Crammed between Highway 101 and Punta Gorda Street used to be the Deluxe Trailer Park - the “nastiest trailer park in the city,” as one person has called it. “Deluxe” certainly seems to have been a misnomer to anyone who had seen the park. Close to 50 trailers lined the park, many of them dilapidated and unsafe, with the bad conditions worsening as time passed due to a lack of enforcement by the state. The city finally put an end to the conditions at the park, taking legal action in October of 2006 to try to force the park’s owners to make improvements. The owners didn’t, and all of the trailers were removed by the end of March. The city gave a $50,000 grant to the Legal Aid Foundation to help tenants find another place to live, and the owners of the property are currently exploring their options for the property.
The empty park was just one of the stops of a whirlwind tour made Thursday by media, city staff, and six of the seven Santa Barbara City Councilmembers crammed into two green and white electric MTD buses. The tour, led by City Special Projects Manager Don Olson, was a celebration of the good work the city has been doing in neighborhoods that need help the most, as well as a reminder of the work still to be done.
From code enforcement to graffiti removal to restorative policing and clean-up projects, the city has been pouring money and resources into improvements since the creation of a Neighborhood Improvement Task Force in 2003. There have been other code enforcement cases, as well as clean-up projects on TV Hill, Alisos Street, Dwight Murphy Park, and more.
A bicycle and walking path up the hill, connecting the lower Westside at Ladera Streeet to Coronel Street, has made that area safer for children walking to McKinley School, with lights, fencing, and landscaping in place. Lighting along Montecito Street has also made that stretch safer.
A graffiti ordinance was adopted in 2005 to combat graffiti, and the city has poured money into a specially designed removal truck. A graffiti hotline receives about five calls a day, and graffiti is removed in the morning. Even as the staff toured the city Thursday, senior streets maintenance worker Georgina Lopez was taking notes on fresh graffiti.
The tour proved to be insightful for the councilmembers - “Until the tour I didn’t know how much work you’ve been doing,” Councilmember Grant House told the task force. Councilmember Das Williams, who said he’s always been cynical about the city’s treatment of the lower Westside, said the program has “changed his feelings about that.”
But the work continues for the city, as there are many problems which aren’t just going away overnight, Olson said. Four target zones - the lower Westside, lower Eastside, Westside and West downtown - have been established, and the city continues to look for solutions to improve those neighborhoods. The city is actively pursing $2 million in grants which will help its cause, code enforcement, graffiti removal, and other programs which will continue to try to weed out the problems still plaguing the city.