Open Season on Pedestrians
Streets Becoming Human Pinball Machines
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Kar Is King: Never mind a no-fly zone for Libya; what we already have is a no-walk zone in Santa Barbara. It’s open season on anything that walks. (Or pedals.)
Not only has the town turned into Kar-Is-King-Land, but City Hall, at least the council majority, has in effect declared that pedestrians are just in the way and had better watch out.
It’s not the law; it’s the mood. Since I moved from the Riviera to the Northside and have been walking a lot, I’ve learned to fear for my life. Too many drivers treat anyone who walks as an impediment, to be pushed aside and scared away.
Upper State is a speedway with attitude. You cross, even with the light, on a zebra-stripe crosswalk, at your own risk. I’ve written about Bob Ponce, my late friend and retired News-Press photo chief, and how when he trundled across State on his motorized scooter, he got yelled at and cursed for being in the way. Here’s a guy with a Gray’s Anatomy list of health problems and only one leg; he never faced these kinds of dangers during a career of covering wildfires, floods, and riots.
We’re letting our streets become human pinball machines. What gets me are the drivers in such a hurry that when you’re meekly crossing with the light, they’ll zip past practically on your heels or relentlessly creep ever closer, ever closer, until you think they’ll knock you over. The other day as I crossed at State and Calle Laureles, in the crosswalk, with the green, two young women in an SUV zoomed up, ready to spin around the corner. They spotted me at the last minute and the driver screeched to a stop.
Look, I don’t want to die in the gutter because the car-crazy City Council majority is setting a kind of free-for-all freeway spirit and not reminding folks that cars have brakes, too. At least let me live until the November election.
Shot, But Survived: It was 33 years ago when Realtor Dan Parks was shot three times in the face behind his downtown Santa Barbara office — but survived.
And became a familiar, friendly figure trundling the sidewalks of upper State Street in his wheelchair, visiting his shopkeeper friends and usually being the first breakfast customer at Farmer Boy restaurant. Parks, 83, died of a heart attack at his San Roque home Sunday night. The shooting remains a mystery.
“He was never down and never depressed,” his son Gary told me. Parks’s family found him in the parking lot of his real estate office, late at night, four days after Christmas 1977, apparently hours after the shooting. Gary believes it was a botched holdup.
Latinos Up: Speaking of the City Council, I see that according to the latest census figures, Santa Barbara is 38-percent Latino. But not one on the seven-member City Council. The time is ripe next fall. If that doesn’t happen, it’s time to consider district elections, which we need anyway because our neighborhoods are so different from one another. Upper East and Lower East, for instance. I remember the old ward system, which was voted out in the 1960s. But as I recall, that was mostly a reaction to the turkeys in office having pothole focus rather than the broad picture of the city as a whole.
City Population Down: I don’t see Santa Barbara withering away like some Western ghost town even though it’s lost 1,190 residents since 2000. Montecito’s down, too. They’ll be back, but just who’s coming back is the question. We still have the magic name, a livable city, and Kulture. We also boast UCSB (outside city limits, true) and all it offers: education for our kids (three of mine graduated), an educated workforce, and an open door offering lectures, music, art, drama, and more. When I was in Scottsdale recently, journalists I met oohed and aahed when I mentioned Santa Barbara, even though we’re mostly a bunch of working stiffs putting vegan food on the table and paying off our upside-down mortgages.
More and more famous entertainment names are finding Montecito a haven. And more Latinos will be coming. The City of Santa Barbara is up from 35 percent a decade ago, and Santa Maria is now 70-percent Latino. Countywide, the Hispanic population jumped from 34 percent 10 years ago to 43 percent, according to Nick Welsh’s report on the 2010 Census.
Here’s a surprise: I remember when Isla Vista was just empty fields, dotted with a few homes and duplexes. But its population jumped by 2,000 in the last 10 years, bringing it to 23,096 — almost as big as Carpinteria, Buellton, and Solvang combined. Santa Maria’s population grew by 25 percent and Buellton by 26 percent. Countywide, population grew by 6.1 percent, for a total of 423,000.
Lust and Loot: Molière’s Tartuffe, a satire penned in 1664 and being performed by SBCC’s Theatre Arts Department, struck me as modern as a televangelist scandal. Wittily adapted to 2011 New Orleans by Constance Congdon, it’s a tale of religious hypocrisy and fake piety masking Tartuffe’s lust for loot and for the wife of his true-believer host. Through Saturday.