Montecito Has A Transient Problem

For years, a group of transients has occupied various locations in and around Coast Village Road, holding cardboard signs with varying messages; every year, more of them flock to what has apparently become a handout haven. Too often, drivers stop, roll down their windows, and hand money to the hapless supplicants. We believe this encouragement is the wrong thing to do and has become dangerous for Montecito. Santa Barbara has a variety of resources available to vagrants, transients, and others in need of food, water, and/or shelter. Chances are those that choose to live near the freeway are unwilling to meet the often low standards required of the various shelters, and would rather beg for money than seek help there.

The California Highway Patrol recently teamed up with Caltrans to clean up what had become encampments in and under the brush along Highway 101 near the southbound Hot Springs Road exit. The area was littered with human waste, trash, and drug paraphernalia, which should come as no surprise. The on-ramps and off-ramps all around Montecito are nearly always littered with jetsam and flotsam, mostly left behind by this group of part-time “residents.”

Over the past ten years, Montecito has seen a rise in such activity. Often, disputes break out over who has the right to beg at certain spots, the most popular being the center divide on Coast Village Road, where Hot Springs intersects. The second most “productive” location is at the southbound off-ramp where, coincidentally, most of the human waste, trash, and drug paraphernalia was found and removed by CHP and Caltrans employees.

You would be doing both Montecito and the vagrants a favor by not offering money or other handouts. If you simply cannot pass these folks without giving them something, drop off a bottle of water or a sandwich, even a cup of coffee if you are so inclined. But, if you notice the garbage piling up around them – and you inevitably will – you should at least ask yourself if you are really doing the right thing.

We think not.

Stella Zadeh (July 27, 1947 – June 7, 2006)

Stella and I were walkers. We walked everywhere, often from our Montecito home near Mountain Drive down to the beach, stopping at Mollie’s or Jeannine’s for breakfast. Three years ago, while walking uphill, Stella had to stop. She was out of breath. In July 2003, an endoscopy revealed she had Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell, and Primary Systemic Amyloidosis, which destroyed her heart and was the cause of her death. She was 58 years old.

Stella graduated Harvard in 1969, then got her Masters in Journalism from UCLA. She worked for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, then the Associated Press. At 29, she became City Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. She left when Walter Cronkite asked her to be Editor of the CBS Evening News. Unfortunately, Dan Rather replaced Walter before she could start and wanted his own Editor. So she went instead to KCBS to run the news desk.

She became a CBS executive and stayed until 1984, when she resigned. In 1985, she established her own talent agency, Stella Zadeh and Associates, and created a new niche in the agency business in unscripted television, which has become the reality television business. Her business evolved so that she only represented producers and directors of such shows as “The Bachelor,” “Deal or no Deal,” and “Judge Mathis” (to name a few). She was enormously respected and loved in her field by those she represented as well as those against whom she negotiated. She loved what she did and did it because she loved her clients. She got such joy from mentoring them and helping them.

Stella is the daughter of Lotfi and Faye Zadeh. Lotfi Zadeh is a world famous computer scientist and mathematician who created a theory of uncertainty for computers called Fuzzy Logic. If you Google him (and Fuzzy Logic is part of that search system) you will get hundreds of thousands of hits. His life has been subject of a Los Angeles Times prize-winning biography entitled Fuzzy Logic.

We met in 1985 and married in 1988. She was the heart and soul of my life.

– David Gersh