Oil Spill United City of Santa Barbara in 1961


The city of Santa Barbara became united in 1969 when a economical tragedy hit the shores. About 5 miles off the Santa Barbara coast, there was a crack in an oil platform that allowed 3 million gallons of oil seep into the ocean. The effects of the spill were immediate and harsh, as black sludge covered the water for hundreds of miles. The shores of Santa Barbara beaches were ruined, as tar still remains evident on the shores today.

Image result for santa barbara oil spill 1969 get oil out

“Get Oil Out” boycott

After the spill, signs of strength from the Santa Barbara community began to show as they created programs to help recover the mess.

Santa Barbara promoted the “get oil out” (GOD). The purpose behind GOD was the get people to stop driving, and to boycott gas stations that sold oil from off-shore drilling. Also, the program promoted a petition of 100,000 signatures to ban the continuation of off-shore drilling.

Image result for shoveling tar off santa barbara beaches 1969

Community workers recovering SB Shores

Santa Barbara continued to grow stronger as people conducted several volunteer beach clean ups that consisted of hundreds of people shoveling tar off the shores.

Shortly after the spill, the disasters of the spill began to gather the nation’s attention. President Richard Nixon visited the sight of the spill and shared his thoughts with the nation announcing, “It is sad that it was necessary that Santa Barbara should be the example that had to bring it to the attention of the American people” His words brought attention to the environmental programs, and sparked the beginning of the environmental movement. Many laws were passed due to the oil spill intending to protect the economy future events.

The laws passed following the spill:

Image result for national environmental policy act of 1969

Signing of National Environmental Policy Act 1969

  • National Environmental Policy Act 1969
  • Environmental Protection Agency 1970
  • Clean Water Act 1972
  •   Endangered Species Act 1973

The fast transition our nation made to fix the economical issues is what made this oil spill significant. The Santa Barbara oil spill was the third largest oil spill in history, and it could have been way worse. When a accident like this occurs, it takes the unity of a whole community and nation to pull together and give a helping hand in recovery.

Looking back to before the oil spill, Ari Phillip’s article reflects on a man named Bud Bottoms said, “I came here after World War II, the harbor was beautiful, the beaches were fantastic, and the ocean was transparent. Then one day an invasion came—and in came the derricks.” Bottoms explains that the beaches of Santa Barbara were a thing of paradise until it was hit with the dramatic disaster in 1969.

The beaches of Santa Barbara have made a recovery over the 40 years. The shores of Santa Barbara did take a bad hit in 1969, but time recovers everything. Although, time can not tell when the remains of tar will fully disappear from the shores, when you visit the beaches of Santa Barbara today, you can still expect a beautiful sight.


What we can not forget looking back on the tragic economical accident, the Santa Barbara oil spill acted as a warning to improve our environmental programs. The negative effects the oil spill gave to the Santa Barbara beaches will never be forgotten, as they live through the environmental movement which it sparked in order to protect the future economy.

Image result for santa barbara beach

Santa Barbara Beach 40 years after spill