Like for Like Fairest Way to Go
On Tuesday, May 15, the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted on an amendment that modifies the current “Like for Like” (LFL) ordinance that allows people who want to rebuild their home the same way it was before, to get an exemption from the County Planning and Development (P&D) permitting process.
The Thomas fire/debris flows damaged over 500 homes in Montecito, and 216 of these were totally wiped out or red-tagged. Several families have lost loved ones, and those of us who were lucky enough to make it out alive are still suffering from the memories of that night and the displacement it has caused. None of us will be able to take the next step in our lives until we are in our homes again. We all know the risks, but it’s the community we love, and if we rebuild in a resilient manner, it’s still the best place on Earth to live and raise a family.
My family is one of the 216 “red-tagged” families, and I am speaking for all of us who just want to replace the homes we had and rebuild as soon as possible. Best-case scenario for us is that this amendment is passed and it becomes official ordinance 30 days later. This puts us at June 15, which also aligns with the interim FEMA maps becoming available. This will be six months since the debris flow.
These FEMA maps are not new zoning maps, they will not tell people where they can build and where they can’t build; they will only tell us how high our finished floors need to be, and illustrate the new creek alignments and associated 50-foot setbacks. These maps are very technical in nature; there is no political input or special interests behind them; they will simply provide the data to make our homes more resilient and become insurable.
Assuming the maps come in on time, and my new plans qualify for the LFL exemption, we will still be at least 1.5 years away from being able to move back home, as we still need to secure a building and safety permit, hire a contractor, and go through all the machinations of a rebuild. Best-case scenario, we all will be displaced for at least two years at this point. Our insurance will only pay for about one more year of a rental house as of May. So, at best, we will have to pay a mortgage for a house that won’t yet exist and pay rent for a home for my family of six.
Now, a select number of individuals want to add on another year or more to this already excruciatingly long timeframe. This will probably lead to foreclosure for many of us. Is that what my neighbors in Montecito want? None of them I know want that, they all want us to move back a.s.a.p., so their own lives can become normal again and they don’t see destruction every time they walk out of their houses.
If I cannot appeal to the emotional side of things, then maybe the dollars will talk to the folks that have not been directly impacted. The County relies on Montecito for approximately 15 percent of its annual budget. We all know the County budget is not in a good sustainable fiscal standing, the County, local business owners, and residents need Montecito to be rebuilt before the revenues can even begin to be restored back to normal. Teachers are being laid off, businesses are closing, and families are still suffering. If this amendment does not get passed, all you’re doing is extending the pain for us all, with no substantive benefit.
The MPC (Montecito Planning Commission) does not speak for me, nor does it speak for hundreds of us that have been directly affected. The good intentioned folks at the MPC and MBAR (Montecito Board of Architectural Review) want every house to go through a design review, and open up a typical appeals process, as most of us will need to exceed the current 10 percent limits in height increase, due to the new maps. Keep in mind, the LFL exemption will not let any house exceed the current height limitations on the books. We are not a group of marauding deviants who want to slip one by the County and build six-story buildings with neon signs; all we want is the house that was taken from us replaced.
Most of our houses had to go through the design review process in the first place, and they all looked pretty good on January 8, as far as I can recall. If some of the red-tagged families want to take this opportunity to rebuild bigger, or add another structure, that’s great, but they will need to go through the normal design review process. All that most of us want is the same house that we had. Yes, it will be a little higher in order to meet the current codes, but everyone will just have to deal with that, as there are no other viable alternatives.
Does the MPC want us to change the architecture of our homes in order to make the roof lines lower, and therefore, definitely not fit within the LFL? There is talk of a “fast-tracked” process through MBAR, but the reality is the County does not have the resources to staff this. MBAR averaged 69 approvals per year over the last two years. At that rate, it would be three years-plus to get all the 216 design reviews completed and permits approved, and that’s if all the current cases are put on hold, which is unlikely. The County would have to add staff that quadruples the throughput of MBAR in order to create anything resembling a “fast-track”; let’s talk in terms of reality: this is not going to happen.
My wife and I have begun the LFL process and it is very stringent. The professionals at the County have reviewed our initial plans, commented, and we had several iterations of re-submittals before the director agreed that we met the LFL criteria. They are not “rubber stamping” any and all plans that come their way, so please trust these professionals. By making the recommendations they have put forth to stop the LFL amendment, MPC is calling into question P&D staff’s integrity and professionalism; that is unfair and unjust. P&D staff are putting their professional reputations on the line. Let’s trust the planners, hydrologists, and engineers at the County, and listen to their recommendation to approve the LFL amendment.
A Call to Action
I attended my first Montecito Association meeting on May 8 in an effort to become more connected to my community following our recent disasters. As planned, there was discussion of the Land Use Committee’s recommendation regarding the County’s proposed like-for-like ordinance, which is intended to enable expedited rebuilding permits for people effected by the January 9 debris flow.
I appreciated the discussion among board members, and openness to public comments, which were offered by a diverse group of people with unique interests and needs. Building consensus among board members is both important and difficult. Sometimes consensus is simply not possible, and as was the case on May 8, but the effort is important, and the Montecito Association Board of Directors made the effort. While the proposed ordinance will undoubtedly have its detractors, I have confidence the issue was fairly debated.
What I did not see on May 8 from any of the board members nor from any member of the public in attendance was a lack of empathy for those affected. There was absolutely a consensus that rebuilding is a priority, and that there is a sense of urgency to mitigate any further financial or emotional hardship these members of our community are experiencing.
This is what makes what I read this week in an (online) Edhat article, “Rebuilding at Ground Zero,” written by Melinda Burns so appalling. In her article, she interviews Joe Cole, the Montecito Planning Commission chairman, and includes this quote, “Why would we want to move in a year from now and be evacuated every time it rains? Just on pure life safety, wouldn’t it be better to wait three to five years?”
Could our own community’s planning commission chairman really be suggesting that people wait three to five years to rebuild? I respect that he has a concern for safety, but how on Earth can he believe this to be an economically feasible alternative to people running out of insurance money? How can he be that out of touch and still serve our community in such a key role? I do not know how the planning commission members are appointed, nor how or even if they influence this process, but I intend to find out. This is a call to action for me and hopefully others who want to help our community recover.
(Editor’s note: Prospective planning commission members’ names are submitted to the First District supervisor, currently Das Williams, and it is he who makes the ultimate choice. – J.B.)
Statue of No Limitations
As I was clearing dirt from the base of a oak tree today, I saw a smooth rock that the bulldozers had uncovered. (As I was) looking closely, it had a pipe through it and had some lines carved on it. I thought it was part of a fountain. Being close enough to a hose, I sprayed it off and right away I recognized it as part of a statue. A statue I photographed back in 1993; then in 1995, I did a drawing of it. It was on display on the Mission lawn for a year, then moved to Casa de Maria. As it turns out, Casa de Maria is about a half-mile up San Ysidro creek from the spot where I was working. What a great find! More than 20 years later, and part of it lands right at my feet.
(Editor’s note: I know that statue well, as I too had experience with it some 20 years ago. I forget the artist’s name; she carved it out of one piece of… it could be marble, but it could also be granite, I’m not sure… but she unveiled and installed it in the back of the parking lot at Casa de Maria across from and below the nearby parking lot. It is impressive and lucky for all of us that you found it, relatively unscathed, so we all thank you. – J.B.)
Debris Flow Update and Outlook
The Board of Directors of the Ennisbrook Homeowners Association has received inquiries about the cleanup work going on in and around the Ennisbrook community to address the devastating mudflows that struck our community earlier this year. The purpose of this letter is to inform the general community about steps the owners’ association is taking to mitigate the effects of this event.
The Land Trust Acreage
Ennisbrook is a party to a perpetual conservation easement agreement between Ennisbrook Owners’ Association and the Land Trust of Santa Barbara, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving natural resources in Santa Barbara County. The agreement ensures that no development occurs within the 44-acre San Ysidro Preserve that is directly adjacent to the Ennisbrook Community. Unfortunately, this preserve was hard-hit by the mudslides. Fortunately, several organizations, including Ennisbrook, are working to address this damage.
The Ennisbrook Owners Association (EOA) owns the preserve. The Montecito Trails Foundation works to maintain the network of trails that crosses the property, while the Land Trust guides activity that might impact the future of the Preserve. In the aftermath of the January 9 debris flow, these organizations, combined with significant volunteer contributions from the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, have begun to work on the recovery of the preserve. The EOA has been fully supportive of these efforts and has aided in the coordination and planning of the work taking place on the preserve. Ennisbrook intends to continue to work with these organizations and others to mitigate the damage to the preserve. Our goal is to restore the San Ysidro Creek Preserve to an appropriate level of health as determined by the experts and in partnership with the Land Trust.
East Valley Road Damage
Additionally, there has been considerable damage from the January 9 debris flow and ongoing cleanup at a different location in Ennisbrook. The Ennisbrook Owners Association owns the street known as East Valley Road (a.k.a. East Valley Lane), just below East Valley Road and to the west of the northern part of the preserve area. This road contains approximately 14 residences, four of which are within the Ennisbrook Owners Association and the remainder outside. The residences not within the EOA enjoy easement rights to use East Valley Road for ingress and egress to the residences. For those of you who have not yet walked East Valley Road, we can advise you that there was substantial damage to some homes and others were totally destroyed. Currently, we understand that two homes have been demolished and work continues to clean up homes and the land surrounding them.
The EOA has held and continues to hold meetings with representatives for the residents on East Valley Road and has committed to:
1) cleaning the road of mud and debris so that there is ingress and egress through East Valley Road; and
2) repairing and restoring East Valley Road at the appropriate time.
The EOA will make sure that the street is cleared curb to curb and the two turnouts dug out. At the appropriate time, East Valley Road will be restored to the condition that existed prior to the events of January 9. This second phase of complete restoration of the road will likely take place after approved and completed reconstruction of residences takes place as the road will significantly impact further water and debris flow. Reconstruction prior to this would be premature, as significant heavy equipment operation is expected on this portion of the road as repair and reconstruction of the area is undertaken.
Let it be clear that the Ennisbrook Owners Association stands in unity and support of its members and associates who have been affected by this tragedy. The EOA is very concerned that it fulfills its obligations to members and those residents who have easement rights over East Valley Road. Given the enormity of the destruction, we hope to maintain a spirit of patience and collaboration while we move forward together.
Board of Directors
Ennisbrook Owners Association
Madeline is Back
It’s been a while since we caught up with Madeline: four years in our world, four months in hers. Just as she’s coming to grips with the loss of her key employee, she must face her conniving ex-husband, Steven Ridley, as he petitions the Board of Parole for an early release from Lompoc Federal Prison. But she doesn’t have time to dwell on such matters, thanks to two new missing persons cases that come to MDPI on the same day.
While Madeline’s partner, Mike Delaney, heads down to Los Angeles to search for his cousin’s vanished girlfriend and her sister, Madeline heads to San Luis Obispo in hopes of picking up a 12-year-old trail at a Catholic boarding school. Their separate pursuits lead them into a world where a frightening reality hides behind a glossy veneer. With several lives hanging in the balance, Mike and Madeline are faced with daunting odds and ruthless criminals who will kill to keep what they have taken.
I have to admit that I put Madeline and Mike through the wringer in this third book in the series. I can also tell you that I pushed myself beyond my own comfort zone. In retrospect, I can see that doing so was important; believability and a thrilling experience is what I was shooting for.
Print books are in the works. I will let you know when they become available.
A big thank you for your support over the years! Girl Trap marks my eighth book published. It’s because of readers like you, who’ve given me such positive feedback and have helped spread the word, that I can enjoy such wonderful reviews and high ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. Without you, I’d never know the joy of sharing my stories with others.
For those who read ebooks, you can download Girl Trap for free today!
Lucky Les Miz
I joined the Adderley School when I was five years old, and my passion for theater was ignited. I have performed in many Adderley and Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theatre (SBYET) shows since then. But the show that solidified my love of theater was when I played the Bishop in Les Misérables a few years ago. When SBYET announced it would be reviving the show, I knew I wanted to play Marius and sing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to play Marius alongside all my dedicated and talented castmates who range in age from 7 to 15.
It is going to be a show to see!
At SBYET, I have found a place to be myself and be with people who share what I love. This year was a tough one for our community, and it was important for me to be able to go to rehearsal and lose myself in the music and the friendship of my cast mates. Two of them, Lauren Cantin and Julia Riskin, lost more than I can even begin to imagine. Even with everything they have had to deal with, they come to rehearsal prepared, excited, and focused on being a part of putting on the best show we possibly can. Like for me, maybe they also find comfort in being with a group all focused on a single, beautiful task.
If you come to the show, you’ll see the result of all of the work each of us has put into bringing our roles to the stage, but none of it would be possible without the person behind the curtain: Janet Adderley. Her willingness to share her lifelong passion for theater inspires all of us. She teaches us what it means to be actors, not just kids. From auditions, to dress rehearsals and opening and closing nights, she guides us, supports us, and demands a lot of us. Sometimes it is hard, but in the end we are proud of what we have accomplished. She gives each of us the opportunity to shine and to know when the last curtain falls that we have given our all and loved every minute of it.
Janet, her daughter Alana, Zach the music director, and interns Samantha and Olivia began working with us in September. We rehearsed every weekend, when nature let us get there. The week before the show, we will be at the theater every afternoon and evening. Nothing would make us happier than to look out at a sold-out crowd and to share our joy with you as we perform.
Please come and support us by coming to one of our shows. Saturday, May 19, shows are at 1 and 5 pm, and Sunday, May 20, shows are at 2 and 6 pm. Buy your tickets before they sell out at https://www.lobero.org/events/sbyet-les-miserables/
(Editor’s note: Dawson is an MUS graduate and current 8th grader at Marymount who will attend Cate School in the fall.)
Contrary to some media reports of the recent NRA convention in Dallas, there were very few incidents of members shooting members. The primary reason no guns were allowed was that a special keynote speaker was taking the podium, and the president of the United States usually requires high-security measures. Perhaps the Secret Service was worried that friends of Anders Breivik or James Hodgkinson might try to sneak in to the event.
There were 80,000-plus gun sympathizers in one location and, incredibly, there were no shots fired. This would make the event almost as safe as living in a gun-free city, like Chicago.
Vote for Jen
The office of Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller is not one that usually draws a lot of attention and when it does get attention, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. (For example, an embezzlement scheme by a Public Works Department employee that went undetected by auditors for 10 years.)
On Tuesday, June 5, voters will have an opportunity to elect a new auditor-controller. I urge you to vote for Jennifer Christensen for that office.
I have known Jennifer Christensen for over 15 years, and I can say without reservation that she is a person of integrity, intelligence, and accomplishment. She is not a politician but rather is a financial professional who will keep a close watch on your taxpayer dollars.
In the aftermath of the January mudslides that have wreaked havoc on the County’s property tax base, strong fiscal management by the auditor-controller is more crucial than ever. We can’t afford another $2 million hit from an embezzlement scheme. Jennifer Christensen will use her experience in finance and accounting to ensure that internal controls are restored to the auditor-controller’s office and that the employees who work there employ the highest ethical standards.
As the County’s chief investment officer, she wrote the policy and made the decisions that resulted in what was touted by a former County supervisor as the “largest rainy-day fund in county history.”
I think it’s time that the person who created the nest egg be given the opportunity to guard it.
Join me in voting for Jennifer Christensen for auditor-controller.
(Editor’s note: We like Jen too; our interview with her can be found on page ?? – J.B.)
Ready to Run Things
It has been a tough period for the Sheriff’s Department, murders, a dozen major wildland fires, and the recent mudslides along with the ongoing duties of protection, custody, and safety. I’m sure there are deputies who are tired and cranky, but “Time for Change” is not a reason to replace Sheriff Bill Brown.
I wish before you decide who to vote for you would take the time to visit the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s website (sbsheriff.org) or Facebook and see what makes up the department.
The responsibility of the Santa Barbara County sheriff is to enforce the laws, provide custody, court services, protect persons and property. There are over 650 persons in the department. There are seven or eight major divisions headed by commanders with a number of supporting elements headed by lieutenants or sergeants… Then there are the undersheriff and sheriff.
The sheriff‘s task is to develop and manage the resources necessary to accomplish the responsibility. The top priority is having properly trained and equipped deputy sheriffs on our streets and custody deputies working in our jails. The sheriff must work with the Board of Supervisors and County CEO to obtain funding and recognition of services.
I honor and thank lieutenant Eddie Hsueh for his 31 years with his dedication to mental health and Brian Olmstead, MBA, past president of the Deputies Union for his 27 years. Their experience is primarily in the law enforcement division. I don’t believe they have the overall experience to justify jumping over commanders, chief deputy, and undersheriff to be sheriff.
Sheriff Bill Brown has over 40 years (of) line and management experience. He has led the department through lawlessness, fire, flood, mud, and diminishing funds. Sheriff Brown is prepared to be sheriff of Santa Barbara County.
William R Gilbert