Gardening for the Greater Good

Sustainable Gardening and Agricultural Best Practices from Santa Barbara’s CEC and Lotusland

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Neslihan Gunaydin / Unsplash

The benefits of sustainable gardening and regenerative agriculture took the spotlight at a recent sustainability salon featuring Community Environmental Council (CEC) climate resilience program director Sharyn Main and Lotusland sustainability manager Corey Welles. Here are some of the nuggets they shared at the gathering in Belle Hahn’s beautiful garden on the Upper Eastside.

1) Change Can Happen:  After 32 years at Lotusland, Welles certainly has the dirt on the esteemed garden’s best practices in plant healthcare. “Lotusland wasn’t always a perfectly organic operation,” he admitted. “In the very beginning, it was completely conventional, and they used pesticides. If you were an organic farmer walking in, you would have been horrified.” But the will to become more environmentally sound was there, and they worked to find the way.

“We literally cracked the code; we stopped listening to the conventional minds and started listening to biologists,” he said. “Fertilizers caused 80 percent of the diseases at Lotusland. Once we got the pesticides and chemical fertilizers out of there, we never went back. It was a moment of taking responsibility ​— ​if something’s wrong, you take responsibility for it.” And it worked. The first year, they had a 70 percent reduction in pests, and it increased from there.

2) More than No Pesticides:  A sustainable garden involves more than just getting rid of chemical pesticides. Other key principles include using natural materials such as alfalfa meal, sea kelps, and organic nitrogen sources to feed plants and the soil.

Building up insect ecology is also important. While it may seem counterintuitive, Welles shared that increasing the number and variety of insects in the landscape and providing a habitat for beneficial insects helps control invasions of plant pests. Native plants are especially good for this.

The other key sustainable practice at Lotusland is recycling all of the plant material removed from the garden back in the form of compost teas and mulches that are reused in the garden.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Courtesy

3) Demonstrate the Way:  Lotusland wasn’t yet open to the public when Main was a teenager in the 1970s, but she confided that it didn’t stop her from sneaking in to explore. As one of the first wave of environmentalists working for CEC, Main and her colleagues had an organic demonstration garden at the organization’s first offices on the Mesa in one of the earliest green buildings in the country. They had composting toilets (“the cutting edge for energy efficiency”) and a green rooftop with plantings to help cool the building, and they taught people about organic agriculture and gardening while discouraging the use of pesticides. She even co-wrote a book called BUGS (“Beneficial Urban Garden Strategies”), which was published in both English and Spanish.

“That garden was super important to our program,” said Main. “We talked a lot about the value of using native plants to protect biodiversity and improve soil health as part of an organic food garden.”

4) Regenerative Ag:  One of the ways CEC is working to reverse the climate threat today is by encouraging regenerative, climate-smart agriculture. “These practices ​— ​like applying compost on working lands and planting native plants along edges of fields ​— ​can actually help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. By restoring a natural balance in this way, plants respond by pulling more carbon from the air (through photosynthesis) into the ground, where it’s beneficial to the soil and plants,” said Main.

Carbon farming, a land-based, natural solution to climate change, is a way to transfer excess carbon out of the atmosphere ​— ​where it is causing a lot of harm ​— ​and store it in the soil, where it does a lot of good.

CEC is actively working with ranchers and large landowners, said Main. “If we can apply compost to just 10 percent of our agricultural lands, we could offset the emissions of the entire agriculture sector in Santa Barbara County. So this is doable. This is actually a reasonable thing we can achieve.”

5) Everyone Can Compost:  One of the simplest ways for people to help at home is by making and using compost, said Main. Mow or trim weeds instead of pulling them out at their roots, and compost instead of landfilling yard waste and food scraps.

6) Watch Your Water:  Last but not least on the path to sustainable gardening is the importance of carefully managing water use, a key factor that was mentioned by both Welles and Main. Water conservation is made much easier when pests are under control through the promotion of pollinators and beneficial insects, natural materials are used to feed plants and soil, plant materials removed from the garden are recycled into compost or mulch, and native species are primarily what is planted.

Following sustainable practices includes avoiding polluting chemicals, preserving natural resources, and reducing waste whenever possible. Sustainable gardening is not just about growing plants and maintaining a garden; it’s also about growing a greener future. As Welles said, “You don’t have to sacrifice beautiful, breathtaking gardens to be responsible.”

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara Independent, May 19-25, 2002. ON THE COVER: Madame Ganna Walska, taken c. 1958. Photo by J.R. Eyerman/Lotus- land Archives. Design by Ava Talehakimi.

Originally published in the May 19-25 issue issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

Electrifying Your Home in Santa Barbara: How to Flip the Switch Away From Natural Gas

Credit: Courtesy

The road to zero carbon is being paved by elected officials, builders, and activists. And an increasingly important part of the journey is getting rid of gas furnaces, water heaters, ranges, and other appliances and replacing them with electric alternatives that make buildings safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly ​— ​especially as more renewable power is added to the grid.

Last summer, the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to enact a new building ordinance (known as a “reach code”) prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings (with the exception of restaurants and applications where there isn’t yet a viable electric alternative to gas). There are also many rebates and incentives available for existing homes to make the switch to electric.

Heat pumps, which control household climates by extracting and moving the heat in the air, are extremely energy-efficient. According to the Department of Energy, installing an air-source heat pump can cut your electric bill in half, and heat pumps are generally considered more comfortable than traditional heating and cooling. “The other big advantage that heat pumps offer in our warming climate is that they can provide both heating and cooling in your home, so they can essentially be used to replace both a furnace and an air conditioner,” said Michael Chiacos, energy and climate program director at CEC.

If you’re considering a new furnace or installing air conditioning in your home, TECH Clean California is currently offering up to $3,000 per unit rebate on central heat pumps or mini-split heat pumps. That same group also has a $1,000-$3,100-per-unit rebate on heat-pump water heaters. Other vendors offer incentives for air sealing, insulation and ductwork, whole house fans, smart thermostats, and electric backup power units (see for more information).

Heat induction cooktops are another innovation that has come a long way in recent years. Unlike traditional electric stoves that heat with coils, induction cooktops use magnets to transfer heat directly to the pan through the process of induction. These ranges heat up faster (they can bring water to a boil in half the time of gas), allow you to cook at very specific temperatures, and are safer. Induction burners only heat the pan and not the cooktop surface, which means the rest of the stove remains cool when it’s on. Without an open flame, people are less likely to burn themselves or accidentally start kitchen fires.

“I am a total covert,” said Dennis Allen, founder of Allen Construction. He’s been cooking on a five-element magnetic induction cooktop for more than a decade. “It is fabulous,” he said. “It’s so responsive, and it is so good for the environment because it’s about double the efficiency of natural gas, because natural gas is heating all of the air around the pot and this power only heats the pot.” He also likes that it’s safer to cook with his granddaughter because she won’t get burned by the cooktop.

If you’re interested in trying before buying, many vendors offer portable models to take home and test. The Santa Barbara Public Library’s Library of Things also has an induction cooktop you can check out.

As more and more information comes out that electric homes are safer and healthier to live in, they are also becoming more practical and affordable, especially with the various incentives. There are some federal incentives for solar installation that are expiring soon, so the time to act is now, said Chiacos.

“Having an all-electric home with solar is definitely the way to go, because then you are using your locally generated sunshine to run your house, and hopefully power your car, too,” he said.

Santa Barbara Independent, May 19-25, 2002. ON THE COVER: Madame Ganna Walska, taken c. 1958. Photo by J.R. Eyerman/Lotusland Archives. Design by Ava Talehakimi.

Originally published in the May 19-25 issue issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: A Green Building Pioneer’s Take on Heat Pumps

Dennis Allen talks about electric-powered homes on the CEC blog.

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

“The nice thing about electric equipment is that it just keeps getting more refined, more efficient, quieter and better,” said current CEC Partnership Council member and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen. He’s certainly an authority on the subject. In addition to building two different state-of-the-art eco-conscious homes for his own family, the founder of green building specialist Allen Construction has been bringing his passion for energy conservation and sustainability to his work building quality, healthy homes for neighbors in Santa Barbara for almost 40 years.

As the costs of heat pumps have gone down, their efficiency has continued to improve. When he was building the LEED platinum certified Victoria Garden Mews project in downtown Santa Barbara in 2011 (where he and his wife Jenny currently reside), “we didn’t even consider a heat pump,” said Dennis. “At that point they were pretty expensive. Now they are much more reasonably priced and they’re much more efficient with what they call the coefficient of performance — it can be up to four times what a forced air gas/heating system would be. All of these things are just coming on big time.”

With all of the new residential projects in California now required to have solar power, Dennis predicts that the demand for heat pumps will continue to rise. “Heat pumps are safer and healthier because you’re not burning natural gas and having the combustion fumes from the gas system, which are usually in the house. (This is why you have to have carbon monoxide detectors in homes to sense whether there is too much carbon monoxide being put out by the natural gas burning appliances.) Those are both safety and health issues. And more recent research is finding that the health issues are more serious than we were all led to believe even five years ago.”

Higher upfront costs are the primary stumbling blocks when it comes to installing electric heating and cooling systems, but, Dennis explained, “if you take into account the operational side, then it has a payback period – and from then on you’re saving money. The upfront costs are still a little bit more expensive, but that’s coming down all the time and pretty soon it’s going to be a no brainer to go all-electric. The ordinances and the state regulations are nudging people in that direction, and there are some incentive programs and so forth that help people go there. Once they go there it keeps helping to drive the cost down and it helps people save money and be healthier. So even with the slightly higher costs today it’s still worth doing.”

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: CEC’s Board President is Pumped About Her Heat Pump

Barbara Lindemann on going electric with a new heat pump for

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

The desire to cool down her house, rather than heat it, was what inspired CEC Board President Barbara Lindemann to investigate switching to a heat pump.

The air conditioner in her home in the Santa Barbara foothills was on its last legs and the furnace was more than 30 years old. After getting a bid on replacing the gas-powered furnace, Barbara pondered the purchase. “I began to think, well why am I putting in another gas furnace?” she laughed. “Given my commitment to getting off of fossil fuels this doesn’t make any sense at all.”

She asked for advice from a few knowledgeable friends, including green builder and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen and architect Dennis Thompson, who had done a remodel for the Lindemann’s a few years ago. Both of the experts agreed that heat pumps were a good alternative to another gas furnace. “Dennis Thompson pointed out that it’s not going to be long before you’re not allowed to put more gas into homes and new homes won’t be allowed to be built with gas,” said Barbara. “He said it’s really become the new thing.”

In the meantime, Barbara had also been researching getting backup batteries for her 18-year-old solar panel system. Living in a high fire zone with frequent power outages, and knowing that her solar power system would soon need to be replaced, Barbara realized that installing a heat pump would make even more economic sense when she replaced the solar with a system that included storage batteries.

Getting the heat pump “is a matter of looking to the future and taking care of our current needs at the same time,” Barbara said. While the initial upfront cost of the heat pump was slightly more than a new furnace might have been, Barbara said her gas bill has gone down and her electricity use is only up a little, “so we’re already saving money on the heat pump, even though it was more expensive to put in — and I haven’t had a chance to give it a full test with air conditioning yet.”

When summer comes around, Barbara is looking forward to her new heat pump being able to cool her home just as effectively as a standard air conditioner would, but without relying on fossil fuels to keep her family comfortable.

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

Cocktail Corner: Lots of Ways to Eat, Drink and Make Merry

Kurt Russell, photo by Isaac Hernandez

Kurt Russell will take part in the annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend at the Bacara Resort. Photo by Isaac Hernandez

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

There’s no shortage of fun wine, beer and cocktail events in Santa Barbara County, but the next few weeks are particularly eventful.

Here’s a look at some of the toast-worthy happenings:

March 6-7 World of Pinot Noir

Indulge in the pleasures of Pinot Noir at the beautiful Bacara this spring, when the 15th Annual World of Pinot Noir unites producers from the most exceptional and unique regions in the world with Pinot Noir enthusiasts for a weekend of celebration and education. Last year’s event set a high bar for wonderful wines. Sip and savor at the Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 805/489-1758,

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

Courtesy World of Pinot Noir

March 18-22 Taste of Solvang

Celebrate the 23rd year of “Taste of Solvang” Food & Wine Destination Weekend with a five-day experience that encourages attendees to embark on “a culinary journey through Solvang, where wine country meets ‘dine country.” Highlights include the ​two-day Taste of Solvang Wine & Beer Walk, which allows guests to taste their pick from more than a dozen participating wine tasting rooms, wine bars and beer bars during the two-day stroll through Solvang Village. In addition, there’s a special Winemaker Dinner in a greenhouse setting with local winemaker and vineyard owner, Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery, and a carefully-curated pairing menu by Bacon & Brine’s Chef Pink. New this year is Bubbles & Brunch, an exclusive brunch held at Solvang’s Wildling Museum, featuring three different sparkling wines from local label, Flying Goat Cellars’ “Goat Bubbles” – a Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, and a sparkling Rosé. Flying Goat Cellars Winemaker, Norm Yost, is available to walk guests through each sparkling wine and the sparkling winemaking process. Various locations throughout Solvang. Tickets are available at, and for further information, visit

Garagiste Southern Exposure 2015March 27-29 Southern Exposure Festival in Solvang 

This popular festival returns to Veterans’ Hall in Solvang for what Festival co-founder Stewart McLennan promises will be “our best Southern Exposure ever—with many more exciting wine discoveries on tap from Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County.” The weekend of events will showcase the wines of over 60 artisan garagiste commercial winemakers who produce under 1,500 cases per year from the Santa Barbara region and the Central Coast. As an added benefit, the nonprofit Garagiste Festivals benefit the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program. For more information on The Garagiste Festivals, go to

April 16—19 Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend 

Now in its second year at the Bacara, the Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend showcases the distinct tastes, sights and sounds of Santa Barbara County while also bringing cutting-edge culinary talent from across the country to our region. This multi-faceted event, which includes cooking classes with famed chefs, local wine and food tastings, movie screenings, special presentations and much more, is a benefit for The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Among the highlights this year is a special dinner with actor/winemaker Kurt Russell on April 18.  Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta.

April 18 Earth Day Pop-Up Farm-to-Table Dinner

When the sun goes down on Saturday’s Earth Day celebration, a large community table pops in front of the main stage immediately after the last band. The only activity in the park with an admission fee, this four-course locavore feast—a benefit for Community Environmental Council—features seasonal delights from New West Catering and Cultivate Events, as well as local wine pairings and live music. This limited-seating special event will sell out, so get your tickets early. | Alameda Park, 1400 Santa Barbara St., 7 p.m. For tickets contact Kathi King at 805/963-0583 ext.108, or visit festival-highlights/farm-to-table-dinner.

April 19 Magic on the Urban Wine Trail III

Join the Parks and Recreation Community Foundation (PARC) for its third annual fundraising bash, Magic on the Urban Wine Trail, where music, art and wine meet.  Enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting featuring more than 12 wineries from the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, while you mingle with friends, enjoy local art and music and feel great about supporting Parks and Recreation programs for under-served youth.  There is also a silent auction, raffle and bottles of favorite wines for purchase. Carrillo Recreation Center Ballroom, 100 E. Carrillo St., 3-6 p.m. 805/897-1946,

Hope to see some of you there. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns. Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on March 6, 2015.

Leslie DinabergWhen she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Cocktail Corner: Green Drinks Earth Day Benefit

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

I love it when great causes join with fun events, and Tuesday’s 4th Annual Green Drinks benefit for the Community Environmental Council’s (CEC’s) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival brings together two terrific things: Green Drinks and Santa Barbara Earth Day!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Green Drinks, you should be. Their slogan is “Meet Drink Talk Think,” which is definitely a concept  worth toasting, as well as the motto for Green Drinks, a fun monthly networking group that combines merriment and making the world a greener (better) place.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, well let’s just hope you’re new to town. The 2014 festival, taking place April 26-27 at Alameda Park, will promote the power of grassroots action in protecting the environment, with specific resources around CEC’s five core issue areas: “drive less,” “go solar,” “choose electric,” “ditch plastic” and “eat local.”


Graphic Design by Kirsten Frank.

The Green Drinks party—taking place on Tuesday, April 1, from 6-9 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre‘s courtyard (33 E. Canon Perdido St.)—acts as a kick off to a month’s worth of Earth Day-related activities. They’ll have music by Adam Phillips and Ray Pannell; food and drinks from Alma Rosa WineryNinkasi Brewing Co.Isla Vista Food Coop and JuiceWell/Harvest Santa Barbara; a great raffle that includes the opportunity to win Jack Johnson Concert Tickets, an Arbor Santa Barbara Skateboard; a Farm to Table Earth Day Dinner and products and services from Klean KanteenSimply StrawsDivinitree YogaSanta Barbara Gift Basket and more!

They’ll also have live community painting with Whitney Castro and an “Outrageous Photo Booth” (can’t wait to see what that one is …) so don’t be an April fool, join us for Green Drinks and support Santa Barbara Earth Day on April 1.

All are welcome. Come thirsty, bring your friends. Great food and conversation is guaranteed. Just $20 gets you in the door and includes food and fun for a good cause (drinks are extra). RSVP at:


Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 28, 2014.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

“Selma Rubin and Community of Life” at Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Selma Rubin and Beezhan Tulu at El Capitan (courtesy photo)

Selma Rubin and Beezhan Tulu at El Capitan (courtesy photo)

The legacy of beloved local activist Selma Rubin lives on in filmmaker Beezhan Tulu‘s new documentary, Selma Rubin and Community of Life, which is an official selection of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. 

When asked what inspired him to do the film, Tulu said, “I believe we don’t own this planet and we share it with billions of other species that our health and livelihood completely depends on theirs. Therefore I always look for stories that promote a healthier planet for all species. Selma Rubin and her community has done that. Therefore a story like Selma’s and how she has encouraged every one around her to build strong organizations such as EDC (Environmental Defense Center) and CEC (Community Environmental Council) has been very inspiring to me.”

The documentary focuses on the period of time when Rubin (who passed away in 2012) finds out that a developer is planning to build 1,500 homes on the Gaviota Coast and decides to stop him. It’s definitely a must see for locals. Along with footage of Rubin, it also features Dave Davis (CEO/Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council), Chris Mobley (Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent), David Landecker (former Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Center), Jean-Michelle Cousteau (explorer, environmentalist and Chairman of the Board and President of Ocean Futures Society), Linda Krop (Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center), Marc McGinnes (UCSB Environmental Studies Program), Paul Relis (founding Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council) and Mike Lunsford (charter member and president of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board of Directors).

In addition to a touching local story, what Tulu hopes people will take away from the film is an encouraging message. “I  believe in people and know that we need to be working to gather for a better world. I believe that focusing on a healthier planet for all species goes beyond our differences in culture, religion, nationality, race, sex, skin color and all other shallow thoughts that have separated us and made us suffer. And although we live in hard times and 98% of scientists agree that global climate change is real and we need to do something very serious, really fast, and really soon. But I believe this is also a great opportunity to unite us again as humanity.”

Selma Rubin and Community of Life will screen at Santa Barbara Museum of Art on February 4 at 7 p.m. and at Metro 4 Theatre on February  5 at 10 a.m.


—Leslie Dinaberg
Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 28, 2014.

Giving Back: The Hutton Foundation

logo_hpOne of the biggest obstacles facing local nonprofits is the high price of real estate in Santa Barbara. Luckily Hutton Foundation is helping to fill that gap.

One of Hutton Foundation’s most significant efforts is its Under One Roof program, through which more than 30 local nonprofit organizations are housed in 12 Hutton Foundation-owned and managed properties. “One of the things local nonprofits struggled with the most was finding high-quality, affordable office space,” explains Pam Hamlin, the foundation’s executive director. Hutton Foundation rents the buildings to nonprofits at far below market rates and signs 10-year leases to help give organizations financial stability.

The organizations sharing space run the gamut, from Community Environmental Council to Santa Barbara International Film Festival, United Girls & Boys Club, Alzheimer’s Association and Camerata Pacifica, to name just a few.

The foundation’s broad areas of interest are a reflection of its president, Tom Parker, a Santa Barbara native who returned to town 12 years ago to start the Hutton Foundation, after serving as president of Hutton Companies-one of Southern California’s leading real estate developers-from 1985 to 1995.

“It’s my fault,” says Parker, with a twinkle in his eye. “What happened to me was I was doing grants and I thought, Here’s the homeless shelter, there’s someone who is hungry that needs help, here is an arts organization that is opening children’s minds to music and art and things that will make their life so much better. Who do I donate to? How do I value the two? I realized I couldn’t.”

Consequently, last year Hutton Foundation gave away $4.4 million in grants, donations and assistance to more than 100 local nonprofit organizations.

“We want to be in this community to help the process, to help nonprofits be more effective no matter what their mission-so long as it’s a mission that makes sense,” Parker says.

One thing that made sense, not just to Hutton Foundation but also to the Orfalea and Bower Foundations, was grouping services together to help children arrive in kindergarten better prepared to learn. The three groups are collaborating on an early childhood education and family resource center in Carpinteria. Opening in January at the former site of Main Elementary School, with a Community Action Commission/Head Start preschool at its core, this project represents the next evolution of Hutton Foundation. The foundation also recently made a deal to purchase the former Washington Mutual Bank building in downtown Santa Barbara, and is now evaluating which type of collaborative center will best serve the community.

Parker expected he would be semi-retired when he started Hutton Foundation, but he admits that when a great opportunity comes along he just can’t help himself. “The nonprofit sector intrigues me because there’s so much to be done,” he says. “You can really make a difference in this community.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine

Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Dave Davis

Dave Davis

Dave Davis

After almost 25 years as the City of Santa Barbara’s Community Development Director and a City Planner, Dave Davis now brings his expertise to the Community Environmental Council (CEC), where he serves as CEO/Executive Director.

Leslie Dinaberg: Did you ever think you would end up working for the CEC after retirement?

Dave Davis: The simple answer is no … but it’s great. It was taking all the things I had
learned for 30 years and applying them from a community standpoint of being an
advocate for positive change. … It was liberating for me to really focus on what
needs to be done.

LD: It sounds like a very unique opportunity.

DD: It really was. So did I ever envision it, no. But boy it slapped me upside the
head and there was no denying that yeah, I want to do this. I want to put my
effort behind it.

LD: That’s terrific. What are some of your priority programs?

DD: Starting the energy program … to create a blueprint for Santa Barbara
County. We found a nice little jingle, “Fossil free by ’33.”

… We basically set the priorities. They are really simple. Within in this region
focus on energy efficiency, personal energy efficiency and building energy
efficiency, secondly transportation efficiency, and that includes everything from
hybrid cars to mass transit and so forth, alternative fuels, building as many
literally, renewable projects within the region as possible.

LD: What do you mean by that?

DD: Wind, solar, wave. What this blueprint does is it actually inventories the
potential for any of those categories here in Santa Barbara. When you look at the
state of California and …the amount of land that you can actually do major wind
projects boils down to a very, very small area, two or three spots, and we happen
to be one of them. In and around the Lompoc Point Conception area, and
offshore outside of the islands, there is a significant potential for wind
development over the years that could supply major amounts of energy-not just
for Santa Barbara, much more than we would ever use-that we would be
supporting the energy use of Southern California.

… The big solar projects for us are inland, Cuyama Valley those areas out there,
that’s where the potential is. But there is on top of essentially almost every
significant rooftop the opportunity to do major solar distributing to the community.

… Financing is just so expensive, so one of the things we’re working on …
there’s been recent legislation which allows cities and counties to float low
interest revenue bonds which are then paid off by people who want the solar on
their houses and their payments go onto their property taxes over 30 years.

… Lastly when it comes to renewables there, is potential within the region for
wave energy. This is really new technology, … but again when you get off of
Point Conception area, the wave frequency, wave height, again we have a
resource potential there which outstrips our usage here.

LD: So you’re got this blueprint and you’ve got these plans …

DD: … so the last thing here is to move this out into the community and public
policy. … We formed a coalition with the architects, the American Institute of
Architects, the AIA; the Santa Barbara Contractors Association, the Sustainability
Project and Built Green Santa Barbara, and we went to the city and challenged
them to work with us to develop the most energy efficient ordinance in California,
if not the country, and we did. And adopted it. And it’s been in effect and we’re
going to the county in the very term to move that policy also out into the

LD: In the county, because of the fires, there’s a lot more building going on now
than we would have ever thought.

DD: Now let’s go into another example. So the fire happened and we were all
affected in one way or another, emotionally if not physically. …Again, we pulled
together our same coalition …We held a community forum up at Montecito
Covenant Church and we had 250 people.

Our coalition, led by us, went to the city and the county and said we want to
develop a plan not just to fast track these guys, but to basically put them on a
whole other process that they avoid the pitfalls of rebuilding. So we worked …
that if in fact they come in and they want to build better, they don’t go down
through that whole process of boards and committee and reviews, so they have
an independent review to look at those architectural, energy, and fire resistance
improvements and that they would move, not just to the head of the line, they
would go on consent calendar, that they would move directly on to the consent
calendar of the design review board so that they can go immediately into building
their house.

LD: It seems like incredible timing for that.

DD: Yes. …If you went in and tried to retrofit those big old houses it’s really
complicated. But now people can actually think was that the best place to put the
building. Did it need to be over here? Did the road need to be wider? Did the
materials need to be fire resistant? And while I’m doing this could the materials
basically save me money energy efficiency wise?

And I must tell you, the night we set up this forum it was one month to the day of
the fire we held the forum, which was pretty quick to get people out, organization,
everybody there. Not knowing how traumatized people would be …we really
actually hit a nerve. … People came up to me and said this is the first time since
the fire that I felt any sense of help. I teared up because it was really personal. …
This was just a great opportunity for the community to come together.

LD: What do you think would be the single thing that we, as a community, could
do to improve our energy efficiency?

DD: There isn’t one, there’s really two. They are at the heart of what I’ve been
talking about. On the South Coast, the biggest things that we can do is one,
make our buildings more energy efficient. … The second thing … if we could
develop aggressive social carpooling techniques, it would be significant. …
Young people, they’re geared to do it. Generationally, they’re going to do it, if we
can give them the tools and encourage it, then you start pushing it up to old folks
like me, we could go a long way.

LD: That’s actually a great use of technology.

DD: The other thing too, if we build the freeway, … that third lane being an HOV
(high occupancy vehicle) lane and running buses from Ventura like they’re doing.
They’re going through the roof with their subscriptions and carpooling of three
people per car. It would make a difference not just on the freeway but on the city
streets and in the parking lots.

LD: That has a good synergy with your work as a board member at MTD

DD: Oh absolutely. To my glee I found with my retirement that I could pull
together all the good things that I wanted to accomplish and do them. Not bad.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they

DD: Clearly I’m passionate, and that goes from my avocations to my vocation;
knowledgeable, both from the standpoint that I’m now a community elder, and
that I have basically always loved to seek knowledge and continue to. You know
the thing that I loved about my job with the city was that it brought me into
contact with so many different fields of expertise and knowledge. …. The other
one I would say is basically I’m happy, that Joie de Vivre, let the good times

Vital Stats: Dave Davis

Born: New Orleans, Louisiana, July 15, 1948

Family: wife Jean, son Jesse (30) and daughter Nora (27)

Civic Involvement: Board member, Metropolitan Transit District, board member,
UCSB Economic Forecast Project; CEO/Executive Director, Community
Environmental Council

Professional Accomplishments: City of Santa Barbara’s Community Development
Director and City Planner for almost 25 years; taught planning and environmental
studies at UCLA and Moorpark College; Downtown Organization Citizen of the
Year; Citizens Planning Association Planner of the Year, American Planning
Association National Social Advocacy Planner of the Year; Lifetime Achievement
Award, Santa Barbara American Institute of Architects; Jacaranda Award for
Lifetime Achievement, Santa Barbara Beautiful.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and
David Oliver Relin

Little-Known Fact: Until a few years ago Davis was an avid surfer, and once
surfed 20-foot waves in Kaui’s Hanalei Bay.

Originally published in Noozhawk on February 17, 2009. Click here to read the article on that site.