Meet the Neighbors

This empty lot is to become a youth hostel
Sue De Lapa

Cement Truck Pollution: While we’re trying to clean up our creeks, it’s incredible to see cement truck crews at construction sites blithely washing the gunk off their equipment and down the gutters.

This stuff is toxic to aquatic life when it gets to creeks and the ocean. City of Santa Barbara residents can and should call the creeks hotline, 897-2688, to blow the whistle.

Fess’s Hotel: We’ve watched the earth-moving work for Fess Parker’s 150-room hotel on East Cabrillo Boulevard and are told that it’s expected to open in mid-2010. Fess also expects to break ground this week on his 100-bed hostel at 12 E. Montecito St. The non-profit Rodney Shull Memorial Foundation Hostel will meet the city and Coastal Commission requirement that he build it as a condition for getting the hotel OK’d. The hostel will cost $5 million and is expected to be finished in early 2009. The hostel was required to help provide affordable coastal area access to partly balance the high-end new hotel.

McCaw vs. Roberts: A San Francisco Chronicle editorial has shed light on just why News-Press owner Wendy McCaw filed that $25 million arbitration action against former editor Jerry Roberts. The Chron quoted McCaw’s attorney, Barry Cappello, as saying that the core of the claim against Roberts was that he violated a confidentiality agreement in his contract by making disparaging statements about her after he quit that showed up in “60 or more stories throughout the world.” McCaw first filed a half-million dollar claim and some feel that the situation might have been resolved then, but at that point Roberts filed a $10 million counter-claim that McCaw responded to with a $25 mil action. Roberts, according to the Chronicle, argued in his counter-claim that her breach of ethics amounted to a breach of contract. An arbitration judge who heard the case behind closed doors recently has not issued a finding. Roberts’s legal bills are reportedly approaching $1 million. The documentary Citizen McCaw “is a cautionary tale, not only about the perils of a newspaper owner run amok, but of what can happen when one very wealthy and vindictive individual decides to use the legal system to inflict a living hell on mortals of lesser means,” the Chronicle said. Cappello called it a “docudrama” that portrayed Roberts as “a Joan of Arc,” and was shot through with “falsehoods.”

The Chronicle said Cappello’s legal team had asked filmmaker Sam Tyler to wait until the conclusion of litigation, but the filmmaker declined. “He did it because he wanted to do a hit piece — and that’s what it was,” Cappello said.

As for when the whole batch of litigation will end, I’d guess that most of the litigants might be on Social Security first.

Bottleneck?: “The city recently redesigned the traffic lights at the very busy Mesa intersection at Cliff Drive and Meigs Road,” points out Jody Enders. “What once flowed very smoothly is now a permanent bottleneck; where the light was almost always green, it’s now almost always red. The intersection strikes many as more dangerous now than before.”

Well, Jody, I made an informal poll and found some Mesa residents in praise of the changes, which they say have eased the turning movements. Coming up from Shoreline Drive, the left turn arrow at Cliff makes for an easier, safer turn than trying to dodge traffic coming downhill on Meigs, I noticed.

Red Herring: It’s kind of a spy-comedy-romantic farce. Red Herring, at the Circle Bar B Theatre, on the boards through May 18, is fun from its zany beginning to its ain’t-luv-in-handcuffs-grand ending. Full of wisecracks, crackerjack performances, a fishy plot and rapidfire changes of sets, costumes, and characters. For those who’ve never made the trip out to the ranch, you take a lovely ride up Refugio Canyon Road, hunker down to a big barbecue, then gather in the confines of the funky theater where you’re just a herring toss or less from the performers. Producer Susie Couch warms up the audience with friendly patter. Herring director Joseph Beck is a Dos Pueblos High grad and his wife Leesa plays a tough-talking savvy cop with love in her heart for an FBI guy. In real life she’s a business analyst at UCSB.

Water Challenge: The White House has been silent about the C-Word — gas conservation — but the city of Santa Barbara has been equally silent about the C-Word for water conservation. So it’s refreshing to hear about the city’s 20-Gallon Challenge. That’s a day. For instance, just fixing a leaky toilet can save 30 gallons a day, and that ain’t hay. And adjusting your watering schedule according to weather changes: 60 gallons a day. Of course there’s the easy stuff. Just turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth saves eight gallons a day, assuming you brush twice a day. More tips on

Ellen Googled: According to reports, the person who bought Ellen DeGeneres‘s Montecito digs for a reported $20 mil was Eric Schmidt, boss of search engine Google.

Arnold and Maria: Interesting that when Gov. Arnold and wife Maria had the whole state to choose from, they picked Santa Barbara County. Not celeb de rigueur Montecito but the open spaces near Carpinteria. They bought a 25-acre plot in posh Rancho Monte Alegre, paying $4.7 million. That’s just for the dirt, you understand. And under the strict development rules, they must not build a home of any smaller than 4,500 square feet. And that’s a mere closet, the way some of the new rich are building mansions around the U.S. (Santa Barbara realtor Suzanne Perkins had the listing on both this property and the Ellen pad.)

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column for Thursdays.


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