Throughout Governor Gavin Newsom’s 19-month COVID lockdowns of “non-essential” businesses, a 40-year business owner in Santa Barbara has kept in touch with the California Globe. He has shared the untold hardships he and his employees suffered, as well as the economic and emotional pains of being allowed to partially re-open, then shut down again, open again but with mandatory masks and social distancing, only to be shut down again, and finally reopened once more. And we’re back to masks…
Most recently, he has shared photos and stories of the bold, drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless population, allowed to live on the beautiful streets of Santa Barbara, using planter boxes and doorways as their toilets, blocking entrances to businesses, spanning sidewalks… only the streets aren’t as beautiful as they once were.
This is his most recent story, which he has allowed the Globe to publish. He also sent this to Santa Barbara City Council and County Supervisors. He is known to the Globe but asked that his name not be used in the article out of concerns of retribution:
Last night, Friday, I was coming in to work and crossed State St. at Figueroa. I saw a vagrant who has parked himself there every Friday for the past few weeks. He sits in a folding chair and takes up a lot of space with a condo’s worth of belongings in a cart. Every Friday I call the Santa Barbara Street Ambassadors and ask them to have the guy moved along.
Two SB Ambassadors were standing on the corner talking, in plain view of the vagrant. I stopped my car and got out and told them to do their jobs and move the guy. One was a heavy set Latina woman, maybe around 30, and a young Latino male with glasses who I believe was younger and less senior. She told me to get back in my car and move along. I told her to do her job.
I parked in Lot 4 and immediately called the Street Ambassador line and made a complaint about the vagrant, and about the Ambassadors, to the dispatcher. She said she would have the Ambassadors speak to the vagrant.
A few minutes later I walked up the block and took pictures of the vagrant and his belongings. The 2 Ambassadors were still on the corner so I asked them if they had asked the vagrant to move. They both told me that they said Hi to him. I said “you said Hi? Hi?—why don’t you do your job?”
I walked back to my business and when I looked back the Ambassadors were both following me and the female was using her phone to take videos of me. I turned and asked her if she was taping me and she said “Yes. Is that your business? Can you stand there? I want to get a good video of you with your sign so I can post it on Yelp and show what a great downtown businessman you are.”
I said “you’re taping me?” She said “yeah, it’ll look great on Yelp, it’ll be great for your business when people see the kind of person you are.”
I said “You won’t do your job, so you tape me and threaten me?” She said, “I’m doing it right now.”
I’m like, “how about you do your job.” The male Ambassador said they could do nothing for me. They were not authorized to do anything to move the street people along. They could not call for services because it was Friday night. He was also very combative and ready to get In my face.
I was on the phone with someone and describing the situation. The male Ambassador asked me to identify who I was talking to. He actually asked me to identify the person I was speaking with. What the hell?
I said “ if you post that, you and the City are going to have some real trouble.”
They walked up the alley towards Lot 4 and she said “Oh, I’m posting it.” She was defiant, confrontational, entitled, and incredibly unprofessional. She is a disgrace to the City. The younger male was obviously following her lead.
Why do we have the Street Ambassador program? Why do City employees think they can threaten local business people with bad reviews and postings on the internet?
When is the City of Santa Barbara going to get serious about cleaning up downtown? When are they going to help business and property owners defend the City from the filth and degradation of unchecked vagrancy?
I’ve been doing business in Santa Barbara for over 40 years. I have never seen things this bad. I’ve had issues over the years with City Employees and Staff, but I have never had City Employees threaten me with public defamation.
Below are photos of the vagrant I asked to move. He sits smugly picking his scabs as if he were sunning himself at the beach. He, like many, knows the City has no intention of defending its public spaces. They know they have carte blanche to commandeer the sidewalks and storefronts. They know they can piss and defecate wherever they want. They know that pretty much all of our elected officials actually believe they have a legal right to do so. They know that those same elected officials will defend, in legalese, that right.
An adult, serious Mayor and City Council would have long ago enacted a Downtown wide “Sit, Lie Ordinance” prohibiting this behavior. A serious City Council would empower the Police and their assistance partners to enforce such an ordinance.
Our current incompetent Mayor, unable to suggest or support any serious response to the rampant vagrancy on State St., said a while ago that the only thing we could do was to call the SB Street Ambassadors or the City non-emergency “nuisance” number when we needed assistance. She is presiding over the complete and utter degradation of one of the most beautiful small cities in the country.
So I do call. All the time. For vagrancy. For camping on private or public property. For public defecation and urination. For open methamphetamine and fentanyl use. For graffiti. For violent or threatening behavior. For open prostitution.
Nothing works. Nothing helps. We’re on our own out here on the streets of Santa Barbara.
UPDATE sent to Santa Barbara City Council and County Supervisors:
Saturday, 1:15pm, homeless dude is back. He is brazen. He knows you are impotent and will do nothing to move him. Disgusting.
Here’s the thing. If he is still at this location at 5 pm when I come back down to my business I will personally find a way to move his huge pile of belongings out into the middle of the State Street Promenade. He may not like that, but tough %@$!.
You have 3.5 hours to make it happen yourselves. Then I, and maybe others, will do what you won’t.
This business owner asks a fair question: “When is the City of Santa Barbara going to get serious about cleaning up downtown? When are they going to help business and property owners defend the City from the filth and degradation of unchecked vagrancy?”
This is typical of most cities in California – unchecked vagrancy, filth, degradation, open drug use, and violence, with feckless city council members pretending that it is their job to make the homeless vagrants welcome and comfortable on the streets, or with tiny homes, motel rooms, and newly renovated apartments. Business owners and taxpayers not only pay to clean up around these businesses and the streets, we all are paying the bill for tiny homes, motel rooms, and newly renovated apartments for the drug addicted, mentally ill homeless vagrants.