Santa Barbara County’s new program to help combat the impact of climate change has no North County location | Cover story

The following article was published on November 9, 2022 in the Santa Maria Sun – Volume 23, Number 37 [ Submit a Story ]

The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] – Volume 23, Number 37

Santa Barbara County’s new program to help combat the impact of climate change does not have a North County location


Longer wildfire seasons and more extreme heat days are some of the ways residents of Santa Barbara County are already seeing climate change affect their daily lives.

To address these impacts, Santa Barbara County instituted the regional climate collaborative: a network of organizations working together to create climate mitigation and “resilience” efforts, according to the collaboration’s website. One of the latest efforts has been to create three new resilience centers, said climate program manager Garrett Wong.

The darker blue areas show regions of Santa Barbara County that have the most vulnerable populations to climate change, while the lighter areas show the least vulnerable populations. Black areas are incorporated cities.

“We view a resilience hub or center as a community facility that can provide community services and resources before, during and after a climate-related incident,” Wong said. “We know that there are already facilities in [communities] which are trusted institutions that have also provided community services in the emergencies that we have experienced in this region.

The collaboration received two grants – a $25,000 grant from Pacific Gas and Electric and $200,000 from the California Resilience Challenge grant program — to start planning and determining ways to improve facility services, Wong said.

The hubs would open cooling centers during days of extreme heat; provide clean filtered air during wildfire season; and distributing emergency medical supplies, food and water.

“The good thing about the sites is that they are geographically dispersed across the county, provide a different context and the type of functions they serve, and the constituents they serve and the local climatic conditions to which they’re on display,” Wong said.

However, the selected locations – Cuyama’s Blue Sky Center, Santa Barbara’s Franklin Neighborhood Center, and Carpinteria’s Girls Inc. – are nowhere near Santa Maria or other North County communities, which were cited as some of the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in the county, according to the county Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.

Santa Maria community activists are looking for other ways to ensure residents are protected from climate change, and the county collaboration hopes to secure more funding to build a network of resilience centers across the county.

“We haven’t received any applications in the city of Santa Maria,” Wong said. “We have had conversations with sites and agencies in Santa Maria about this program. I think part of what we’ve learned is that it takes time and capacity for these organizations to participate.

Many organizations faced staffing issues, and the app required full capacity to even participate as a resilience center, he added.

“We hope to continue the conversation with other sites,” Wong said. “This program is more specifically focused on community and organizational capacity to develop, implement and maintain these facilities.”

Meanwhile, Santa Marians and other North County residents are expected to be greatly affected by climate change as its impacts worsen in the future. According to the Santa Barbara County Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, the communities of Northwest Santa Maria and South Santa Ynez are two of the top three unincorporated communities that will disproportionately experience climate change in a severe degree.

“The most vulnerable populations are those with limited mobility, limited resources, social or economic disparities, and/or those living in high-risk areas,” the assessment states. “Residents of frontline communities are often immigrants and refugees, Indigenous and people of color, and face increased hardship due to socio-economic or environmental pressures.”

While the location of the Cuyama hub makes sense, Lucia Marquez, deputy policy director of Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), said there is also a need for resources like resilience hubs. in North County due to its large frontline population. communities, such as tenants and undocumented families.

“I don’t think it’s a question of should it be here or there; we need more investment, especially in disadvantaged communities who experience the impacts at a disproportionate level,” Marquez said.

“We didn’t apply, mainly because we’re not a direct service provider, so our office might not be the most logical place for a resilience center versus organizations maybe more service-oriented,” Marquez added later in an email to Sun.

During days of extreme heat, low-income households also cannot afford air conditioning units or higher electricity bills, and some homes and housing units may not be able to be retrofitted to withstand higher temperatures, Marquez added.

“We have a high tenant population, and the lived experience [during] extreme heat days are very different,” she said. “Closer cooling centers are something we need to see in our communities.”

Marquez thinks there will be more opportunities for resources to flow into communities like Santa Maria, but she said it’s important that local decision makers seek out these funding opportunities and ensure they reach the community.

Along with funding, environmental justice is another element that Marquez said she would like to see expanded in Santa Barbara County — and across the state — with financial safety nets for undocumented workers, including farmhands, who tend to continue to work in dangerous conditions such as wildfires in order to keep their families afloat.

“Being undocumented, [there’s] not the same access to unemployment or FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] relief fund,” she said. “These are some of the invisible impacts of climate change that people see in Santa Maria that people don’t think of when we say ‘climate change’.”

Marquez said she’s seen a lot of investments from the state to address climate impacts and make California more climate resilient, but access to emergency relief funds is something that needs to happen. be addressed.

“We need to make sure undocumented people are not left behind, which is why CAUSE is working on Safety net for all and calling on our state officials to prioritize helping undocumented families in the state budget,” Marquez said.

Safety Net for All is a statewide coalition of organizations that promotes policy solutions to help address climate impacts on undocumented communities, she said. Currently, the coalition advocates investing in unemployment benefits for undocumented workers in the next budget cycle.

“This ensures that undocumented workers and families are not left out of the safety net,” Marquez said. “It will be a growing need as climate change gets more severe – whether it’s a massive disaster that leaves people out of work, they lose their homes, or their health is really affected.”

Contact editor Taylor O’Connor at


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