Issues and Actions 2020


Issues and Actions
December 2020 

Protection of Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin: Over the last five years, SBCAN has been the lead organizer raising concerns about the potential for petroleum products to contaminate this basin, which is the primary water source for 200,000 people and more than 50,000 acres of agricultural lands. In 2017, we finally gained official acknowledgment of contamination emanating from some 60 current and abandoned oil wells or other facilities. SBCAN worked with a broad-based coalition in opposing the three major oil development proposals in Cat Canyon, and in 2020 applicants withdrew their proposals for more than 750 new oil wells from consideration by the County.

Affordable Housing and Help for People Experiencing Homelessness: SBCAN played an active role in these issues through participation in the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, the Santa Barbara Rental Housing Task Force, AmeriCorps, and the Mobile Homeowners Project, among others. We partnered with Home For Good Santa Barbara to recruit volunteers for the 2019 and 2020 Point-In-Time Count and advocated for Supportive Housing.  

Affordable Housing Specific to City of Santa Barbara:  SBCAN has been a lead organization in efforts to strengthen the city’s Average Unit Density program so that it can fulfill its intent to provide incentives for affordable rental housing. We’re supporting CAUSE’s efforts to lobby for a just-cause eviction ordinance in the city. And we’ve taken the lead in helping build a coalition of unions and social justice organizations to advance a progressive housing agenda for Santa Barbara. 

Sustainable University Now (SUN): SBCAN is the lead organization in the SUN coalition whose legally enforceable agreement with UCSB enables us to monitor the University’s efforts to fulfill goals and promises for sustainability and community benefit. SUN is currently striving to ensure that UCSB fulfills its plans for large-scale student and employee housing, which are lagging.

Protecting Farmland: SBCAN continues to oppose the proposed annexation of the Bailey Avenue Corridor to the west of Lompoc, for which an application has been made by the city council to the Local Agency Formation Commission. Santa Maria is updating its general plan over the next couple of years and there is consideration of expanding the city into surrounding farmland. In both Lompoc and Santa Maria there exist ample lands to accommodate growth for many years. Meanwhile, the Rancho La Laguna Subdivision proposal to subdivide 4,000 acres of ranchland and row crops north of Santa Ynez Valley along Foxen Canyon Road into 13 lots for the construction of 13 luxury estates runs counter to SBCAN’s objective to preserve commercial agricultural lands. SBCAN is represented by the Environmental Defense Center. The County Board upheld the Planning Commission’s denial; litigation is pending.  

ExxonMobil Crude-by-Truck Proposal:  Since the Refugio pipeline spill 5½ years ago, ExxonMobil’s offshore oil production has been halted. Plans to rebuild the pipeline are advancing, with environmental studies and many hurdles ahead.  Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has an application pending before Santa Barbara County to allow more than 70 truckloads of crude oil to be shipped each day from the Gaviota Coast to Santa Maria and Kern County for up to seven years. Considering the danger of crude-oil-tanker accidents on our highways, the air pollution from diesel exhaust, and the 50-year anniversary of the 1969 Santa Barbara Channel oil spill, this is a better time to retreat from oil production in the Channel and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Santa Barbara County (which in the last years have INCREASED, while in the rest of California they have decreased). With the announced planned closure of the Santa Maria Refinery in 2022, ExxonMobil is reconsidering its plans; we are prepared if and when a new proposal is made.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety:  SBCAN continues to advocate for pedestrian and bicyclist safety and will continue supporting Open Streets events in cities and towns throughout the county.

Farmworker and Immigrant Rights: SBCAN continues to work with CAUSE to protect farmworker and immigrant rights. Housing of H2A workers is at the forefront at this time.

Youth Arts Alive: SBCAN’s Secretary and North County activist, Gale McNeeley, manages SBCAN’s project that provides music, dance, theatre and visual arts opportunities to Santa Maria Valley youths, culminating in public performances and art shows as health concerns allow.

Annual Membership Meetings: Early each year SBCAN holds its annual Membership Appreciation Meeting.  In 2020 it was canceled due to the pandemic and in 2021 it will be conducted virtually. The meeting helps build bridges between activists in the north and south parts of the county.

SBCAN’s North County “Looking Forward” Awards Dinner: Our 2019 awards dinner brought together 140 people to celebrate the progressive and selfless work of eight individuals from Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley, as well as one county-wide organization. While it is a successful annual fundraiser, its main importance is the building of community. The 2020 event was canceled, and the 2021 event will be conducted virtually.

Monthly Roundtable Meetings: SBCAN hosts two monthly meetings, one focused on South County and one on North County, to discuss issues such as those described above and to coordinate with other organizations. These meetings, which have been held since SBCAN was founded 19 years ago, help build bridges among progressive community groups and strengthen all of our efforts to bring about positive change.