Issues and Actions
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. As SBCAN works with a broad-based coalition in opposing the three major oil development proposals in Cat Canyon, we are especially focused on the impacts to this groundwater basin. Food & Water Watch, Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Center have become major allies on this.
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 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. There is no need for annexations in Lompoc and Santa Maria since ample vacant lands exist within the cities 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.
Public Forums on Big Oil and Clean Energy: SBCAN, together with the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Safe Energy Now: North County, continues to co-host well-attended forums throughout the county to build awareness of the threats posed by proposals to drill more than 750 new cyclic-steaming wells in Cat Canyon and to support local renewable energy. Proposals by three oil companies to reactivate old wells and drill new wells are in various stages of environmental review. All of them propose to use various extreme oil-extraction techniques, because the easy-to-reach oil has already been produced. These proposals raise serious concerns about carbon emissions, groundwater pollution, air pollution, and impacts to habitat.
ExxonMobil Crude-by-Truck Proposal: Since the Refugio pipeline spill 4 ½ 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).
Improvement of Water Resources through Storm Water Projects: SBCAN submitted several projects to improve water quality and quantity while providing habitat protection and passive public recreation through capturing storm water runoff. The County included these proposals in its Storm Water Resource Plan. Priorities remain to be established.
Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety: SBCAN continues to advocate for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. This year SBCANcollaborated with Traffic Solutions, Bici Centro Santa Maria, the City of Santa Maria, and others to plan an Open Streets event in Santa Maria, held on March 31, 2019 on West Main Street. It was the first time West Main was closed for a pedestrian event, and it was a huge success. SBCAN will continue supporting these 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 a public performance and art show in mid-summer.
Annual Membership Meetings: In May 2019, SBCAN held its annual Membership Appreciation Meeting. County Supervisor Gregg Hart was our featured speaker, discussing his hopes for his service on the Board of Supervisors. The meeting helps build bridges between activists in the north and south parts of the county.
SBCAN’s North County “Looking Forward” Awards Dinner: This year’s 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 countywide organization. While it is a successful annual fundraiser, its main importance is the building of community.
Monthly Roundtable Meetings: SBCAN hosts monthly meetings in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara to discuss issues such as those described above and to coordinate with other organizations. These meetings, which have been held since SBCAN was founded 18 years ago, help build bridges among progressive community groups and strengthen all of our efforts to bring about positive change.