04:24 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I think we just see long term value and purpose for the whole community with another aquatic center. The murals aren’t that old and have been constantly Changed and altered.... so... let’s find a new spot and incorporate it into a full community benefit. Basically let’s not let an outraged few stop a huge community benefit for many...

a-1621284077 May 17, 2021 01:41 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Advanced civilizations see value in "the arts." These murals are not only significant, to Chicano, Latino, and indigenous groups, but to the greater community as well. Respect and appreciation for culture that is not one's own is a desirable trait in our society.

aderade May 17, 2021 11:52 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

We can save the murals AND make room for a usable aquatics facility that will facilitate a community-wide emphasis on both water safety and water sports. We live in southern California. Our local aquatics "facilities" are, quite frankly, pathetic given the importance of water safety alone, not even taking water sports into consideration! The City, not shockingly, has been trying to pull a fast one over on the community. Call them out! Check them on their ignorance and hunger for power via manipulation of the system that appointed them! Their motivations are political. Our motivations are based on community need. We can save the murals AND build a pool that will actually be beneficial to our local community.

SBCountyLocal May 18, 2021 06:35 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

>31% of the City's 2020 Fiscal Budget was spent on the Police Department. That is >$45M. With about 30% of that budget going to deal with police activities related to alcohol related crimes. That is about $13,500,00 that could be spent on other community projects IF an alcoholic ordinance or tax was approved to recover the costs the City occurs just for the Police Department. - That doesn't even include the Fire Department or other departments like the Library or Parks and Recreation when they deal with homeless patrons who abuse alcohol. Don't you think we need such a cost recovery plan? I do.

Transparent May 18, 2021 06:55 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Do you know how many meetings over the years we have had on the Master Plan? Consultants? Surveys?

A giant regional pool complex at Ortega (which is what the author here wants) has no funding behind it, no process behind it, the neighbors don't want it, the park is too small for it, and it's a worse "neighbor" facility for the school than the current Master Plan proposal. It's insulting that folks want to throw away years of input and planning because it's not what /they/ want.

A small, appropriately sized pool that's consistent with all that planning is a MUST... If the author were merely insisting we get it funding and make it happen faster, we'd be in complete agreement. If that's the entire ask, I will apologize for being confused and move on and support my other vocal neighbors.

But, to my understanding, that's not at all the author's agenda. Accusing other folks (like me!) who've expressed their opinions in public meetings of being a paid-actor for govt shills because my opinion isn't yours is a wonderful way to make enemies out of allies. And to look untethered. The squeakiest wheel isn't always the role one wants to play.

a-1621404594 May 18, 2021 11:09 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

The problem is, the same handful of people, meeting after meeting, did not know what the community at large wanted. I understand your indignation because you wanted what you wanted to be pushed through. What power you must have felt. And now the community at large has taken notice. How frustrating for you!


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