Successes and Challenges - December 2015

December 2015


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Santa Barbara County Action Network:

Recent Successes and Future Challenges

December 2015

Recent Successes

Greenhouse Gas Emission Threshold:  SBCAN, along with CEC and many others, argued strongly for a zero greenhouse gas emission threshold. The County of Santa Barbara approved a threshold of 1,000 tons, among the lowest anywhere.       

Phillips 66 Oil-by-Rail Terminal: Santa Barbara County, the city of Santa Barbara, the city of Carpinteria, and the city of Goleta voted to urge San Luis Obispo County to oppose the oil-by-rail terminal at the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery.

SBCAN published a paper by volunteer Jane Baxter that explained all the hazards to Santa Barbara County presented by this project. The rail terminal would allow several mile-long trains per week carrying highly explosive crude oil through the county en route to the refinery, just across the county line in Nipomo.

SBCAN rallied volunteers and testified at public hearings presenting maps depicting the blast and evacuation zones and all the schools, hospitals and fire stations within these zones. 

Community Choice Energy: Santa Barbara County and the city of Santa Barbara approved funding a feasibility study for Community Choice Energy, which could result in formation of a local joint powers authority dedicated to providing more availability of and incentives for renewable energy, while reducing costs to consumers. Other jurisdictions agreed to participate.

SBCAN supported CEC and worked with other allies to rally volunteers to testify at public hearings supporting the feasibility study. SBCAN serves on a steering committee to help guide the feasibility study and continues to advocate for CCE in the North County.

Preserving Ag Land: SBCAN continued its opposition to conversion of agricultural land. Most recently, the court rejected James Mosby’s appeal of the County of Santa Barbara’s disapproval of his illegal conversion of agricultural land to recreational uses.

Trucking Crude Oil: SBCAN urged County of Santa Barbara staff to reject the proposal by oil companies to truck crude oil through the county after the Refugio oil spill resulted in the indefinite closure of the pipeline. Trucking of crude oil from offshore platforms is still not allowed.

Short-term Vacation Rentals: SBCAN supported curtailing short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods in the city of Santa Barbara. These kinds of rentals, while popular among tourists and sometimes advantageous to property owners, exacerbate the shortage of housing for permanent residents. The City of Santa Barbara took action to abate the problem and other jurisdictions are considering similar actions.

Supporting Other Progressive Organizations: SBCAN continued to build its our role as an umbrella organization, providing not only grant-management support, but advocacy support as well for: 

  • The Mobile-Home Project, protecting the rights of mobile-home owners.
  • The Isla Vista Self-Governance Project, resulting in state legislation establishing the framework for a new Community Services District.
  • The Sustainable Living Research Initiative, currently developing zoning ordinance revisions in the city of Santa Barbara.
  • The Sustainable University Now Coalition, led by SBCAN, which garnered support from the university for progressive transportation and housing policies and helped gain California Coastal Commission approval of the university’s Long-Range Development Plan.
  • The Green Team, which has developed an Edible Landscaping Demonstration Garden in Santa Maria, and has distributed tens of thousands of vegetable seedlings to people at events throughout northern Santa Barbara County.

Upcoming Challenges

New Oil-Drilling Proposals:  Hundreds of new oil wells are proposed to be drilled in northern Santa Barbara County, most using dangerous cyclic-steaming. SBCAN has submitted letters and presented testimony raising a myriad of concerns about these proposals. These include potential impacts on water supplies, habitat, and air quality.

Urban Encroachment onto Agricultural Land:  The nationwide economic downturn reduced the pressure to expand urban areas into adjacent farmland. With economic recovery, the pressure to expand will be felt strongly around Lompoc, Santa Maria, Goleta Valley, and on urban edges throughout the county.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety:  Much progress is being made on this front, especially in South County, where COAST and the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition are most active. In North County, however, many challenges remain, and SBCAN is a leader in working for change side-by-side with our South County friends. 

Water Quality and Quantity: This is a concern for many groups besides SBCAN, but in the Santa Maria Valley, where residents and farmers rely on groundwater, only SBCAN is raising concerns about potential contamination of groundwater from oil and gas production and questioning annual reports that say the groundwater is in good shape.

Public Transportation in North County: Too much of the funding available for public transportation in North County is used for other purposes: roads. This is especially the case in Lompoc and in unincorporated North County. Santa Maria uses its transit money for transit, but service improvements and more community organizing are needed.

Homelessness and Affordable Housing:

These related problems are countywide. In South County housing prices are extremely high; in North County it is commonplace for multiple families to crowd into single-family units.