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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 12:18 pm | Fair 66º


Santa Barbara Installs Storm Drain Filters to Deal With Fiesta’s Confetti Impacts

Confetti-filled eggs are for sale all along State Street for the Old Spanish Days celebrations this week

Cascarones vendors line up along State Street Wednesday in anticipation of Fiesta revelers.
Cascarones vendors line up along State Street Wednesday in anticipation of Fiesta revelers. (Jim Dewey / Santa Barbara Public Works photo)

Bits of confetti and glitter coating the sidewalks of downtown Santa Barbara are ubiquitous during the city’s annual Fiesta celebration, and it's unlikely that will change this year as vendors lined up Wednesday to sell cascarones — the hollowed-out eggshells that contain the sparkly stuff.

After concerns that the confetti and other items would end up in the city’s storm drains and eventually travel to the creeks and ocean at the next rain, Santa Barbara’s Public Works Department installed several filters over the storm drains downtown to keep the colorful litter out. 

“We just have so much confetti everywhere that it’s making its way to the creeks and oceans,” said Jim Dewey, facilities manager for Santa Barbara.

“Every year, it’s getting worse,” he said.

Particularly galling to Dewey are the bags of confetti available for purchase, no eggshell included.

“It’s wholesale littering,” he said. “It’s a mess.”

The city has equipped several storm drains in the Lower State Street area with pieces of woven fabric that will sit on top of the storm grate.  

It will allow water to go through but keep confetti out until street sweeping can be done and staff can dispose of the confetti that has built up. Dewey expects them to be in place about a week.

It’s the first year the city has done this, after taking a similar approach for the city’s Summer Solstice Parade.

From the legal standpoint, “it’s a complicated issue,” Sgt. Riley Harwood of the Santa Barbara Police Department said of the vendors.

There have always been mixed feelings about the presence of the cascarones vendors, with one side being in favor and making the case that they’re part of Old Spanish Days tradition and benefit the people selling them.

“Typically, the ones doing the selling are among the poorest of the poor,” Harwood said.

Others consider the vendors a nuisance, and some cite environmental concerns, fearing the mylar and other confetti materials won't break down and could even be toxic.

Harwood said that the he noticed the vendors proliferated when the recession hit, and now people can be found selling the eggs at other community festivals, such as Summer Solstice and Fourth of July.

Vending on public streets without a permit is illegal, but for police enforcement, “our priority is food vendors because of the obvious public health risk involved,” he said.

Because the people selling the cascarones and other trinkets are less of a public health hazard and more of nuisance, “we do address them, but with a greater degree of discretion,” Harwood said.

That means police will take action against vendors who generate complaints, are blocking sidewalks or storefronts, or those who are so close to sanctioned venues that they are encroaching.

The Police Department also has to balance these lower level crimes within the larger context of Fiesta, which is expected to bring out as many as 150,000 people for Friday’s equestrian parade.

At the busiest point, usually on Friday or Saturday night, about 110 officers will be on the streets policing for crowd control, gang suppression, and traffic enforcement. 

“We have to gauge our response and our ability to respond to nuisance,” Harwood said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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