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Project to develop community resilience hubs underway in SB County

Community Environmental Council (CEC) is partnering with the County of SB on a pilot project for three community resilience hubs.
Community Environmental Council (CEC) is partnering with the County of Santa Barbara on a pilot project for three community resilience hubs.

The Central Coast has experienced several climate-related events recently, like storms and extreme heat. A Santa Barbara non-profit is working on ways to help the region prepare for such events, and one idea is to create neighborhood resilience hubs.

Community Environmental Council (CEC) is a non-profit organization that was founded in Santa Barbara over 50 years ago.

“We’re living in a time where extreme climate impacts are now not rare, and so how can we better respond and adapt before, during and after disasters,” Em Johnson, CEC Director of Climate Resilience said.

Johnson said, in addition to wildfires and storms, the region is experiencing more extreme heat days than in the past.

“The projections for our county and for our region of the number of days that we will reach a certain temperature that causes negative health impacts for people, we’ve already exceeded,” she said.

Johnson said people living on the Central Coast are used to cool, mild temperatures. Many homes don’t have air conditioning, and a large portion of the population is older and more vulnerable to heat-related complications.

One way to better prepare, she said, is to develop community resilience centers or hubs where people can go during periods of extreme heat or cold, as well as fires, floods or power outages. She said hubs might be in a library, neighborhood center, even a café.

“We’re taking a trusted community-based organization, retrofitting their existing facilities to provide, not just cooling center services but also energy resilient services and other emergency-type response services,” she said.

CEC is partnering with the County of Santa Barbara and other local organizations on a pilot project at three locations.

“Our three pilot projects currently are at the Franklin Neighborhood Center [Santa Barbara], Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, and the Blue Sky Center in the Cuyama Valley,” Johnson said.

She said each location is unique, and the projects draw on neighborhood knowledge and support.

“It’s upgrading those facilities to provide multiple services, but it’s also training those facilities’ staff as well as their neighbors,” she said.

Following the pilot project, Johnson said the goal is to apply for more state funding to expand the network of hubs on the Central Coast.

To learn more, go to You can also find ideas there to make your own home more resilient.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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