Sympathy for Santa Barbara’s homeless bottomed out Thursday when three dozen or so mostly lower Westside business owners and residents met to express frustration at what they see as a growing impediment to their livelihoods and safety.
The standing-room-only crowd at The Neighborhood bar on Montecito Street also included City Council members Dale Francesco and Iya Falcone, the latter of whom is running for mayor. Three Santa Barbara city police officers attended too.
“I think there needs to be a policy change,” said Tri-County Produce owner John Dixon. “It’s an extremely user-friendly town and we keep talking about not [having] enough beds and we need more beds. But if you keep building more, then more are going to come,” he said. Holly Walters, owner of a house on the corner of Kimberley Avenue and Mason Street, described a line of between five and 15 cars and SUVs along Kimberley in which people sleep every night and a stream of trespassers on her property. “I have compassion for the homeless but most of these people don’t want help,” she said. Particularly peeved were hotel owners who described homeless people knocking on guest room doors.
Falcone believes the city is at the beginning of a “new era” as far as the homeless are concerned and cited the new 12-point plan that’s being drafted that will give police more tools to cite and arrest homeless. “We can’t solve it but there are a lot of things we can do,” she said.
David Burkholder, owner of The Neighborhood, said he’d like a police substation on Montecito Street. Mark Singer, who owns a Montecito Street car wash said a multilateral solution for the problem would work best. “You can’t paint the homeless with one brush,” he said. “You have to come to some accommodation, be it a soft edge, a hard edge, or a combination of both.”