DID YOU KNOW? by Bonnie Donovan
Did You Know? has remained puzzled in recent weeks, especially, about why we see these tents in Santa Barbara and in cities all over California where they never were before.
The only difference that COVID-19 made on this phenomenon here in Santa Barbara was that previously the tents went up along railroad tracks or in less central locations. Now Alameda Park looks more like a KOA than a bucolic downtown park.
The answer to our question came in the form of a recent Wall Street Journal article by Robert Doar, who worked for decades in New York’s social services agencies.
He writes that “social workers, not check writers, address problems like substance abuse and domestic violence.” He goes on to say that 80% of the people setting up tents in cities across America receive government benefits, often in the form of monthly cash aid that comes without any required regular connection to caseworkers.
These checks from Washington now circumvent the most effective ways to address the serious challenges faced by the homeless — substance abuse, absent parents, domestic violence and mental health. Instead, these monthly payments flow, regardless of whether the recipient is working. looking for work, or is in training or education programs.
When these same people were formerly required, as a condition of receiving a check, to work with an assigned social worker, the underlying problems of homelessness had to be addressed.
During the previous era (before tents), when social service programs were an integral part of receiving government aid, child poverty fell almost 8 percentage points, in the 1990s during the Clinton administration.
This present era tosses out all that success and now merely hands the homeless a check. There are no work incentives and no mental health services required. They just pick up a check, live in a tent and stay subject to all the conditions that brought them into that state of being in the first place. That is why we saw tents before COVID, and why we will continue seeing them as long as the government carries out social programs that have never worked in the history of mankind
People in all times have recognized that this approach has never helped the poor to climb up into productive, healthy citizenry.
With this new $17.6 million (property and construction only) 30-unit housing project for the homeless and people with “special needs” going up at 116 E. Cota St., right in the midst of Santa Barbara’s prime downtown corridor, Did You Know? wonders what would happen if accountability like what was in place during the 1990s could be implemented as a condition for the privilege of living in this new complex.
It would require a reimplementation of a program that worked, not a reinvention of the wheel.
Accountability is an integral part of the human condition for basic functioning, let alone flourishing. Schools and businesses and any organization hold its constituents to standards of behavior, dress, productivity.
All sports demand a certain performance as criteria for participation, from Little League to Major League Baseball. The little boys don a uniform, play by the rules and must show up for practice, just like the big leaguers. Why could we not expect that the residents of this and any similar project going up in Santa Barbara to work with an assigned social worker who will identify the underlying cause of the homelessness, be it substance abuse or mental health issues, and establish specific requirements as a condition of receiving benefits?
The homeless who are plagued by addiction, domestic violence and unemployment need the attention of a social worker. It is a proven fact that handing out free services and cutting a monthly check will not help the homeless to help themselves, and they remain stuck in a cycle of loss and dysfunction. Taking them from a tent to an expensive housing project without these programs only moves their problems to a room with running water. It does not free them from self-defeating patterns.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
SB Act and Citi Net, along with city staff profess they are adhering to constructive programs. However, we see no evidence that this is actually happening, and we remain highly skeptical of the follow through.
Update, last Wednesday, we are happy to see Alameda Park was cleaned out of transients and tents, along with the railroad tracks from Castillo and Montecito. We thank the combined efforts of the Santa Barbara police, Big Green, and the city public works and parks departments.
“Simply slowing down, improves almost everything in our lives …”
— Matthew Kelley
Consider the breakneck speed of the changes to our city, while the public is not allowed to speak out in person to voice their concerns while being able to see the “whites of their eyes” and perhaps into their souls.
Consider what the developers and the city Transportation Planning and Parking Manager Rob Dayton have constructed — street parking and traffic lanes traded for bike lanes, with their new light pollution for the bikers, new developments with no requirements for parking, State Street closed for bikes and parklets, ad nauseam.
Story poles and more story poles, instead of “digital renderings,” are imperative so the public, not just the neighbors, can weigh in on the selling out of Santa Barbara to out-of-town developers, again by people who make their money and walk away. Those who do not live with the results nor in the wake of the pillage of Santa Barbara. We residents who care about this town remain stuck between a rock and a hard place when you consider the hapless City Council, who are purchased and scripted by their donors.
Listening to the City Council members as they cower behind “… we could get sued, cause litigation, etc.,” showing no guts to stand up for Santa Barbara and her residents. And to think we voted these people into office. Where is the courage? Where is the leadership? What a band of carpetbaggers. Who let the dogs in? We did.
Our Architectural Board of Review is hogtied by its purview, which has been so diminished and narrowed that it does not consider the true size, bulk, scale or impacts of these projects.
Each commission is limited by dictates, decided by whom? What about size, bulk and scale?
How can a four-story, 21-unit apartment building be compatible right next door to a Queen Ann Victorian, lot line to lot line, no setbacks required? This is exactly what was decided for 825 De La Vina St. And that is our city’s fault. And of course, they will hide behind the claim that it is just Sacramento. (The same Sacramento that in 1959 had the cities protect their historic areas because they were being demolished?)
Why is neighborhood compatibility no longer an integral factor of the decision making of any of the protective commissions? The ABR, Historic Landmarks Commission and Single Family Design Board appear to have no teeth, because of a City Council who will simply side with the developers, if/when a project is appealed by our local concerned citizens.
How could an architect or developer be proud to do that to a neighborhood and the people who live there? But that is a moot point, they do not care. “… And why bother to file an appeal?” as Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said, “… if at every appeal the appellant is told, ‘Sorry it’s too late,’ but thanks for the $750 for filing the appeal … that was useless.” Is the appellant told that only X can be decided during the hearing before the appellant files an appeal and spends the time and money and deals with the heartache?
The city attorney actually said there is no need for notification of the 10-day appeal period. Period.
Fred Sweeney, formerly a member of the SFDB, spoke during the 825 De La Vina appeal. He said story poles are essential for the public’s understanding. Instead, digital renderings are now allowed and more commonly used for public notification/clarification of size, bulk and scale. We find digital renderings deleterious in a time of a warp-speed, over-sized building craze.
If the city were not involved in so many lawsuits with their employees, perhaps officials would not be so fearful of litigation and would stand up to protect our city! Isn’t that their job?
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
– Mark Twain
Since the mayor is a nonpartisan elected position, our mayor should not discriminate against most of its residents.
The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the City Address. Mayor Murillo refused to attend if the chamber accepted any money from the oil companies to sponsor the event.
If you agree with the mayor, you must stop purchasing bikes, Band-aids, crayons etc., because all are byproducts of the oil industry.
Again, a script from her sponsors. Working together? Cutting energy/ gas — seriously? Where is the wisdom? The big picture?
She should remember she received only 27% of the votes and that 73% did NOT choose her. Remember the mayor and three council seats are on the ballot this November. Don’t the constituents in the district of 825 De La Vina deserve better representation?
Repeatedly a concerned citizen calls during Public Comment and demands that City Council add an extra tax to bars and restaurants due to the alcohol problems on State Street.
Did You Know? did a weekend field trip to State Street on both recent Friday and Sunday evenings, and what we encountered were homeless problems, not customers who have gone to dinner or had cocktails.
On this particular Sunday at 9 p.m, emergency services responded to a bloodied homeless woman in a wheelchair. She was swooped up quickly and out of sight of tourists. However, within no time, more sirens sounded for more problems on State Street. It was a veritable gauntlet of aggressive transients sprawled in all directions to get from the parking lot to the restaurant.
Again, we see no abating of the homeless problems for the investment the city has made with SB Act and Citi Net.
By the way, Community Development and Public Works counters are now open to the Public. When will the City Council and our boards and commissions return to in-person meetings to promote public participation?
The restaurants are rebounding due to the increased “free” real estate to conduct business, and that is great. But what about the retailer who is shrouded by the tables and chairs and parklets? Something is askew here, and it is not a business model that is fair to retail — unless, of course, the model is for Jeff Bezos of Amazon to make all of the money and the consumers’ choices are limited.
In the past, State Street restaurants removed tables and chairs to make way for the parades.
We are glad to see under new leadership, with a mature and wise interim police chief, Bernard Melekian, that there is more police presence in downtown Santa Barbara specifically, on State Street.
We see that the city has decided to leave the parklets on State Street against the guidelines of the Historic Landmarks Commission and the Santa Barbara chapter of the American institute of Architects. The council decided that any decisions made on the design of parklets should be made by the still forming State Street Advisory Committee – which will consist of individuals undoubtedly appointed by members of our city council and mayor.
So the outcome is predetermined — once again!
Since the City Council is saying that business owners should not be required to change their current parklets until the Emergency Economic Recovery Ordinance expires in March of 2022, we say fine: March of 2022. Fair enough, and after March of 2022, we want our stately State Street back.
Give us back our town. We want our traditional State Street parades reinstated.
“Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
— G. K. Chesterton