Who Should Pay?
Two videos on the 93108fund.org website were brought to my attention. Both ladies profiled currently work for Pierre Lafond, and they say in the video that they have missed up to 90 hours [of] work due to the fire/flood and are now receiving checks from the 93108fund.org to make up for lost hours. I’m wondering why Pierre Lafond – or anyone or any business – would not be paying employees for missed hours? Is that even legal, never mind moral? I would love MJ to investigate to see if it’s true that businesses and/or individual aren’t paying their staff.
(Editor’s note: I don’t get it. Pierre Lafond was closed. Couldn’t open. Couldn’t even go there. Ditto the San Ysidro Ranch, the Biltmore, and other Montecito businesses. Are you suggesting those companies must continue to pay their employees? Until when?
I believe you are off-track on this one. I’m sure virtually all the closed businesses in the upper village and Coast Village Road did not – could not – pay their employees during most of the downtime. And in order to stay alive, they couldn’t and shouldn’t. – J.B.)
Who is Responsible?
What if a controlled burn, rather than the Thomas Fire, was responsible for the hills behind Montecito being devoid of vegetation before the big January rain?
(Editor’s note: Well, your question is probably the answer as to why we don’t have “controlled” burns anymore, because so many choose to sue when things don’t go exactly as planned. My answer would be figuring this out beforehand and legislating a simple solution to protect both homeowners and public servants. Ditto for employees who can’t get to work. – J.B.)
Not So Private Debris
I would like to shine some light on the amount of debris that was placed on private property after the January 9 debris flow. The roads had to be cleared and the search teams had to move debris piles to look for victims; the utility companies had to remove debris to search for their lines and valves. This was 100 percent necessary and needed to be done as quickly as possible. However, this led to thousands of tons of trees, vehicle parts, chimneys, concrete foundation pieces – and yes, of course mud, from public roads and utility easements being placed on private property, such as my parcel on Olive Mill Road. I have documentation of this from photos that I had taken right after the flow and then subsequent days and weeks after. I estimate there was approximately 1,500 to 2,000 tons of debris placed on my property after 01/09. This is approximately $180,000 to $240,000 of work per my contractor bids.
This is a significant portion of our rebuilding limits from our insurance policy, and it’s not right that the residents bear this burden. We may not have enough to rebuild because we have to pay for all the debris removal. We have contacted Das Williams‘s office, as well as every agency within the County, and have gotten zero answers or support, just lists of where we can take the debris and pay for it. The underlying snarky attitude we have received is “You’re from Montecito, so you must be super-rich” types of tones, and therefore it shouldn’t really be a big deal, according to them. We are being treated like we are trying to put one over on somebody. Unfortunately for us, we do not have excess funds to make this go away and not blink an eye. We just want the County to remove the debris they placed there.
Kudos for Lynda’s Coverage
Thank you for Lynda Millner‘s Seen Around Town coverage of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual meeting.
What a delightful surprise to read her column to find images of the event illustrated with her photographs, including one of me. The last several months have been a heart-wrenching time for our community, and her positive reporting reassures us that life will get better.
Save the Animals Too
My family and I and all our animal friends are so grateful to the firefighters, Highway Patrol officers, and County Animal Services for their help during the Thomas Fire and the ensuing mudslides. We live in the mandatory evacuation zone and have too many animals to safely move them all. They live in large natural habitats and, thankfully, were not touched by the fire or flood.
Feeding them and cleaning their water was critical to their survival during the 30 days we were evacuated. Captain Cindy Pontes of the Highway Patrol heard my story at the beginning of the Thomas Fire and escorted me home to feed everyone. Thank you very much, Cindy. Kerry Kellogg of the Montecito Fire Department escorted me in every second day after that during the fire and at the beginning of the mudslide evacuation. Kerry always answered his phone when I called, and I knew I could count on him and the Montecito Fire Department. Thank you, thank you, Kerry and the Montecito Fire Department.
Kerry drove me in two days after the mudslides as the only way to get back to my house was in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The devastation we drove through was shocking. I cried when I saw that our home and my 500 birds, 60 turtles and pond full of koi were okay, and then got to work. I knew there was no water, so Kerry helped me bring in six five-gallon bottles of water I had purchased for the animals.
When conditions became passible for regular trucks and vans, Kerry put me in touch with Jennifer Adame and the wonderful people at County Animal Services. People came from all over the country to volunteer to help the animals stranded or misplaced by this disaster. The sheer number of critters they rescued and saved is heartwarming, from cats and dogs to lizards, birds and donkeys, and everything in between. Tim Collins and his crew from the Humane Society rescued many hundreds of animals, including two feral cats and a canary stranded in a home high up on Bella Vista.
My husband and I are still shell-shocked, as many of us are. The rain of ash and fire from the 12-day march of the fire in the mountains behind us was exhausting. But thanks to the valiant efforts of the 8,500 firefighters and first responders, just a few homes were lost and tragically the life of one firefighter. We got to come home for Christmas on December 21; we had been evacuated since December 10.
Then on January 8, we were evacuated again; heavy rains were expected that night. We have lived here for 45 years and never been evacuated for rain before, and I couldn’t imagine what was about to hit. We were in a mandatory evacuation zone, so we went to our daughter’s home near Montecito Union School as she was in a voluntary evacuation zone and we felt safe there.
I awoke around 3 am to the heaviest rain I have ever experienced. It felt like we were in the eye of a tornado and hurricane, combined with lightning bolts that lit up the sky. Turned out that some of that “lightning” came from electrical transformers being toppled. Then I heard the rumble of crashing boulders and mud coming down the Hot Springs creek; it was the most bone-chilling ominous sound I have ever heard. As I turned around, the sky lit up as if it were morning; then it turned blood-red.
By then, everyone in the house was up and terrified. Thank heavens we stayed at the house instead of trying to flee down Hot Springs Road. We caravanned out of Montecito late that afternoon after our daughter, a medical doctor, and her 14-year-old son had spent the day at All Saints church helping. We were led by the Highway Patrol down Hot Springs Road past Olive Mill. It will be difficult to get over the shock of what we saw. Utility poles snapped like matchsticks; boulders the size of trucks and mud with pieces of homes visible.
It was unrecognizable.
As I came in every other day to feed and water my animals, I was amazed by how quickly the first responders came together to search and rescue and then clean up the mountains of mud, boulders, and debris. I saw a boat and a car shoved by the force of the mudslide through the chain-link fence off North Jamison by the 101 Freeway.
It was all pretty surreal.
We were allowed to finally come home January 26 to dig out and begin to put our lives back together. I am so grateful to have a home to come home to; many we know do not. I am so grateful to Kerry, Cindy, Jen, and Tim for their help saving the animals. As the hundreds of dump trucks go up and down our road cleaning out the debris basin above us, I am grateful to our County and everyone who has been there for us during this traumatic time.
And right before we came home, one of nature’s miracles showed up: six adorable golden baby chicks hatched. Their mother laid the eggs during the fire and never gave up. They hatched three days before we got home after the flood.
Life goes on.
Message from Big Sur
Community recovery in a natural disaster depends in large part on the goodwill of its citizens. California has seen amazing acts of heroism and selflessness over the past few years in communities hit by fire and flood.
What we don’t see as clearly is the impact of landlords who don’t step up to help.
We know. Our community – Big Sur – has been hit by three wildfires, a failed bridge, and massive slides over the past eight years. Every disaster impacts all businesses along our fragile coastal highway.
Community recovery, every time, has depended in large part on those businesses. When schools, restaurants, gas stations, convenience and other retail stores close due to smoke, reduction in visitors and/or lack of access, families go unfed, tax revenue suffers, and businesses accumulate debt. Many prepare for this with a reserve, but in the restaurant industry where margins are thin, a reserve is eaten up quickly when a fire is followed by a debris flow.
Many look at communities like ours and Montecito as rich neighborhoods that can take care of themselves. The truth is that our communities are made up of a wide socio-economic demographic. When landlords refuse concessions on lease rent, they can put our small business owners out of business. When enlightened landlords work with their lessees, everyone benefits and businesses have a chance of weathering the downturn.
Our hope is that landlords who own property in the Montecito area step up and lend a helping hand for our grieving neighbors to the south. The community deserves their support.
(Editor’s note: Mr. Kronlund is president of Coast Property Owners Association of Big Sur, California.)
Landlords Can be Heroes
I, along with the community of Santa Barbara, understand that the aftermath of the recent fires and mudslides are ongoing. Being born and raised in Santa Barbara, it has broken my heart to see the devastation of the recent events and know there are many out there that are still displaced and have lost everything. I know there are many outlets around town that have and continue to offer support to those that have been affected, and I would like to offer help as well. I own a women’s clothing boutique located inside Hollister Village in Goleta and would like to extend 60 percent off any merchandise to those who are still in need of replacing clothing. I am also working on gathering items that would be free of charge. I know this may be a small extension of help, but I know sometimes an article of clothing or piece of jewelry can make a difference to a person, and if I can help in that way, it would be an honor.
Any questions can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go Fund Yourself
The letter to the editor regarding John Mooy‘s gofundme page (“Money For Mooy?” MJ #24/5) was completely disgusting, mean-spirited, and goes against the spirit of helping all the victims of the January 9 mudslide. I feel this should not have been printed in the paper, and if she or anyone else doesn’t know Mr. Mooy and his enormous efforts to inform us all (much more than any news crew!) as well as physically assist so many during the Thomas Fire and ensuing disaster clearly shows a lack of moral fiber and a complete lack of empathy for one of our community’s most intelligent voices of reason and compassion.
Shame on this letter writer; she likely is unaware that the gofundme page was not instigated by John and he is no less deserving of our help than anyone else in Montecito, and that anyone can start a gofundme page if they so choose to do so. I would prefer that you do not publish this letter or use my name in print, it is my own private thoughts and will hopefully be sent to the right parties involved so they can think about this for a bit.
If you must print the letter, just withhold my name if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it very much. I value my privacy quite a bit. By the way, the woman who wrote the letter neglected to mention Nancy Soo Hoo Little Moon, John’s significant other/life partner who had lived in the cottage for over 25 years and was an equal recipient of the gofundme page; she and John are both pillars of our community.
I am writing as a follow-up to the claimants meeting held at the Veterans Building recently, and to the articles and information concerning homeowners and business insurance issues that have recently appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press, Montecito Journal, Santa Barbara Independent, and the Los Angeles Times.
Because of the unfair claims practices I have seen repeated again and again over the years, it is especially important to me to do what I can to prevent such practices from being repeated in our community. I am also aware of the activities of some of the lawyers, public adjusters, and others who descend upon disaster scenes such as this for reasons that may have more to do with opportunism than assistance.
I am saying this because, although it is obviously very important for the victims of this horrible disaster to protect themselves from the former, it is also important to beware of the latter.
And so, in the days and weeks ahead, I will be available to address both of the above. Feel free to contact me or Suzanne McCafferty, with any questions you may have about either of the above.
In addition, I will continue to provide general insurance information and tips to those on our email list. If you do not wish to receive these, please let me know. For those with more complex or larger concerns, I will be available to discuss those matters as well.
We all are so lucky to be living in the community we have. Whoever coined the phrase “Montecito Strong” really hit the nail on the head.
(Note: The writer is a lawyer specializing in insurance coverage and bad faith. He is the author of two books and hundreds of articles on insurance law and has been profiled on 60 Minutes, in The Wall Street Journal, and other print and broadcast media nationwide. He was appointed by the California Superior Court to oversee reforms in the State Department of Insurance.)
Signs of the Tempo
John McPhee’s nephew has squatted up in San Ysidro Canyon, off and on, since the 1960s. He’s one of those guys who lives simply, in the manner of Taoist hermits celebrated in Tang dynasty verse. During the Tang, appearing hermetic was a shortcut to a good job. Otherwise, one had to shine on the civil service exams through knowledge of the Confucian classics and be able to illuminate them with something new. Li Po (a.k.a. Li Bai) retired to the mountains and wrote poetry in order to cast himself in the role of hermit. He was successful, gaining a court appointment writing occasional verse. His spirit, and the spirit of Min Mountain, he wrote, illumined each other.
One of Mao’s smart moves was to retreat to the mountains, where he wrote verse, cementing his image as hermitic sage strategist. It goes back at least as far as Lao Tze: “I would rather retreat a mile than advance a foot.” I know about Chinese-style guerilla warfare, because during that brief time Castro was chummy with the U.S., my dad, who worked at Tempo and the Rand Corporation was sent to Cuba to get the goods on guerilla warfare from him. Instead, Castro sold him shares in a big Cuban oil firm. The minute my dad’s plane took off, Castro nationalized the company.
The young McPhee was on a tanker crew on the Coyote Fire, which was a big blaze. He’s fire wise, so I’ve never worried about him. I used to think he was full of it. He told me a cougar followed him into his camp, which is on a grove of saplings on the delta of a side canyon. But one evening, coming down the trail, I ran into that cat. I had to backtrack to Camino Cielo and then over to Cold Springs, to get back home. Couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. He also told me of a swimming hole atop a hogback ridge that hippies used to swim in. I checked it out. A natural pool atop a ridge rather than down in a canyon, and with an infinity-pool view. La Casa de Maria had a beach at the time of the Coyote fire, and the post-fire debris flow went right through it. After the big rain of ’95, he couldn’t get across the creek and had to hike over the side canyon’s ridge to get out.
He knows how to retreat. Too bad Tempo is no longer around.
On another note, the more victims I listen to relating their stories of the debris flows, the more I realize that however much Montecito’s buildings have been impacted, the damage to human hearts has been much greater. What is needed, then, more than buildings, is healing. And all healing begins and ends in the heart.
I would like to propose that some caring institution in Montecito offer a lecture hall and invite people, weekly, to come and share their stories with others. It would be good occasion to record an oral history of this event, and this would require a camera, a cameraperson, and a moderator with some psycho-spiritual acumen.
Like Walter Capps’s tremendously popular class at UCSB, “Religion and the Impact of Vietnam,” this community effort would provide emotional and spiritual support for affected members of the Montecito community. Without such an effort, such help might not be available.
James N. Powell
My husband and I moved to Montecito a couple of years ago. Previously, we had a holiday home in Florida, which survived three major hurricanes. Following the latest hurricane and anticipating a potential earthquake, we decided to compile an evacuation plan and also to put aside supplies to be used in case of emergency.
When we received the first Voluntary Evacuation notice in December, we took out our list and congratulated ourselves on our forethought. When the Mandatory Evacuation Notice came, we were packed and fully prepared. We have received requests for copies, so I thought it might help our community to be better prepared in the future. Our list is below. I am sure there are many things one can add, but these are the essentials:
Keep your car/s at least 3/4 filled, at all times; have a destination
People: check on neighbors
Pets: my dog matters, food (can opener), rabies certificate, travel certificate, travel cage
Prescriptions, paper, and pills
Papers: insurance, passwords, identity papers
Cash (at least $1,000), credit cards, checkbook (if power is out, ATMs don’t work)
Computers, iPads, phones, chargers, back-up memory
Clothes: pre-packed and soap bag
Snacks & water
Fill safe with deeds, wills, plus small keepsakes
Leave outside lights on
Garage door to manual
Turn off gas
Reading glasses, sunglasses
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