Questions to Ask Your Insurer

By Montecito Journal   |   May 10, 2018

We received a good question from a leader in our community, John Abraham Powell, founder of the Bucket Brigade. We wanted to share Mr. Powell’s concerns with everyone. He and his crew have been asking people if they need assistance removing debris. To his surprise, many have answered that their insurance adjusters have instructed them to leave the debris to improve the chances of their claims being approved. 

My response is as follows: 

1) Have insurance adjusters put this advice in writing to anyone?

2) If you are insured, have you noted these types of conversations in writing? If not, you are advised do so, and keep a record.

3) Have insurance adjusters said anything about whether debris removal is covered?

One additional thing we are concerned about is whether it is safe to rebuild or repair a structure in the same location where it once stood. Additional structural or land modifications may be necessary to ensure the safety of the dwelling. If land modifications are necessary to assure such safety, the cost should be insured under California case law, despite exclusions for “damage to land.” 

Ray Bourhis
Montecito/San Francisco

(Editor’s note: Mr. Bourhis is a practicing attorney who has taken on a number of clients regarding our recent fire and debris slide. – J.B.)

Oldsters at It Again

Bernie Sanders claims he has authored legislation that will guarantee a $15 per hour job, plus benefits, for anyone who wants employment. Not surprisingly, he’s extremely vague on how this plan will be financed. I suspect financing will involve heavy taxes on successful corporations and the wealthy

Bernie is entertaining. I like Bernie, but he always ignores the fact that the money makers in a capitalistic society provide jobs at all levels and that much of the profits they make are returned to shareholders in the form of stock dividends. His “something free for everybody” theme pulled Hillary Clinton much farther to the left than she wanted to go. That was a huge factor in her presidential election loss.

I’m conservative, but I look for candidates who make sense rather than blindly support the party they represent. I have voted for Democrats in the past. While admitting present Republican politicians leave much to be desired, modern Democrat politicians have no platform and do little more than offer continual presidential criticism. I have no idea why a majority of our black population clings to these do-nothing Dems. While I am not a fan of Kanye West, I admire his recent “Blacks don’t have to be Democrats” statement.

I’d like a caring and sensible Democratic party, but the only voices I hear (or faces I see) are those of oldsters Pelosi, Schumer, Waters, Warren, Biden, Sanders, and Clinton (forever providing reasons why she lost the presidential election). They should be willing to offer some credit to our president where credit is due, instead of the negativism they continually spout. And, I’d like to know what they think about Bernie’s proposed “guaranteed $15 an hour job for all” legislation. It might make sense in fantasyland, but not here in the U.S.

Sanderson M. Smith, Ed.D.

(Editor’s note: We hear the “Democrats have no platform” refrain, along with the idea that Democrats “do little more than offer continual presidential criticism.” We agree with you that the continual presidential criticism is repetitive, unproductive, and frankly annoying, but one really can’t say the Democratic Party lacks a coherent “platform.” Democrats and the Democratic Party have pushed, promoted, and promulgated (sorry, I can’t help it: I have a thing for triple alliterations) the same soft socialism that they’ve actually implemented in many areas of the country, particularly in California, but also in New York, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

Democratic leaders and office-seekers are particularly quiet about their plans and goals at the moment and do seem to prefer “resistance” to spouting support of more of the same stuff former President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Schumer managed to accomplish. Our guess is that the reluctance to push those ideas – or even voice them – has more to do with an attempt to win back some of the Trump Country votes they lost by virtue of not only neglecting that constituency, but also alienating those voters with, for example, Mr. Obama’s “Dear Colleague” mandates. The Democratic “platform” is alive and well in the half-dozen states mentioned above, and the party will no doubt shift their programs into high gear once the party is firmly back in control. Until then, however, “Mum’s the word.” – J.B.)

Plans for Plans

There may have been some confusion about the architectural plans of mine that were relocated at the architectural archives on Camino del Remedio. Many projects were not taken to the working drawing stages but were design and rendering projects only. These are filed with completed working drawings of projects that were then built.

The design drawings can supply some very helpful information, however, for those who need to rebuild. The information is necessary to start a design stage, such as: survey maps with bench marks, coordinates, neighboring parcel boundaries, setbacks, topography, utility locations, building locations, size and height limits, driveway size, and entry locations, et cetera.

All plans can be viewed and notes taken without cost, or they can be sent out for full sets of prints for a fee established by the archivist, who is very knowledgeable and a friendly good guy.

Hope this information helps those in need.

Tom Kress

Lost and Found

Thank you for publishing my letter about Ennisbrook, and their failure to the homeowners on East Valley Road (“Losing It On East Valley Lane,” MJ #24/18).

Honestly, they had no response. We went to meeting after meeting. We heard nothing. The letter you published made a difference. 

Thank you.

Not even a phone call had we received (we still have not, if you can imagine such a thing). Not one. We would have been killed had we been there. It is a wonder our next-door neighbors and others in the other three houses were not. Not one phone call to date. Not one personal email. I am shocked.

In any case, thanks to your publishing my letter, all of a sudden they are responding. Not to us directly. But to the membership as a whole.

It is four months. We have been working on our house the entire time. We are due to move back into it on June 5. The debris around it, in the street, on the trail… is revolting. They are still not doing anything about it. But they didn’t even admit they had members over there until you published my letter.

Penny Bianchi

Kudos to Jeff Wing

Mr. Wing is an extraordinary writer who creates stunning visual pictures with his words. The article he wrote in the latest issue of Montecito Journal’s glossy edition is by far the finest article written on Lotusland ever written. Thank you for making these gardens come alive!

Connie Campbell

(Editor’s note: Ms Campbell has been a docent at Lotus Land for 10 years.)

Not the “Founder”

First, thank you for bringing our community our news. You do a remarkable job. Secondly, thanks for supporting the Montecito Motor Classic (MCC). Occasionally, information gets imparted incorrectly. In your Coming & Going column (MJ #24/15), you wrote “MMC founder Dana Newquist…” That is not correct. I have been with MMC from its beginning, but credit for founding belongs to Dolores Johnson and Monika Draggoo.

Dana Newquist 

(Editor’s note: Dana may not be the official “founder” of the Montecito Motor Classic; my apologies to Dolores and Monika, but Dana has been an integral and crucial factor in its success from the beginning. – J.B.)

Good and Ugly

The Good: In view of the success of tax cuts, crushing Isis, a strong economy, an ebullient stock market, strong job market, and the strong messages sent to China and North Korea, we are ready to keep America great.

The Bad: We have a compulsive liar (or at the very least, teller of half-truths), a narcissist, and a sleazeball in the White House.

The Ugly. The possibility that to get things done in Washington, it must be with a person with little character and respect for the majority of its citizens.

The Very Ugly. Our children. Ever since we were young, we were told as American citizens we could grow up to be president. If this is our example – to lie or make stuff up constantly to force good people out of business because you can, to be able to grab women because you are famous to suggest a judge is not fair because he is of Mexican decent, and so on, it makes it hard for kids to understand why a person like this grew up to be our commander in chief.

Steve Marko
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Many Trump supporters lament his failings but hope (and sometimes pray) that before his term or terms are up, he’ll relent and perhaps even repent. – J.B.)

The Death of Alfie

Twenty-three-month-old Alfie Evans passed away in a British hospital recently. While the official cause of death was a degenerative brain disease, Alfie may have been murdered by the British health system and the British high court. Doctors at the hospital treating Alfie decided to remove his life support, against the wishes of Alfie’s parents. The high court not only upheld the doctors’ authority to override the parents’ wishes, it refused to allow the parents to take Alfie abroad for treatment.

In upholding the government’s authority to substitute its judgment for that of Alfie’s parents, the high court is following in the footsteps of authoritarians throughout history. Ever since Plato, supporters of big government have sought to put government in charge of raising children. The authoritarianism of a system where “experts” can override parents is underscored by a police warning that they were “monitoring” social media posts regarding Alfie.

Alfie’s case is not just an example of the dangers of allowing government to usurp parental authority or the failures of socialized medicine. It shows the logical result of the widespread acceptance of the idea that rights are mere privileges bestowed by government. It follows from this idea that rights can be taken away whenever demanded by government officials or the popular will.

Of course, most western politicians deny they believe rights come from government. They instead claim that government must place “reasonable” limits on rights to advance important policy goals, such as limiting the right to free speech to protect certain groups from hate speech, or limiting property rights to promote economic equality. But, a right by its very nature cannot be limited or abolished and still be a right.

This disdain for a true understanding of rights is found among both liberals and conservatives. Both support a welfare-warfare state funded via the theft of income taxes and the indirect theft of inflation. Both support jailing people for nonviolent actions like drinking raw milk. Many politicians, regardless of ideology, support restrictions on parental rights such as mandatory vaccination laws.

While claiming to support the right to life, most modern liberals not only support legalized abortion, they want to force pro-lifers to fund abortion providers. Both the right-wing neocons and left-wing humanitarian interventionists dismiss the innocents killed in U.S. military actions as inconsequential “collateral damage.”

America’s Founding Fathers rejected the idea that rights come from government. They instead embraced the view that rights are either granted by the creator or are a basic attribute of humanity.

Since rights do not come from government, government has no more legitimate authority to violate our rights than does a private individual. Thus, if an individual cannot use force to make you help others, neither can the government. If an individual cannot use force to stop you from gambling online or telling un-PC jokes, neither can the government. If an individual cannot use force to stop parents from seeking medical treatment for their child, neither can the government.

Widespread acceptance of natural rights and the principle of nonaggression that flows from natural rights is key to obtaining and maintaining a free society. Thus, educating people in the benefits of free markets, individual liberty, and a foreign policy of peace and free trade is key to protecting future Alfie Evanses and other victims of the welfare-warfare state, as well as to restoring respect for the moral principles of liberty among a critical mass of the people.

Ron Paul
Bowling Green, Kentucky

(Editor’s note: Dr. Ron Paul is a former member of Congress and distinguished counselor to the Mises Institute.)

Press on to Rebuild 

On Tuesday, May 15, the County Board of Supervisors will soon face its most important decision about Montecito since the mobilization of emergency personnel on January 9. If no ordinance change is made, residents who have lost their home will be forced to go through the normal time-consuming land-use process, which includes the ability of neighbors to appeal the rebuild and, ultimately, would give the County the ability to deny the rebuild. 

I have spent three decades fighting for good planning principles, but subjecting people who have lost their homes to our normal process just isn’t right. I’d even call it cruel. The normal process would take two years or more if there were appeals and, as many in the community have experienced, it can take much longer. 

Instead, we advocate that January 9 debris flow victims should be able to rebuild with a similar shortened process that Tea Fire victims were able to use. That is, if the rebuild is within 10% of the same size and not “substantially different” than the previous building, they should be able to rebuild where it is deemed safe, with no appeals.

This is crucial.

Two years is too long

Most of the residents that have lost their homes will run out of insurance money in less than two years. Any process that pushes the timeline past the expiration of insurance will mean residents are financially forced out of the community. That is not the way we should treat people whose homes have been destroyed.

Since I served on the SB City Council before, during, and after the Tea Fire, I saw how this “like for like” saved people from selling out and leaving town. The process saved people like Christie Powell, mother of Abe Powell. She and hundreds of others would have been lost to our community had we not made this allowance.

The process we are proposing allows the homeowner to move away from the creek and, because of this and the fact there is mud that remains on site, the homes will be more visible. I understand the discomfort that some have about that in the community. Aesthetics are very important here. However, safety and the continued economic survival of what is left of Montecito’s middle class (hard-hit in the Olive Mill area) should matter more than the possibility that buildings will be the same size but a few feet higher.

If we subject people who need to move their homes for safety to a discretionary process, they will likely either a) determine they cannot afford that process and leave, as I’ve covered, or b) decide to go ahead and build a larger home since they have to go through an essentially similar process regardless. If our goal is to prevent the McMansion-ization of our community, as some of the opponents of the ordinance have attested, than we should actually adopt the ordinance.

I appreciate the effort by some to create some sort of compromise between the normal process and the “like for like” we have proposed. Any acceptable compromise has to promote people rebuilding on a more resilient site on the parcel than that which was just destroyed. Ultimately, their ideas can be integrated in the final ordinance. Specifically, I propose that a member of the MBAR [Montecito Board of Architectural Review] sit with the planning director to ensure that the rebuild is similar in size, scale, and design.

I hope you will join us in supporting those who lost their homes and support this ordinance on May 15.

Das Williams
Santa Barbara

(Mr. Williams is Santa Barbara County 1st District supervisor.)


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