Montecito Street Signs
This week, eight street signs that were lost in the January 9 debris flow will be re-installed throughout Montecito, the first of 36 signs that are in the process of being repaired or rebuilt completely. “Many residents may not even notice that they are missing, but once they are back up, it will be a subtle sign of recovery and healing,” said Doug Ford, founder of DD Ford Construction. “I hope it will make an impact.”
Ford, a member of the Board of the Montecito Community Foundation, volunteered last fall to take on the project of maintaining Montecito’s 212 iconic hand-painted street signs, a project that the Foundation has overseen and funded since 1975, according to board president Ted Urschel. Before last year, well-known sign maker Paul Musgrove maintained, repaired, and replaced the signs for more than 15 years. “Paul did a great job for us, and once he retired, we were in a lurch to find an affordable replacement,” Urschel said, adding that other sign makers quoted more than twice what Musgrove had charged. “Doug stepped up to handle the signs, offering to give us a competitive rate,” he explained.
Ford got his start woodworking out of his garage in 1979, building furniture and cabinetry for a handful of clients, before eventually building his Santa Barbara-based construction company, DD Ford. He has worked on countless homes in Montecito, from minor remodeling projects to major renovations and new home construction.
Prior to the debris flow, the street signs required replacement due to termites, theft, wood rot, or car accidents. Ford’s plan was to have the signs repaired by students in high school woodshop class, as he oversees the shop courses offered by Santa Barbara Unified School District. “Once the Thomas Fire and mudslide occurred, I knew the project I had agreed to take on suddenly got much, much larger,” Ford said. Shortly after the mudslide, Montecito Fire District personnel escorted he and Urschel through the disaster zone, to survey the damage and take stock of the missing signage. Ford generously offered the labor and use of his workshop to complete the project; Montecito Community Foundation is funding the cost of materials.
Replacing the lost signs is a complicated endeavor, as the sign lettering was hand carved by Musgrove over the years. “The first thing I asked Paul was ‘What is the font?,’ and we quickly realized we would have to recreate the ‘font’ from signs that were still standing,” Ford explained. Musgrove’s meticulous cataloging of the signs and their locations was imperative; he brought Ford his records of each sign and its location, to help determine which signs had been lost.
Ford and his team, which includes his adult children, Josie Ford and Cole Creedon, have traced the lettering from signs that are still standing, in order to recreate the same style lettering. Musgrove, though retired, has been consulting on the project and has been by the workshop a few times to check on progress and give tips. The sign paddles must be built and made to look aged, and then the carved lettering is attached and covered in white reflective material. They are then attached to a wooden signpost, which is dug deep into the ground for strength. “It’s a lot of work, but the alternative is the County-supplied metal poles and signs,” Urschel said. “These are much more appropriate for our semi-rural community.”
A handful of salvageable signs were found in the mud and turned in by first responders, so the team is working on repairing and repainting those as well. “Working on those has been a bit more emotional,” Ford said. He encourages anyone who may find a downed sign to contact him at Doug@ddford.com.
Urschel says the Montecito Community Foundation, which must use its funds toward community related projects rather than individual relief, is grateful for Ford’s efforts during a trying time in our community.
“I don’t know that we can thank him enough for what he is doing for Montecito,” he said, adding that Ford’s efforts are saving the Foundation more than $30,000. For more information, and to donate, visit www.montecitofoundation.org.