Indio Muerto Street will officially be renamed to Hutash Street, starting Dec. 14.
The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to rename the street on Tuesday, after a request from the Barbañero Chumash Tribal Council, saying “Indio Muerto,” which translates to “Dead Indian,” is found to be inappropriate and offensive to the tribe.
The alternative, “Hutash,” translates to “Earth Mother,” according to representatives from the council.
“It’s just a bad name for a street any way you cut it,” said council member Oscar Gutierrez. “I know it’s not going to make everyone happy and I apologize for that, but this is the time right now to change it. The name is offensive; the new name is not.”
Matt Fore, the senior assistant to the city administrator, said the “crux of the request” was that the name “Indio Muerto” is found to be inappropriate. He added that the “physical costs to residents are minimal,” and that the next steps are to procure new street signs, send address letters to affected property owners and conduct informational workshops to assist residents and businesses.
The total cost to the city for this name change is $1,500, and it affects 40 households and five businesses. The renaming will take place on the street, located between South Salinas to South Milpas streets.
Adam Hendel, the principal engineer in Public Works for the city, said that the post office does not notify other agencies or entities such as the IRS and social security, but it does forward mail and will recognize both street names for one year.
“It’s unbelievable it has taken this long,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Kristen Sneddon. “It’s been an offensive name for a long time and I feel that this is the very least we can do to even begin to address this historical trauma that we are founded on.”
Neal Graffy, a local Santa Barbara historian who wrote a book titled “Street Names of Santa Barbara,” said, “Despite all the rhetoric that Indio Muerto reflects a racist, hateful name, it has absolutely nothing to do with the charges wrapped around it.”
He dug into the history of the 51 original street names of the city, and said the street was named after a deceased Indian that was found in Salisbury Haley’s survey to lay out the streets and blocks for the city.
“The simple fact is for 169 years, Indio Muerto Street is the only monument to the burial place of an unknown man who died alone in the empty fields of Santa Barbara,” he said. “To rename this street is to remove his headstone and any memory of his existence.”
In other news, the council unanimously adopted the goal of carbon neutrality for the Santa Barbara community by 2035, which will aim to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions.
“The process has to be a bottom-up, ownership-driven process, not a top-down process,” said council member Jim Jordan. “I think staff knows that and has a good handle on that. I think we’re up to the task.”
The city council also unanimously approved the policy that will govern the use of automated license plate recognition systems for the management of parking operations in city facilities. However, they added the following modifications: a 30-day retention for airport and harbor departments; a 72-hour scrub for downtown parking lots; quarterly audits and to have the policy refer to orders as opposed to responses to subpoenas.
“I am extremely uncomfortable as a general matter… with the erosion of our privacy and the mass data collection,” said council member Meagan Harmon. “But we’re talking about government property here. These parking lots are government property and people make the choice to come on them, so it’s a little bit different than if we were instituting this policy in a neighborhood.”
Finally, the city council extended the deadline for applications for the Community Formation Commission for the Civilian Review Board for the Santa Barbara Police Department from Oct. 30 to Dec. 4., in efforts to expand public outreach about the applications.