The Trees of Milpas Street Are in Danger of Being Removed

••• “The City of Santa Barbara’s Milpas Street Crosswalk Safety and Sidewalk Widening project includes new curb extensions, new lighting accessibility improvements and flashing beacons, as well as three-foot-wide buffers along bike lanes for cyclist safety along three blocks. The project also calls for the removal of the street’s mature ficus trees.” Please, no, not the ficus trees! Without them Milpas will lose a tremendous amount of its charm. New trees will take decades to make an equivalent impression. —Noozhawk

••• As Rich noted, Governor Newsom signed a law prohibiting so-called “junk fees” in California; it’s effective starting July 1, 2024. —CBS

••• Noozhawk recaps the tension between hotel and housing development in Santa Barbara—namely, that the city needs housing, but it has made hotels much easier and more cost-effective for developers.

City planner Allison DeBusk told Noozhawk that—as of Sept. 13—there are currently 27 hotel projects in the pipeline, which includes 635 hotel rooms, 130 rooms that already have been approved and 167 with building permits. For housing through the city’s Average Unit-Size Density program apartments, she said, the city has 146 units pending, 320 units that have been approved and 275 that have been issued a building permit.

Perhaps it all depends on how you define the pipeline, but I came up with 1,864 apartments, and that was as of May. UPDATE: “The disparity between your 1,864 figure and Ms. DeBusk’s comes from whether or not the project takes advantage of the AUD program,” explains JC. “I’m not sure why the total wasn’t included in her presentation, though.”

••• A dam formed by a debris net in San Ysidro Creek has been cleared. —Independent

••• “At 19, the Texan-born photographer Jimmy Metyko arrived in Santa Barbara. As he releases a new book celebrating Santa Barbara’s surfing heroes of the 1980s, he shares his first impressions of the legendary break” at Rincon. —C Magazine

••• Goleta’s plan “to reconfigure Hollister Avenue to one lane for cars and bicycles in each direction” has hit a snag, in that “the two recent bids on the project came in at more than $4 million each—far exceeding the city’s original estimated cost of $1.8 million.” Elsewhere in the Independent‘s article, we learn that the replacement of the San Jose Creek bridge over Hollister Avenue involves the creation of “two roundabouts—at South Kellogg and at Ward Avenue—to either side of the State Route 217 overpass.” And an “extension of Fowler Road and Ekwill Street […] has been in the works since at least 2011. Both Ekwill and Fowler are a couple short blocks between Fairview and Kellogg. By extending them toward each other, with a roundabout at Pine Avenue in the middle, the city hopes to alleviate the traffic through Old Town by providing a road parallel to Hollister.” It took me a while to figure out where Fowler and Ekwill might meet, so I made a map—the exact location for the new road may be different.


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The disparity between your 1,864 figure and Ms. DeBusk’s comes from whether or not the project takes advantage of the AUD program. I’m not sure why the total wasn’t included in her presentation, though.


Personally in favor of tree removal on Milpas. They’re stellar trees – don’t get me wrong. But the street needs to modernize. They compromise the sidewalk. They compromise multi-story development. Milpas should be a High Street for the neighborhood with shops and business bordering the street and a wide sidewalk. Tree removal should help facilitate that.


It doesn’t have to be all or nothing with the Milpas trees. Planners start with the easy thing which is to do away with all shade and greenery. They just have to be encouraged to think more creatively, to think of shade as one of the assets in the mix. Planting new trees is part of it, but it will be decades before new trees provide meaningful shade and the beauty of mature greenery. Affluent neighborhoods get to keep their trees when improvements are made. Less affluent neighborhoods have to speak up to get that same consideration.

There certainly may be trees that have to go. But we are paying a lot of tax money for this design so it’s right that the community should push the city and developers to optimize all aspects. It’s just lazy design to wipe out all the shade because it’s more convenient.

We should not let ourselves get lured into an all or nothing framework on the trees. That just serves the developers’ interest. We can push them to better serve our interest. That’s what the Modoc neighbors were able to do, and a better solution came out of that.

We should speak up for an optimal design starting Tuesday Oct. 18th from 5:30-7p at the Franklin Neighborhood Center.


It’s always the poor neighborhoods where trees are taken down first.
They need to rethink.


you seem to entirely miss the point that they want to upgrade the area- “the poor area”. Putting in new trees sounds awesome- some day children will stare at those new to you/old to them trees in wide eyed wonder…..


Those trees give Milpas a magic that I would work hard to preserve. Their beauty and shade adds a lot of value to the neighborhood that needs to be balanced against the need for sidewalks and bike lanes to conform to newer standards.


Santa Barbara should loose their “Tree City USA” award. They are removing tree left and right all around town.


My opinion is that let people to vote if remove those trees or not they are get them used to them not the city . The city should consider the vote not just to decide . Peoples vote is a right.


Those trees should be removed. I don’t like them and there are better options.The trees don’t let in light and attract too many crows. Milpas needs safer bike lanes and sidewalks that are wider. Adults and Kids can’t safely ride bikes around town. Overall they needs a major overhaul.


The Milpas Ficus trees are old growth.
They’re part of Santa Barbara & Milpas is gloriously beautiful because of them.
Clear cutting would be criminal and they deserve to be protected.


I am so done with the planners in this town. If it’s old, get rid of it. Let’s make this place look like Orange County.


Please don’t remove those very old, very amazing ficus trees. Carillo has similar ones, and they work around the roots and whatever else is causing problems. Those are some of the things that make our history. They make the street beautiful.


If anyone walks a few blocks on Milpas you will quickly realize that the ficus trees have made pedestrian access extremely poor and ADA access near impossible. They were good for a time but things change. Certainly not native and if you view historic SB photos they did not exist. Lets make a key corridor of our town properly accessible.


I walked this block for years as a letter carrier and only tripped once. Watch where you are walking.


Keep the trees please! There’s nothing worse than a concrete jungle without some form of nature (trees, plants,etc). The trees are mature and beautiful, there’s no reason for them to be taken down, they’re not diseased. The developers need to work around them.


The great shade the trees on Milpas offer are a respite from the harsh sun. The towering beauty is soul satisfying. I love the crows and it is hard to imagine where they will go if the trees are gone.
Whenever I go to a parking lot, I notice everyone tries to grab a space that is under trees. Parking lots off Chapala near Victoria and Anapamu have very few trees and cars get boiling hot. Whoever gets there first grabs one of the few shady parking spaces. The Smart and Final parking lot is my favorite because it is full of shady trees. That parking lot should get an award.
If the trees are removed from Milpas (some have already been) I fear many of us will have a deep sense of loss. A deep sense of loss in this world is happening for many other reasons since things are changing so quickly. Consider the economy, fires, wars, demographics, etc. Old trees are a source of comfort, consistency and stability.
Recently, when I drive on 101 and see the stumps left from cutting the giant old trees for freeway widening, I feel very sad. They cut them overnight. They were once the welcoming ones to Santa Barbara. Why is this happening when personal cars are going to be outlawed by 2030?
Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum said in a speech that streets and freeways in L.A. will be turned into parks. Meanwhile, CalTrans is removing trees and widening roads? Is there lack of foresight? Something is out of sync. Maybe because 5G works better without trees? Radical tree removal is happening in many cities of the world that have tree lined streets. Why?
I hope the glorious and shady Ficus trees on Milpas get a stay of execution.

Sam Tababa

This city is so overrun with emotional nostalgia. It’s why nothing ever happens. Too many people with feelings about something silly like this overriding logic and common sense. Those trees and the entire Milpas corridor are a danger to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a dangerous street to walk, ride or drive and park on. The lanes are narrow, the traffic thick and the sidewalks are small, littered with cracks and bumps that are a lawsuit waiting to happen. Add in the bike riders who use the sidewalk because riding on Milpas is a death wish, and you have an easily resolved mess. If you didnt know, the city is legally responsible to make sure the sidewalks are free of tripping hazards as well as accessible and easy to traverse, for those with mobility issues.

So cut them down, widen the sidewalks and clean up the storefronts. It’s a messy part of town that is part commercial, part fast food and part check cashing western union. It’s a simple thing to plant new trees that dont create problems with the concrete, the roadway and the sewer lines. Like most problems, the sewer line issue is one that you dont see but is actually a problem. Those ficus roots eat into the old clay pipes and underneath all that concrete and asphalt, is a cesspool of feces and urine leeching into the groundwater.

The city shouldn’t even ask or inform, they should just cut them down and let overly emotional nostalgia crowd weep into their Starbucks lattes as they drive themselves across town for their yoga class. They’ll complain about everything regardless.


I couldn’t agree with you more, although I have nothing against Starbuck-drinking yogis! :-)


Do not remove those beautiful mature trees. I am thrilled the city of putting efforts into redesigning Milpas street. However removing the mature trees is just a bad plan. Invite the tree experts to trim and help come up with a plan to keep these trees healthy and pristine so this neighborhood remains beautiful. I applaud the plan to plant new trees also. You can never have too many trees. By the time the newly planted trees are mature, then let’s revisit this subject. Adding bike paths, improving the walk-ability of this neighborhood should be applauded. Let’s hope the city planners will observe the drivers on Milpas and try to address safety. I drive on Milpas Road often and rarely is it a good experience. Too much speeding and too little courtesy. In my humble opinion the mature trees add to the beauty of this area! Young and old trees RULE and will continue to help us manage pollution from the cars!


I think I’ll walk down Milpas from Canon Perdido to Carpinteria and back up the other side before I decide where I stand on this issue. Normally I just drive on that street and I have no idea what it’s like as a pedestrian or bike rider. I do think the City should be making the public streets and sidewalks safer and also support ways for residents to get around without using a motor vehicle.


There has to be a way to preserve the old growth greenery on Milpas and move the street forward
while upgrades are executed without ruining the beauty of the trees. Planning should work a formula
to work both ways, so it is not either/or.


What about making Milpas one way for cars and bikes and widening the sidewalks around the trees, thereby keeping the beautiful trees? We already have a lot of one way streets here, not a new idea.