September 23, 2023
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Area code overlay better than breaking up the 805


With the California Public Utilities Commission ready to hold hearings on the future of the 805 area code, the easy call for this newspaper is to urge the CPUC to adopt a so-called “overlay” solution.

With an overlay, the existing area code remains intact and a new set of three numbers introduces a new area code into all or part of the region.

The 805 area code is so distinctive that it’s become a lifestyle brand that symbolizes our special culture of coastal living. It also happens to be the moniker of one of the hottest selling craft beers in the West.

To carve up the 805 area code, which basically covers Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, plus a bit of Monterey County, seems short-sighted and perhaps foolish. The joke around the newsroom at press time was that maybe the Conejo Valley could be shipped out to area code “818.” That suggestion, made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, cannot be taken seriously.

Moreover, carving out a big chunk of the gloriously well constituted “805” area would be disruptive to the business climate and to the region’s greater cultural identity. An overlay that leaves the “805” intact but introduces a new code to enable new lines seems to be a much better way to go. However we would add two notes of caution:

• While an overlay solution sounds neat and tidy, it does mean one major change. Once the overlay takes effect, locals will need to dial 10 digits in order to reach family, friends and neighbors or fax a document. Things will change forever but in an era of smart phones and greatly diminished faxes, the disruption will be muted.

• The ostensible reason for the switch is that the region is running out of phone numbers. That is worrying inasmuch as the last time there was talk of breaking up the 805 area, in the late 1990s, we were in the middle of the tech bubble. The subsequent bust wiped out so many businesses and so many numbers that regulators were forced to put the issue on hold – where it has remained for nearly two decades.

Given that there are fewer signs of a bubble than there were in 2000, we’re guessing the 805 area code’s days of hegemony are coming to an end. We’ll stiffen the upper lip and get ready for the overlay.

The CPUC hearings will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Oxnard City Council Chambers, at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Eastside Branch Library in Santa Barbara on Montecito Street and at 11 a.m. Aug. 23 at the San Luis Obispo City Council Chambers.

Hypocrisy over beach access

Nothing fuels middle class resentment like a group of uber-wealthy liberals sticking it to regular folks when it comes to California beach access.

Later this month a Santa Barbara court will hear arguments in a fight between land owners and the California Coastal Commission over plans to allow a small number of visitors per day to access to a relatively remote beach at Hollister Ranch.

The property owners, including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, want the public kept out. That strikes us as hypocritical. Just a few miles east on Highway 101 in Ventura County, Chouinard and others have spent considerable sums to shut down landowner rights and preserve open space.

Such hypocrisy is an insult to the public and the public trust — and a great way to rev up the resentment that folks like Donald Trump find all too easy to tap.