Land Use Committee Meets

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   April 5, 2018

At a standing-room-only Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 3, several County staff members gave updates on mudslide recovery, including Water Resources deputy director Tom Fayram, who assured the Committee that FEMA officials are working hard on finishing revised flood maps for Montecito. The maps, which are expected to be finalized in June, will be the foundation on which Montecito residents rebuild their homes following the January 9 debris flow. 

Fayram said that he would like to see residents wait for the maps to be released before rebuilding, rather than attempting to undertake individual studies that are expensive and time-consuming. “The amount of work you would have to do, it will likely take you longer than June,” he said. The short-term maps will likely be applicable for three to five years. 

Santa Barbara County Planning & Development planner Tess Harris gave a presentation to the committee on proposed ordinance amendments related to the rebuilding, which will be in front of the Montecito Planning Commission later this month. The amendments include allowing property owners to rebuild “like-for-like,” allowing flexibility to increase overall height of the destroyed or damaged structure to comply with the new base flood elevations that will exist for the property after a debris flow event. Property owners would also be allowed to relocate the structure elsewhere on the property to meet new creek setback requirements. No design review will be required for rebuilding like-for-like, if the exterior is not substantially different than the previous plans. 

For homes not being built like-for-like, homeowners in a special flood hazard zone would need to apply for a Coastal Development Permit or Land Use Permit, submit site plans, and submit a substantial improvement worksheet that would be reviewed by Flood Control. 

The Land Use Committee agreed to gather comments about the proposed amendments to share with the full Montecito Association board next week. Several committee members took issue with the lack of design review, given the potential to have new topography that will substantially increase the height of homes. 

Also at the meeting: County transportation rep Matt Dobberteen gave a report on the bridge replacement and repair on Highway 192, saying the process of replacing and mending the bridges will take two years. Caltrans is currently working on the relocation of utilities located along the corridor, including a natural gas main, and water, power, sewage, and data infrastructure. “All those have to be coordinated in advance of construction,” said Dobberteen, who is acting as the liaison between Caltrans and the County. 

Once the bridges are demolished, the construction schedule will commence, which will take eight to 12 months. A discussion ensued regarding the aesthetics of the bridges, with the Committee asking to provide input on the design elements of the bridges, which are required to meet modern engineering standards, and will be wider and include shoulders. “Caltrans has promised me that they are going to come here and make design decisions with you,” Dobberteen said. There will be texture and color choices, but the bridges will not have the same type of masonry work that was done in the early 1900s. 

The full Montecito Association board meets next Tuesday, April 10. On Wednesday, April 11, the MA is hosting another Community Informational meeting related to the rebuilding, at Montecito Union School, from 5 to 6:30 pm. For more information, visit


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