A closed-door meeting between Santa Barbara City officials and members of the Milpas Community Association (MCA) took place Thursday, November 11, at the Eastside Public Library. Media were not invited because, according to Mayor Helene Schneider, who initiated the gathering, she wanted participants to feel comfortable speaking their minds and not worry that their words would be misinterpreted in the press. In addition to Schneider, Councilmembers Grant House and Dale Francisco, heads of various city departments, and Santa Barbara Police Captain Alex Altavilla attended.
The tone of the meeting was “very cordial,” said Mayor Schneider in a phone interview afterward. And she hopes it was the first in string of conversations, not a one-time confab.
In the two months since its founding, MCA has managed to get the city’s full attention. It held a major press conference October 12, a State Street march and rally that made the front page of the Santa Barbara News-Press. The group represents businesses and residents who are mad about what they believe is the deteriorating condition of the Milpas corridor and Lower Eastside; a mushrooming of loitering homeless people, a spike in crime, public urination, and defecation, and two violent gang assaults top their list. They recently made an unsuccessful appeal to the City Planning Commission to modify Casa Esperanza’s conditional use permit (CUP) to somehow mitigate the shelter’s impact on the area. To read more, see homelessinsb.org.