Caltrans crews have been working to clear brush and dead vegetation along the Highway 101 corridor in Goleta.
The work began Monday in the area of Fairview Avenue to Los Carneros Road between the highway and the train tracks. The work will include tree trimming and pruning the remaining tree canopies. The project is expected to wrap up by Aug. 7 and may involve shoulder or lane closures to protect work crews, said Kelly Hoover, city spokeswoman.
The city of Goleta has provided Marborg containers to support the cleanup efforts.
“The vegetation removal will greatly reduce the fire load in the area and likelihood of a fire starting in the first place, and the new visibility through the corridor is expected to reduce the number of new homeless encampments being established,” Vyto Adomaitis, director of neighborhood services and public safety for the city of Goleta, said in a statement.
Several fires have occurred in the area in the past month that were associated with homeless encampments. The build up of dense vegetation, trash and debris has added a “heightened level” of concern as the city has seen “a proliferation of encampments” since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Hoover said.
“The danger is not only to encampment residents, but the larger Goleta community given the proximity to businesses and residences,” she said.
Due to the pandemic, crews will not be clearing or removing any homeless camps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance that homeless camps not be cleared to prevent potentially infected or ill people from being dispersed into the community. Those who reside in the camps were given advance notice of the work being done, Ms. Hoover said.
“The pandemic has complicated how these encampments can be addressed,” Mr. Adomaitis said. “Accordingly, we have modified our approaches, but we are continuing close coordination efforts with Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s office, Santa Barbara County Fire and other allied agencies to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the entire community.”
In a separate effort to reduce the fuel load in the area, Caltrans is providing trash bags for distribution to people living in the camps for their use to collect their trash and debris. They are requested to place their full trash bags along the shoulder of the freeway to be picked up on a weekly basis. The goal is to reduce the amount of trash, which would reduce the fuel load, Ms. Hoover said.