Carpinteria’s first 50 years: Celebrating activism, watchdogs and other living things
By Ted Rhodes, President of the Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs
Although correct in acknowledging the success of our community saving the Carpinteria Bluffs, the recent city history series in Coastal View News misses the bigger story behind this amazing accomplishment.
Absent from this series is how Lois Sidenberg and Campbell Grant founded the land-use, watchdog organization, the Carpinteria Valley Association, a year before the city incorporated and grew a long line of community activists dedicated to protecting the rural, small town nature of the Carpinteria Valley. Saving the Carpinteria Bluffs as open space was an integral part of the CVA’s mission from early on. Later, the Bluffs became a symbol of larger, critical, controversial planning issues and a rallying cry for finding a better, more visionary way to plan our community and manage our city. Indeed, the “Let’s just buy the Bluffs” sentiments uttered so timely by Dorothy Campbell and others at that 1996 public meeting were expressed earlier by Ledbetter, Jordan and Stein during their successful campaign in 1990 to unseat three incumbents. It came up again a year later with the formation of an enthusiastic, community-wide Bluffs public acquisition committee, later dissolved because there was no “willing seller” then of the property.
During those early years, the majority of Carpinteria’s City Council and business community, as well as most local news media, including the Coastal View’s predecessor, the Carpinteria Herald, were against us. Time and time again, local media reported that we had lost the fight to save the Bluffs, perceptions echoed by many in the community. Yet, we never gave up. We persevered against the odds with hope, humor and a dogged determination to find a creative solution. Eventually, a few of our CVA-inspired activists ran successfully for office and changed the direction of our City Council, while others of us continued on as community activists.
When the opportunity to purchase the Carpinteria Bluffs finally arose in 1998, it came as little surprise that a majority of the board of Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs would be former CVA board member activists, using our grassroots organizing skills to draw in over 3,000 individuals, private foundations and public agencies, as well as build a solid coalition of support from a number of groups and individuals who had once opposed us in our earlier efforts. And, facing the daunting challenge of needing to raise $35,000 a day for four months, we succeeded in purchasing and saving the Bluffs. In doing so, we solidified a strong working relationship with the city on environmental issues and stewardship that continues today.
Gifting the Carpinteria Bluffs and Viola Playing Fields to the city at a time it was governed by several city council members we had elected earlier on the campaign promise of saving the bluffs was a pinnacle moment—proof here in Carpinteria and around the state that, at least at the small town level, one can make a difference. Without this vibrant history of activism, Carpinteria, in its 50th year, would not be the special place it is today.
This & That
Tax man scam: A reader reported an elaborate telephone scam from a person fraudulently representing himself as an IRS agent. The caller said his name was Gabriel Kanoi and issued a license number over the phone, but the target of the scam did not bite on the $2,800 tax bill he was said to have owed. Readers be warned, the IRS never calls.
What’s all the racquet? The CHS Tennis Club hosts mixers throughout the summer until Aug. 26 on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Carpinteria High School. Participants should arrive 15 minutes early in order to warm up, and a $5 requested donation will go to supporting the club. The drop-in twilight mixers welcome all level of tennis players.
Dolores deluge: Rainfall from Tropical Storm Dolores in Carpinteria totaled 0.3 inches between Saturday and Monday, July 18 to 20. The rare July rain brought the annual total up to just 45 percent of average rainfall for the water year, which ends on Aug. 31.
Top cop retires: New chief of police comes to town
By Lea Boyd
Brad McVay characterizes his retirement from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department as a “promotion from lieutenant to grandfather.” Having held the chief of police services role in Carpinteria for the last two years, McVay will turn over the position to Lieutenant Mike Perkins and then plans to spend a lot more time with his five grandchildren, the youngest of which arrived just last week.
In 2013, McVay was handed a substation recently downsized by the recession. The receptionists and a detective position had been eliminated, and members of the public accustomed to walking into a local office to have their issues addressed found themselves facing a locked door. “That’s one of my biggest frustrations,” McVay said, reflecting on his time in Carpinteria.
The City of Carpinteria allocates the largest portion of its budget to its contract with the Sheriff’s Department, and McVay acknowledged that the decision to cut back on law enforcement was not made lightly. When he was promoted to the helm of the shrunken substation, he brought a long resume of police experience, much of which was gained in Carpinteria. That background, McVay’s approachability and his strong commitment to the public, have allowed the department to maintain a close relationship with the community despite fewer resources. Still, McVay hopes that eventually the substation will return to its more robust staffing.
On his watch, McVay has seen new challenges crop up in the community. Theft is on the rise, and that trajectory will likely continue, he said. The passage of Proposition 47, which reclassified most nonviolent crimes from felony to misdemeanor, has kept petty criminals from overcrowding jails, but as a result, McVay noted, it has increased the number of repeat offenders on the street. Access to drugs often motivates the crimes, and McVay advises Carpinterians to up their vigilance when it comes to locking doors and keeping valuables out of sight.
The homeless numbers in Carpinteria have also risen in the last couple years, and McVay said that dealing with a higher rate of nuisance calls, particularly with mentally ill transients, has pulled his officers away from other policing duties. “A bunch of our resources are getting gobbled up by that effort,” he said.
Nonetheless, McVay said that Carpinteria has been a pleasure to work in. “It’s a great community. It’s a very, very small minority that we have issues with,” he said.
Work is unlikely to come to a complete halt for McVay when he enters retirement next month. He may do some part time private security work and hopes to contract with the department to develop a peer support program for officers and a training program in crisis intervention delivery, an effort to equip every officer with the tools to deescalate confrontations.
Years ago he discovered a passion for working with and training police canines, and he plans to work with dogs as a hobby now. He also will fill his time with more beach volleyball and family.
The big shoes that McVay leaves will be filled by Mike Perkins, whose 25-year tenure with the department also includes several stints patrolling the streets of Carpinteria. He was among the original eight deputies assigned to Carpinteria when the city first contracted with the Sheriff’s Department in 1992. In addition to plenty of local know-how, Perkins brings a background that includes work in narcotics, the SWAT team, the gang unit and the training bureau. He said that coming back to Carpinteria feels like returning to his law enforcement roots.
“I’ve got the best station in the department,” he said. “I don’t know how I got so lucky with my career.”
Perkins said delivering on the department’s public safety mission is his number one priority. He plans to reacquaint himself with the local substation and settle in over the next couple months. Once refamiliarized with his service area, he will be accessible and available to the public. “My door is always open,” he said.
News in brief
Water board to approve Loss of Cachuma Supply Plan
Preparing for the worst case scenario, namely a year without any new water from Lake Cachuma, the Carpinteria Valley Water District Board of Directors will consider approval of the Loss of Cachuma Supply Plan at its July 22 meeting, which took place after Coastal View News went to print. Cachuma, which has historically served at the district’s main source of water, is more puddle than lake after four years of far below average rainfall. Without significant rainfall this year, the district is facing zero allocation of lake water, which leaves it to rely on groundwater and carryover Cachuma water from past allocations.
District General Manager Charles Hamilton said that customer conservation efforts and wetter-than-usual summer weather has helped to keep the district in decent shape despite the severe drought. New water rates, which are about 15 to 20 percent higher, went into effect this month and could lead to further conservation.
Though Cachuma’s low levels will likely lead to no new water entitlements come Oct. 1, the district still has the right to about 1,000 acre feet of carryover it can use to bolster its new, heavy reliance on groundwater. A barge that is expected to be necessary by the end of August to pump water out of the lake and into the Tecolote Tunnel for transport to the South Coast has risen in cost from $6 million to $8.1 million. CVWD will have to shoulder an additional $250,000 to pay for its portion of the increase.
City postpones vacation rental discussion
The Carpinteria City Council has postponed plans to discuss vacation rentals at its next meeting and will instead add the item to its Monday, Aug. 10 agenda. The purpose of the meeting is to gather public input and consider options for the regulation of short-term vacation rentals. Vacation rentals exist throughout the city, though they are only legal in specific areas, such as the beach neighborhood. Per city regulations, vacation rentals must be permitted and owners must pay a transient occupancy tax to the city. Recently, however, several vacation rentals have begun operating in single-family neighborhoods where they are unpermitted. As a result, neighbors have complained about nuisances and the changing character of the neighborhoods, and the city has grown more concerned about low vacancy in the long term rental market. Various options for how to deal with the growing problem will be considered at the Aug. 10 meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 5775 Carpinteria Ave.
Mountain lion scare downgraded
Concerns that a mountain lion was visiting the Carpinteria Creek bike path vicinity were laid to rest recently when a biologist with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed that the animal captured on camera was “definitely a house cat.” The city had received eyewitness accounts of a large cat near the path and placed a trail camera triggered by movement in the area. On the night of July 8, the camera captured an image that could have been a mountain lion. Parks and Recreation Director Matt Roberts stated that, “in an abundance of caution the City decided to post an advisory to the public.” The trail was marked with warning signs. A couple days later, however, a full body image was taken that looked more like a housecat. That hunch was confirmed by the Fish & Wildlife biologist, and Roberts reported that the city has “not received any further reports of a large cat being sighted.”
Missing kayaker found safe
A 55-year-old man who went missing on the evening of July 20 after leaving from Santa Claus Beach on a short kayaking trip was located at 12:30 a.m. at Loon Point by a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team. Phillip Wood had become separated from his kayak and swam to shore. He was treated for mild hypothermia and taken to his house to meet his wife where he was reported to be in good condition.
The Coast Guard had received a call from Wood’s wife at around 8:30 that evening with the report that he had left to kayak for an hour or two at about 4 p.m. and never returned home. The ensuing search for Wood involved two Coast Guard boats and a helicopter, Montecito Fire Department swift-water rescue crew and a helicopter from Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
Sea Glass Festival springs up in Carpinteria
The first ever Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival is in the works for this summer. Coordinated in partnership with the Carpinteria Arts Center, the festival will bring together hundreds of sea glass lovers to celebrate the treasures of the sea on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 700 Linden Ave. Dozens of sea glass artisans and experts will offer their original ocean inspired artwork, from sea glass jewelry, home décor, art, accessories and rare sea glass collections, including Krista Hammond’s prize specimen cases for the public to view.
The festival, which also will include music and local food vendors, will benefit the Junior Carpinterian of the Year Scholarship Fund and the Carpinteria Arts Center. Sea glass vendors interested in displaying and selling their works at the festival should visit carpinteriaseaglassfestival.com/vendor-info and submit an application by May 31, 2015. Admission to the Sea Glass Festival is $5, and on Saturday, Aug. 29, a special preview will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. for $15. For more information, visit carpinteriaseaglassfestival.com.