At the July 8 Carpinteria City Council meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Santa Barbara County and the cities of Buellton, Goleta, Santa Barbara and Solvang to create a regional disaster debris management plan.
“Debris removal is very challenging,” said Erin Maker, environmental coordinator for the city. “A disaster debris removal plan requires a coordinated approach with other agencies.” The plan would consider not only strategic removal of debris but also a collaborative approach to educate the public on private property removal, which cannot be paid for with federal funding. With each public agency bearing the shared cost and the county taking the project lead, the city’s expense totals $4,670.
Maker assured the council that a discussion point during plan development would be debris depositing on Ash Avenue, which led to some public outcry last year after the Jan. 9 debris flow event led to massive volumes of debris deposited near the beach.
Strategic energy plan
The Public Works Department presented a strategic energy plan for the city which councilmembers approved in a 5-0 vote. Staff noted that the city of Carpinteria is located at the end of the Southern California Edison energy grid and the area’s vulnerabilities include wildfire and other natural disasters. A comprehensive strategic energy plan, the staff report stated, “assists the community in reducing its dependence on the local electrical distribution grid and better positions the city for grant funding opportunities.”
The strategic energy plan was developed on contract by Optony Clean Energy Consultants with goals including enhancing grid reliability for emergency preparedness, supporting sustainable community goals for renewable energy, and understanding obstacles to renewable energy in order to develop programs to overcome them.
“If for any reason, energy was to be blocked from the east or the west,” said Jonathan Whelan of Optony, “there would be trouble. Resilience is an issue, as seen after the recent debris flow incidents.” However, as Whelan pointed out, even if there is no present disaster, the prospect of one could initiate a preemptive power shutdown.
Public safety power shut-offs allow public utilities to preemptively close sections of the transmission line during dangerous weather events to reduce wildfire risk. In October 2018, throughout California, PG&E turned power off in parts of Lake, El Dorado, Amador, Napa and Sonoma counties for up to two days during periods of high risks of wildfires.
There have not been any public safety shutdowns by SCE yet. “But the whole year is fire season now,” said Whelan, who also reminded the public that it is “not just an inconvenience to lose power, it impacts businesses … affecting the economy, as well as critical facilities.”
According to the report, Carpinteria is well-positioned for improving its energy program. About 5 percent of the citywide load is currently renewable, locally-sourced energy while the city’s total capacity for solar energy could power 18-24,000 households. Notably, the potential solar energy output of City Hall is 221,664 kilowatts a year with an approximate set-up cost of $350,000.
Reaching community and state-mandated goals would call for potential revisions to city regulations, such as an easement of the costly and timely permitting process for solar; possible aggregate partnerships to allow participation for residents who do not have access to their own solar; and potentially providing low-interest funding and financial incentives to consumers.
Councilman Fred Shaw noted that, “It is extremely important to get our residents to look at this as a long-term project… you need a big buy in from the public to fund some of this.”
The vote to approve carried without dissent. Councilman Gregg Carty concluded, “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a step in the right direction.”
Youth violent crime taskforce
The council unanimously voted to enter into an MOU with other Santa Barbara municipalities to work countywide on addressing youth violent crimes, including gang violence.
The city’s tree advisory board recommended four trees for removal and replacement: magnolias at 4496 and 4596 El Carro Lane, a weeping bottlebrush at 1287 La Pala Lane and a eucalyptus in Parking Lot 3. The trees were recommended for removal to prevent damage to public utilities or to protect public safety. “I have respect for our tree experts, our tree advisory board,” said Carty. “It’s tough when it comes to cutting down a tree.” The council concurred approving the removals and replacements in another 5-0 vote.
Consultant for community development projects
A three-year proposal was heard to contract Elise Dale of Watauga Consulting to work with city planners on community development projects, including, cannabis, housing and shoreline, general and sea level rise adaptation plans. Fees would not exceed $140,000 annually and a total amount of $420,000. “We are getting Elyse at a great price,” said Steve Goggia, community development director. “We believe this three-year engagement will get us over a hurdle.” The council approved the authorization unanimously.
New special duty resource deputy
Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ugo Arnoldi introduced the council to a new special duty resource deputy, James Carovano. Carovano is from New York and previously served in the U.S. Coastguard stationed at Channel Islands. He is a graduate of Allan Hancock College’s law enforcement training. “If anybody needs anything,” offered Carovano, “please let me know. I’m here to help.”