Recovery and Rebirth

by Bob Hazard

Residents whose homes received little or no damage are gradually returning to their nests.  Homeowners, working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, are assessing damage and beginning to restore one of the most beautiful communities on earth. With the exception of the two exclusion zones around Cold Springs/Montecito Creek and San Ysidro Creek, Mandatory Evacuation orders have been lifted.

“Rebuilding Montecito” Community Forum

On Friday morning, January 26, 2018, 1st District County Supervisor Das Williams, convened aRebuilding Montecito” community forum for interested Montecito community members. His opening remarks set the right tone:

“We put this event together because those who do not live in Montecito cannot fully understand the frustration, the exhaustion or the heartbreak of the Montecito community. This community is still in emergency status. Recovery will take patience. Neither fire, nor flood, nor the fiscal deficits at the County and State level will stop us from recovering as a community.”

Das is right. We do need to come together—to get residents back into their homes; to clear away the mud and debris from public and private property; to find safe places to put it; to restore the sewer system, drains and utility services; to rebuild where we can; to heal the scars and restore and improve the community’s infrastructure; to clean out the flood basins; to deal with the radical changes in Montecito’s topography; and to create a vision of where we go from here to make Montecito a better and safer community than it was before the Fire and the Flood—while preparing for the next catastrophic event, which surely will come.

Montecito Union School Reopens

After the Mandatory Evacuation notice for lower San Ysidro Road was lifted, the 415 Montecito Union Elementary School (MUS) students were able to return to their own campus at 385 San Ysidro Road on Friday, January 26, for the first time since class closures on January 7.

Turn on My Gas.  I Need a Hot Shower!

For many Montecitans returning to their homes, one of the biggest immediate challenges is getting the gas hooked up. SoCal Gas representatives are working their way through neighborhoods, house by house, to restore service.   You will be alerted by phone call or text when So Cal Gas is in your area.  You must be at home for service reconnection.   SoCal Gas has brought in representatives from throughout the region to assist with this very labor-intensive work.

Is My Water Safe to Drink?

Full restoration of a potable water system for Montecito and Summerland was originally set for Saturday, January 27, 2018, according to Nick Turner, GM, Montecito Water District. That date has now slipped to next Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

For the most current information on water safety, go to the Montecito Water District (MWD)website (www.montecitowater.com) and click on “Latest News” for Boil Water Notices, High Chlorine Content/Super Chlorinated Water, System Flushing and Emergency Potable Water Distribution information.

Once the water is deemed safe by MWD, restaurants in Montecito will still need to get cleared by the Santa Barbara County Health Department before they can resume normal service. Restaurants such as Giovanni’s on Coast Village Road have opened with paper plates and plastic utensils, but no carbonated drinks, except from cans. Also open is Here’s the Scoop and The Village Cheese and Wine Shop, serving free food and free coffee to residents in the Upper Village who refused to leave and to hungry first responders. More on Patrick Braid, owner, and his heroism, later.

Mud Removal from Private Property: A Massive Clean-Up Still to Come

The Army Corp of Engineers estimates that 2,000,000 cubic yards of muck and mud will be removed from public roadways, creek and catch basins in Montecito. By way of reference, a standard dump truck carries 10 cubic yards of mud, meaning that cleanup will require the hauling of 20,000 truckloads of debris out of Montecito.

As individual homeowners begin the process of cleaning up their own homes, properties, pools, and private roads, even more debris will need to be hauled out of Montecito.  The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management is currently working on recommendations for disposition of debris that is currently on private property.

Current Housing Needs

An estimated 400 homes in Montecito out of an inventory of 4,000 have been destroyed or heavily damaged, mostly in the two long-term exclusion zones of Cold Springs/Montecito Creek basin and the San Ysidro Creek basin.  This near-term housing shortage will heavily impact the demand for rental properties in the area.

Sewer Service from Montecito Sanitary District

Diane Gabriel, General Manager and District Engineer for the Montecito Sanitary District, reports that sewer service to undamaged homes is available and reliable.

If your home has experienced significant damage, it is possible that your private sewer lateral may have been impacted with mud and debris. If this is your situation, please contact the sanitary district at (805) 969-4200, or e-mail cmartin@montsan.org  prior to using indoor plumbing. The district will work with your plumbing contractor in locating your sewer cleanouts for appropriate removal of mud and debris from sewer laterals, if necessary.

U.S. Mail Delivery, UPS and Federal Express

Homes where mandatory evacuations have been lifted are now receiving current U.S. mail deliveries, plus back mail, even though the Montecito Post Office in the Upper Village remains closed. Private mail and package delivery has now resumed. Amazon is back in your life, ladies.

If You Have Fire Insurance, Does It Cover Damage from the Mudslide and Flood?

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara County) has taken the lead in helping  residents whose homes were devastated or destroyed by the Thomas Fire or subsequent mudslides to ensure that fire insurance policies cover losses incurred by fire-induced mudslides.

Her proposed Senate Bill 917 clarifies that the Thomas Wildfire, the largest in California’s history, was the cause of the January 9 mudslide that cost the Montecito community at least 21 lives, destroyed or severely damaged 400 homes and evacuated thousands of local residents into temporary quarters.

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