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Hazardous homeless camp cleaned up right before Montecito high tides wash it out

Homeless camp cleanup
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Homeless beach camp
An emergency cleanup of abandoned homeless camps has taken place on the Montecito coastline prior to the extreme high tides. (Photo: John Palminteri)

MONTECITO, Calif. - A persistent effort rallied the right groups just before the extreme high tides hit the Southern Santa Barbara County coastline where abandoned homeless encampment items would have been washed into the ocean.

The waves hit at dawn Monday morning, breaking over the seawall at the Santa Barbara Harbor, and surging up on to Leadbetter Beach.

Along the beach where Santa Barbara meets Montecito, a large area of leftover items, which the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department determined to be one or more abandoned homeless camps, became a serious concern Saturday.

The environmental group Heal the Ocean was called and Executive Director Hillary Hauser worked with board member Harry Rabin on a rapid response plan. Rabin also works with Reef Guardians.

The Sheriff's Department authorized the opening of an access gate, and the Big Green company came in with a crew that picked up all the items by hand, bagged them and transported the debris out.

The timing was essential. Waiting for the start of the week to get this clean up going would have been too late. By Monday morning the area was over taken by coastal waters, as expected.

"I am very thrill that it happened," said Hauser. The red tape was bypassed in part because of long standing relations with the Sheriff's Department and the environmental groups. "To have it happen is a miracle," she said.

She said Rabin stayed with it, after the first calls were not getting a response.

In the pile of debris were dangerous items.

"There was a battery in there, full of battery acid," said Hauser. "And a lot of bicycles and bike parts. It's metal, that is a public health hazard, the ocean will be full of junk." said Hauser.

"When the high tide comes that will be going out into the ocean," said Rabin on Saturday.

Hauser said, "we have got to figure out a way to keep it from happening."

Governor Gavin Newsom has said the homeless camps should be left in place during the coronavirus crisis.

"The beach is not a suitable place, neither is a creek, neither is a storm drain or watershed, because we know they don't have sanitation," said Hauser.

The group plans to continue its efforts to keep encampments from damaging the coastal environment with calls to county and state legislators.

Coronavirus / Health / Lifestyle / Local Politics / Outdoors / Politics / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and NewsChannel 12. To learn more about John, click here.

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