My family moved to Santa Barbara in 1960. That date sounds like such a long time ago, and it is. I was a young kid then and of course didn’t pay any attention to politics. My focus was having fun and surfing.
But I do remember the city back then. Even at 10 years old, I would ride my bike everywhere.
I would bike from upper State Street out to the Goleta Pier and go fishing. Or to the Santa Barbara Harbor and do the same. Or duck into The Granada and watch movies all afternoon. (They had double features then with opening cartoons.)
Never once was I concerned about any kind of danger. I never gave it a second thought of being confronted by a screaming homeless guy. Sure, Santa Barbara had its crime and occasional homeless, but nothing like it is today.
Four years ago, my wife and I moved to Santa Ynez and never looked back. It’s wonderful to go through two stop signs to visit the doctor or grocery store or go out to dinner. It’s great to spend a Saturday morning at a local farmstand (pre-COVID), have scones and share the beginning of a new day with friends. And there’s zero homeless.
So I was blown away when I recently went to downtown Santa Barbara.
I had to take care of some business at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum and was stunned pulling into the parking lot seeing all the tents lined along the fence. I mean really blown away at the blatant in-your-face camps. The “residents” went about their business and never gave it a second thought they were illegally camping in the middle of the city.
I was further blown away when I got back on the freeway at Castillo Street and saw even more camps souring Santa Barbara’s landscape. I didn’t see a single Spanish tile roof on these makeshift camps, which is a mandatory design for any new construction in Santa Barbara.
I don’t generally speak to Santa Barbara politics, but a while back, Mayor Cathy Murillo said she was going to run for re-election, wanting to continue all the great things she’s been doing. I really tried hard to think about what those were. And after I was enlightened how bad things have really become in Santa Barbara, I’m not sure continuing those great things is a good idea.
Prior to the pandemic, State Street was already in trouble. The malls lost their main anchors.
Tourists would write letters to the editor, saying how they were accosted by the homeless and never coming back. Businesses were tearful over how their front doors had become bedrooms and bathrooms. And it’s common knowledge the world over, literally, that Santa Barbara is anti-business. Trying to get anything through the building department, city or county, can age you 20 years just getting a permit to put in a toilet.
Santa Barbara has always leaned to the left for as long as I can remember. In the “old” days before Wendy McCaw took over the News-Press, it was called the News Suppress. It led the way in leftist indoctrination because it was owned by The New York Times, way before CNN and MSNBC and others followed suit in hiding, manipulating and omitting the truth.
But people overlooked a lot of things because Santa Barbara has probably one of the best climates on the planet and coupled with the mountains and ocean, the place can truly be considered paradise — except for its politics.
Before I realized how bad the homeless situation has become in Santa Barbara, I had started writing my next column about San Francisco, but we have become San Francisco. And as we all know, the people who run that city are uber liberal nut cases and it appears Santa Barbara has joined their line of thought using San Francisco’s formula to bring down a picturesque city.
This situation didn’t happen overnight. The liberals who have been running Santa Barbara started this process many years ago. They allowed dilapidated motorhomes to camp along our streets and gave political shelter to homeless back then saying how they should be coddled for their unfortunate difficulty.
And while the city was more concerned about spending thousands on painting a blue line on the sidewalk showing where the ocean might/possibly/could/maybe rise in a few hundred or thousand years, the homeless were peeing on it.
Also, Santa Barbara — home of Earth Day and GOO, EDC, Urban Creeks Council, Gaviota Coast Conservancy and all things to “save the environment” — turn a blind eye to the needles, human feces, urine and trash that flow freely into the ocean they so vehemently claim to be protecting. The entire world went nuts over straws, but ideology seems to win out over ruining our neighborhoods and environment.
The solution to everything from government is to form committees, hire outsiders to do studies, have staff do reports, discuss endlessly how important it is and spend thousands on accomplishing nothing. In the meantime, the unsheltered crisis has hit a nuclear level.
And hiding behind the virus to justify allowing homeless to camp in the heart of our city is just another cop out. I didn’t see any of these “unsheltered” exercising social distance, wearing masks or avoiding gatherings. Why have taxpayers been punished to follow the rules, having businesses close down and kids going through mental suffering because schools have been closed? But if you’re considered homeless, you have freedoms the rest of us are not permitted to partake. No rules, no laws.
The Carriage Museum has been unable to open and the public suffers because homeless will wander in, use the bathroom and make camp. A homeless woman plugged an extension cord into their system to charge her laptop. I’m thinking free utilities, free rent, free food, full-time camping in paradise is sounding pretty good.
Apparently so do a few thousand other people.
The author lives in Solvang.