Montecito Memories

By Montecito Journal   |   March 8, 2018

Harry Kolb’s wife, Karen, recently passed away (see “In Passing” on page16); he penned the following short but poignant memory of their growing up together during an email back-and-forth with us that we think deserves wider dissemination:

Karen’s brother, Jim, and I were best friends growing up in the St. Louis hills and Karen was the tagalong. At some point, Karen became the focus of our relationship without Jim realizing it, and he became the tagalong. In 1960, Karen’s family moved to 615 Hot Springs Road. I spent several summers there, and Jim and I slept in an old abandoned well house on the property. The well house and stable are still there, but the home is now gone. We’d ride our horses across properties out to the San Ysidro Ranch, where Teresa McWilliams and Gene O’Hagan were running the stables and giving riding lessons. The stables were so old and leaning that we often wondered who would be trapped when they eventually fell over in a stiff breeze. Riding back home, we’d stop at what was then Tom’s (now the Montecito Coffee Shop) for burgers and milkshakes. Where the steps now lead up to the San Ysidro Pharmacy terrace, there was a hitching post.

We’d take hayrides from the Ranch down to Miramar Beach and fry steaks in large cast-iron skillets. Local kids at the beach would talk about how they couldn’t wait to get out of Montecito and move to a big city for some real activity. Being from St. Louis, I thought they were crazy. We’d explore from her home around the vacant grounds of El Fureides, discovering buried statues and pathways. One night, sitting on a stone wall around an abandoned clay tennis court, Karen and I had our first kiss.

During college, we both seemed to go our own way. In 1986, we’d both divorced and began spending weekends in Carmel; she from San Francisco, and I from a stone guesthouse on Edgecliff. Jump forward to Christmas, 1986: I asked Karen to marry me next to a marble plaque I had cemented to that stone wall that read: “On this wall in August 1962 Karen Stuckenberg received her first kiss.” The only problem was, it was so dark that night, she couldn’t read it. We had to come back the next day to make sure it had her name on it.

We married in 1987 at the romantic little Voskuyl Chapel at Westmont and have enjoyed all the memories of growing up in Montecito. It was a wonderful place to grow up.

We were very lucky.

Harry Kolb

(Mr. Kolb is senior estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty.)

Trouble on East Valley Lane

What great coverage Montecito Journal has given of the enormous crisis and devastation of Montecito. Our lane was very hard-hit. We evacuated the day before because I had a tremendous “instinct” when at dinner at Birnam Wood on Sunday night. I told my husband, “This reminds me of the Titanic.” (I think he thought I was a bit bonkers; he had no idea what I was talking about!) 

We left Monday morning at noon for a hotel. I felt it in my bones. (I think it was my late mother who is helpful constantly in my life). We were spared mud in our house, but our lane was devastated. Our guesthouse and garage were filled with two feet of mud. It sounds like an estate, but it isn’t. Those buildings are like a little village and are very close together. Chickens were rescued by firefighters and Animal Control. The firefighters who were checking our house for us, or the remains of us, saw our cat and left food.

Please. What other place would firemen leave cat food?


Except, of course, Montecito.

Had we stayed, we would have been killed, I am certain. Others on our lane (off East Valley behind Knollwood, west of Glen Oaks) were evacuated by helicopter and two were killed. I knew and loved Josie, and Dr. Montgomery saved my husband’s hand; his daughter was a friend of our granddaughter at Cate.


I am so sorry about and with all the families who lost loved ones. I understand why many did not evacuate from the “mandatory” areas. Most of the fatalities were in the “voluntary” areas.

That will not happen again.

I find no fault. 

Everyone did the best they could, and the depth of the rescue people was breathtaking. So many people would have been lost had it not been for the full complement of those first responders. From all over. Helicopters, vehicles, soldiers, heroes, dogs… it was all breathtaking.

We had just returned (from the Thomas Fire evacuation) with our five pets (thank the hotels who kept us with our menagerie) with three dogs, two cats, for five weeks, in one room… So, I totally understand “evacuation fatigue”!

We first went to the Bacara, [whose employees] told us we had only a week, because they had a conference coming that had booked a year ago and taken all the rooms. We left on time. We decamped to the Californian, which had three conferences scheduled that would have taken over the entire hotel. 

They cancelled all of them, saying, “We need to take care of our citizens.”

Bravo! I will send every one of my friends there. You should too.

Happy to be alive and restoring a lovely place in heaven here in Montecito.

In any case, we are very lucky to have great insurance coverage and a great insurance policy. The company is vitally important (ours is Chubb and I sing their praises). People do not pay attention to their insurance policy, but it makes all the difference. Pay attention to what is covered and for how much, everyone. Read those policies. This stuff can happen; as you now have seen.

Many of us never really think much about our insurance until a disaster occurs. Our family had a fire in 1982 in Pasadena. We had, thanks to my husband, Adam, the most wonderful insurance. In addition, and most importantly, all the occupants, the children and their friend spending the night, and all our pets were saved. Then, the brave firefighters saved 95 percent of our “contents,” (our collected treasures) while 95 percent of the “structure” was destroyed. Good training for disasters. Key advice: “replacement cost insurance.” Critical.

We just had the same experience in Montecito. Most of our “contents” were saved (no mud in the house, by a miracle) and everyone survived. And, what was damaged – the landscaping and garden and pond – are the easiest things to restore. Our chickens were saved by animal control and the firefighters; they are boarding at the Humane Society. I visit them all the time. Those firefighters had some fun darting around the coop catching them. Had to be the best part of their heroic duty during that horrific week.

My garden guru and “plant genius” Dan Seibert saved not only our garden, but also all the garden treasures (such as my 18th-century terra cotta urns) that I’ve been hauling around all my life. Dan knew where everything was.

We still live in heaven, and I will enjoy restoring my “wildlife habitat” garden.

Penelope Bianchi

Sheltering in a Different Place

We have evacuated with Tigre to the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires. Pisco Sours drown our tears.

Doug and Nancy Norberg

Doug and Nancy Norberg drown their tears in a place far away from Montecito’s dangers

A Modest Proposal

You might create a Montecito Evacuation Medal. Such would be enhanced by clusters reflecting evacuating multiple times. A designer might make the appearance of the ribbon an attractive reflection of our community with stars added after the first evacuation for each subsequent evacuation. Those qualifying would contribute a sum, the amount at their discretion, to a fund for first responders. A side benefit might be to encourage residents to obey evacuation orders, so as to be decorated for doing so.

Just a modest proposal for your consideration.

Bill Loomis

(Editor’s note: Even though we understand the desire, probably the need, of all who live here to bring a little light-hearted humor to what has been a horrible time, the idea of a fund for less well-heeled victims and survivors is not a bad idea. – J.B.)

Predatory Ticketing Day?

Why – on a mandatory evacuation day – does the City of Santa Barbara Police Department send a meter maid to Coast Village Road to give out parking tickets? I find the entire business repugnant during a time when people here have lost family and friends, homes, jobs, and businesses suffering loss of trade to send out a meter maid to rape this village after a catastrophic event. That’s a City without a heart. The people here just gave over $2 million in gratitude at the Kick Ash Bash and our thanks from the City is a meter maid to further pour salt into an already gaping wound. Please bring attention to this disturbing practice in our darkest hour.

Luci Janssen

(Editor’s note: We have brought attention to this previously, but the City of Santa Barbara is relentless in its pursuit of extra cash on the backs of Coast Village Road merchants and shoppers. – J.B.)

The American Way

This community has just experienced a series of traumatic events. Everyone has suffered, obviously some far more than others. 

We all need to show compassion. This is not the time to write unkind letters about people and their businesses. And it doesn’t seem right to publish unsigned letters from those who may be competitors looking to cause trouble. 

Doesn’t everyone understand that donating to a GoFundMe page is voluntary? While I personally have not donated to Bree’osh’s GoFundMe page, I do frequent their bakery because their food is delicious.

When evacuations and road closures made it impossible for them to open, they still had to pay rent for their bakery, their offsite kitchen, and the apartment they live in. Not everyone has wealthy benefactors or the financial backing of a large corporation. So you do what you can to survive, that’s the American Way. And, while waiting for the Health Department to give them the okay to reopen, Bree’osh also gave away croissants in the mornings.

Let’s hope that all the businesses in both the upper and lower village survive this series of unfortunate events and prosper.

Deirdre “Coco” Hanssen

(Editor’s note: It is we who need to apologize to Jeannine’s and any other bakery on Coast Village Road for not pointing out it was Bree’osh and not Jeannine’s that opened a GoFundMe page. Which is what we did, and without negatively branding either or any business. We have always been careful with unsigned letters to make sure there is no hidden agenda. And, we never print letters that disparage a business, property owner, or private person. We do, however, print letters that contain factual information presented in an objective manner.

We’re with you on hoping “that all the businesses in both the upper and lower village survive this series of unfortunate events and prosper,” and plan to do everything within our power to help make that happen. – J.B.)

Under-Funded Forest Service 

I want to respond to a letter (“It Can Happen Again,” MJ #24/6) written by Dana Newquist, that made an incorrect characterization of representative [Salud] Carbajal’s HR4072 “the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act” and the effect of Wilderness Designations on fire prevention and management.

As a lifetime resident of Ojai, nationally recognized volunteer for the Los Padres National Forest, co-founder of The CREW and the Los Padres Forest Association, and co-originator of the Condor Trail (and fellow survivor of the Thomas Fire of the Ojai Valley – I live directly on the edge of Ojai, surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest), I concur with Mr. Newquist that there is clearly more we can do to better maintain our public lands, including controlled burns, and non-native vegetation removal.

However, the assumption that existing wilderness or the proposed wilderness in HR4072 is a hindrance to fuels reduction, controlled burns, or non-native plant removal is simply not factually or legally accurate.

Recognizing the need to fight fires in wilderness areas, Section 4(d)(1) of the federal Wilderness Act states very clearly that, within wilderness areas, “such measures may be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such conditions as the Secretary deems desirable.”

Additionally, the Report of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (H. Rept. 98- 40) accompanying the California Wilderness Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-425), contained an extensive discussion of fire and fuels management in wilderness. Section 4 of the report states: 

“Not only does the threat of wildfire pose a danger to public safety, but uncontrolled fires can also cause severe damage to watersheds, water quality, and other beneficial wilderness values. To address this concern in the context of H.R. 1437, the Committee has reiterated the fire provisions of Section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act in Section 4(b)(2) of H.R. 1437. As the Committee stressed in House Report 95-540 in the 95th Congress this provision is intended to grant the Forest Service with the means of utilizing such measures or tools as it deems ‘necessary’ and ‘desirable’ in the control or pre-suppression of fire in wilderness areas… The Committee also believes that prescribed burning could prove to be an especially significant fire pre-suppression method, particularly in cases where a history of past fire-suppression policies has allowed ‘unnatural’ accumulations of dead or live fuel (such as chaparral) to build up to hazardous levels. Controlled burning, for example, initiates a process of nature in a prescribed or planned manner and may have the advantage of producing fewer long-term adverse impacts (and possibly beneficial impacts) on wilderness values than would the construction of roads or similar intrusions.”

The major point to be made, however, is that the Wilderness Act permits the Forest Service to utilize measures necessary to control wildfire, or the threat of fire, in wilderness areas. Obviously, such measures should, to the maximum extent practicable, be implemented consistent with maintaining the wilderness character of areas, while at the same time protecting the public health and safety and protecting private property located immediately adjacent to wilderness areas.” But there is nothing in a wilderness designation that prevents or hinders fire control activities.

I have using the Los Padres National Forest for over 50 years and have interacted with the US Forest Service, both as a volunteer and professionally, for over 24 years. Through those last 24 years, I have watched the Forest Service slowly whittled down by budget cuts and buffeted by shifting political winds. Many of the real struggles of Federal public land management can be directly linked to a Republican-led Congress that has currently imposed a hiring freeze on the entire National Forest Service and has consistently limited funds to public land agencies for very little of anything other than firefighting. The result is the downsizing of our ranger districts, over-burdened USFS employees struggling to provide services to vast swaths of the Los Padres with handfuls of employees, and the out-sourcing of campgrounds and recreation areas to third party for-profit concessionaires. By its own admission, due to savage budget reductions over many years, the Los Padres National Forest Service is no longer viable as a land management agency.

If we truly want to protect these beautiful wild areas that are the reason so many of us choose to live on the Central Coast, we need to address the stunning lack of funding of our Federal agencies, as well as the outright Republican hostility to public lands (See Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah as an example).

Otherwise, we’ll be left with a USFS that can valiantly respond when fires start and burn but can do very little else to prevent their frequency, growth, and intensity.

Christopher Danch

(Editor’s note: You may be correct in your assertions about budgetary restraints upon the U.S. Forest Service, but we do believe you are singling out “Republican hostility” unfairly. None of us here can recall any movement or suggestion during the Obama Administration toward mitigating wildfire danger, other than public service announcements proclaiming that forest fires are nearly always caused by careless humans. Which may be the case, but judicious husbanding of forest resources, including prescribed burns, being part of any environmental program has not been a clearly delivered message from federal or even state authorities for a long time. Neither has been increasing the U.S. Forest Service budget for such purposes. – J.B.)

Re-assess Property Now

In Bob Hazard‘s Guest Editorial (MJ #24/9) he points out that the County (and I assume by “the County” you mean County bureaucrats) “is concerned that at least 400 Montecito homeowners with destroyed or damaged homes will petition the assessor’s office for lower property tax assessments.”

Well, in my opinion, “the County” staff (who are supposed to be serving us) should give these homeowners the reduced tax assessment on their own initiative and not make the victimized homeowners have to petition for them. It seems to me – a Tea Fire victim who had to petition the County – to be the morally correct thing to do. 

In the same issue, Steve Blum (“On Law,” MJ #24/9) discusses the illegality of lawyers soliciting for business. I had long heard that was the case but hadn’t seen it explained so definitively. But if that is all true and active solicitation is not allowed, how does Mr. Blum explain all the irritating TV ads soliciting clients for pharmaceutical lawsuits or accident claims?

I’m sure you have had to endure the ads such as: “If you or a loved one took ABC and suffered XYZ, call the law office of Sam Smith right away. You may be entitled to compensation. Operators are standing by to take your call.”

Inquiring minds want to know.

Art Thomas
Santa Barbara

(Mr. Blum’s note: In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that lawyers have a First Amendment free speech right to advertise, making information broadly accessible to the public. With the growth of cable TV and the Internet, more lawyers have advertised. It is also permissible for lawyers to send letters clearly labeled “Attorney Advertising.” What’s not allowed is in-your-face high-pressure direct solicitation, because clients can be emotionally and economically vulnerable and ought to be able to consult with lawyers calmly and without undue influence, coercion, duress, or harassment. The rule is: don’t lie, don’t mislead, don’t create unjustified expectations, and don’t make unsolicited phone calls or in-person visits to strangers like Frank Galvin did in The Verdict. – S.B.)

Voters in Peril

When I moved to Montecito from Los Angeles five years ago, I did not inform the county registrar that I would no longer be voting in Los Angeles. Consequently, I remain on the inactive voter list in L.A., along with thousands of others who have moved. Likewise, if I had died, I would remain on the list.

So, when you add the number of inactive voters and active voters any place in the country, the number may well exceed the number of eligible voters or population of that place. Some stupid pundits, like Alex Jones, have used this addition to suggest something nefarious is going on. And, his half-truth is repeated and re-tweeted to hundreds of thousands of gullible conspiracy-minded people.

The real problem with the integrity of our voting system is gerrymandering, wherein voting districts are drawn to favor one party over another. One example is in Pennsylvania, where Republican-drawn “safe” districts allowed them to win 13 out of 18 districts in 2012, despite losing the popular vote statewide to the Democrats. This gerrymandered imbalance has occurred throughout the country since Republicans controlled many of the state legislatures after the last 2010 census. Recognition of this rigged system has inspired citizens across the country to propose laws that remove the districting power from self-interested politicians and place it in the hands of non-partisan groups of citizens.

The plague of fake news, click-bait headlines, and Russian bots that increase the ignorance of voters is exemplified by laughable stories of Obama signing up illegals to vote, or the bogeyman [George] Soros financing protests, which can be organized by Facebook posts in an hour for free. And, for those people worried about people voting for judges that happen to be Democrats, they should worry instead about Trump nominating two Republicans for lifetime appointments to the federal bench who had never tried a single case.

So much for “extreme vetting.”

William Lancaster

(Editor’s note: Hmmm, your missive requires some response on a couple of what I’d consider to be inaccurate points. Firstly, you conveniently leave out the fact that virtually every vote in the heavily Democratic Philadelphia region went to Hillary Clinton (93 percent-plus) and that those districts were gerrymandered into existence a long time ago, by the Democrats who ruled the state. Gerrymandering is a process named after Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who created the salamander-shaped district maps used to ensure his party would rule the state. Governor Gerry, who went on to become president James Madison’s vice-president, ran as a Democratic-Republican. As I also recall from the Pennsylvania vote, more than 103 percent of all inner-city Philadelphia registered voters marked ballots in the 2016 election. Apparently, even the dead managed to get to the polls on that first Tuesday in November. Perhaps the Russians helped them get out the vote. – J.B.)

Prayer for Montecito

I am the single mother of an extraordinary 9-year-old boy named Julian. Recently, we were deeply saddened to learn of the devastation to your beloved community. We felt a strong calling to help, but residing far north near the California-Oregon border, we were hindered by both our distance and our financial resources.

After prayerful consideration, my 9-year-old son Julian wrote this prayer specifically for the people of Montecito – though it is not in our interest to receive personally any kind of attention, accolades, or any other form of recognition, nor are we interested in imposing our beliefs on anyone else. What we do want is to extend our love and heartfelt encouragement to those who are hurting in your community. Our message is simple, our blessing inclusive of all.

We sincerely hope that you will consider publishing Julian’s prayer in your paper, as our gift to those who are hurting and may be blessed with our message of love, hope, and grace. Thank you for your consideration. Our hearts are with you all.

Polly Johnson
Weed, California

Julian’s message:

“We pray for you, residents of Montecito, to be blessed with the Holy Spirit, to help you through this tough time today. To all who have experienced loss, know that God knows you by name and that He wants the best for you. He wants to heal our pain. And, He wants to mend our broken hearts. The Earth is not designed to make sense.

“But God does make sense, whether we understand it or not. He is the Rebuilder of lives. We pray for the mothers of lost children, families who have lost members of beloved pets, that the Holiest of Holies wrap you up in His warm embrace, and bring His peace to your lives and to your community. 

“And, that He take hills of mud and turn them in to streets of gold. We hold you in our hearts, and surround you with our Holy Light.

“In Jesus’s name we pray.


Julian Johnson

Renaming Needed

We really like your editorial comment that “We prefer ‘Likely Risk of Temporary Service Interruption'” with Henry McMullan‘s Guest Editorial (MJ #24/7).

How do you think we can make this change happen?

Would it be a good idea to start with a posting to Either you or I could do that. Or, if someone else is carrying the flag, they could do it.

From what I can tell, the posting could be sent to selected neighborhoods. It could be sent to the neighborhoods west of the Montecito Creek red zone (and maybe east of the Romero Creek red zone). It could be only this area, because the other yellow zones run the risk of becoming an island during a mud disaster and may not have an escape route. Whereas the western and eastern yellow zones can escape, via Hot Springs-Sycamore Canyon roads and via Ortega Ridge. Selecting these neighborhoods would benefit them and us.

In any case, the renaming needs to be done for all the reasons Mr. McMullan wrote.

Dave Suding

(Editor’s note: We’ll be revisiting this situation as time goes on, but any change will have to wait until after our “rainy” season, if it ever materializes. – J.B.)

He’s Running Again

More than 2.5 years out, president Donald Trump formally announces his intention to run for re-election. This forces the Democrat field to fast-forward their intentions to seek the nomination of their party, long before they had planned.

This means Trump’s “Opposition Research” for each of the likely Democrat “front-runners” is pretty much complete and in place. And, as soon as these likely candidates announce their formal intentions, Trump’s campaign machinery will mow them down like Confederate soldiers in Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

And these erstwhile popular people will be perched out there as fair game in a shooting gallery for an unprecedented 23 months before the first presidential primary.

Alleged celebrity candidates such as Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney would have their billion-dollar brands reduced to bite-size morsels for consumption at Republican fund-raising dinners.

Donald Trump will personally strip the polish off these celebrity apples, while diverting attention away from the relentless attack on him from the mainstream media.

And so-called expert pundits say Donald Trump is a neophyte in politics.


He’s a 21st-century Niccolo Machiavelli…

…”It is better to be feared than loved….”

David S. McCalmont
Santa Barbara

Land May be Covered Too

There is an important issue that will affect many of you and it is governed by California case law. Many homeowners and business insurance policies appear to contain exclusions for damage to land. For many homeowners, this poses a major problem.

The debris flow not only damaged numerous homes in Montecito, it also destabilized the ground, rerouted creek beds, and created various other land problems, making it difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible to rebuild a dwelling. Depending on the language of your insurance policy, the cost of repairing land damage may be covered. 

Surfware v. Federal Insurance (2005) involved an insurance policy that provided coverage for structures, but specifically excluded coverage for land damage. According to the policy, the term “building” excluded “land, retaining walls, and subjacent support.” However, the California Central District Court found that a reasonable person might read the definition merely to mean that the insurer is not liable for damage to the land when repairs are needed for the narrow purpose of fixing the land itself. If repairing the building to a habitable condition requires stabilizing land, then the policy is to be interpreted to cover such repairs. Otherwise any repairs to the building itself would be merely superficial and the policy would be illusory. The Court ruled that the insurer must provide coverage for land damage when it is necessary to reconfigure the land in order to protect a house. The policy exclusion for land damage did not preclude coverage.

The key test from Surfware is whether the land poses a foreseeable risk of future damage to insured structures. If it does, then the land damage should be covered. 

We encourage policyholders with building and land damage to be familiar with the Surfware case and to bring it to the attention of any insurance company that tries to deny coverage for damage to land because of an exclusion in its policy. 

We are available to represent individuals in cases involving any homeowners insurance and coverage question. For additional information, please contact us. We will continue to answer questions you may have. Feel free to pass along this information to your friends and neighbors.

Matthew Bourhis 
Ray Bourhis
San Francisco


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