Out of the Ashes

By Montecito Journal   |   June 21, 2018

The Montecito Motor Classic is by all accounts a tremendous success. The California Central Coast has long had a love affair with classic cars. The show’s home is on Coast Village Road, drawing fans from up and down the coast to ogle the fabulous array of assiduously maintained classic autos. The Motor Classic also raises considerable funds for PAL – the Police Activity League’s programs for youth in the Santa Barbara area. Heading into its 7th year this September, organizer Dolores Johnson normally would be wildly enthusiastic.

Instead, she was nervous. This year was different.

The biggest wildfire in California’s history broke out on the feast day of Saint Barbara on December 4, 2017, and burned everything in its path. By the time the Thomas Fire hit Montecito and hovered precipitously above the village for several days, it had destroyed hundreds of homes, covered the area in poisonous smoke, and reduced business activity to a trickle.

January saw the fire turn north, away from populated areas and into the backcountry. But a massive rainstorm hit in the early-morning hours of January 9, producing catastrophic mudflow that sheared homes off their foundations, knocked out the area’s major freeway, and cost 22 people their lives.

The major shopping district of Coast Village Road was heavily impacted, forced to close during the fire and the mudflow. Many businesses had taken seven straight weeks of loss at this point. The Motor Classic would force the road to close yet again, causing more business loss.

Johnson was about to make the decision to cancel the show. “I just don’t think this is the year to do it,” she said. “Those merchants have been through so much.”

Johnson got in touch with Sharon Byrne, executive director of the Coast Village Association, a merchant-community organization. Having navigated the Coast Village community of merchants through the disaster and two subsequent evacuations for rain events, Byrne was intimately familiar with the resistance to any further road closures.

However, as the two women talked, they recognized kindred souls in the other and felt they could find a way to make this a win for the community.

Byrne reflected, “In the face of disaster, you have to turn towards it; you have to pull your community together and say, ‘We will get through this. We will not only survive, but we’ll find a way to thrive.’ Part of thriving is seizing opportunities, from wherever they arise, and making the most of them.”

The Montecito Motor Classic represents a return to a normal that existed before the fire and debris flow. But Coast Village merchants resented closing the street for the show because they lost business. Byrne felt revisioning the Classic might make it palatable to the merchants. In the era of retail collapse and disaster recovery, the need was to encourage visitors to shop local, to eat at establishments in the neighborhood, and ensure that small local businesses survive. “There’s an opportunity here to take a vibrant event with a big draw and leverage it to spread economic vitality to merchants who’ve struggled mightily. Visitors to the Motor Classic will find a lot of wonderful boutiques and delectable eateries. We can create something where both the community and the show patrons benefit,” suggested Byrne.

Johnson was eager to help make it happen. So, the two cooked up a way forward to where a classic car show can deliver economic uplift to a community hit hard by disaster.

The Montecito Motor Classic is going to encourage patrons to visit Coast Village businesses during the car show, especially for food. The Coast Village Association is encouraging merchants to create “Classic” specials during the car show to stimulate purchases by show patrons. “Coast Village merchants know how to throw a warm welcome,” Byrne said. “Classic patrons can find unique goods at our local businesses, and enjoy some of the best food in the Central Coast region on Coast Village.”

“This is a major car show that’s drawn a huge crowd to this street for seven years and raised funds for a good cause,” said Johnson. “To keep it going, we have to do everything we can for these merchants, to make sure they get something out of classic car fans visiting their street. We’re ready to promote to all our patrons, some of whom come from way up in Northern California, that we all have to do our part to help the merchants, to shop local, to keep these unique ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses going.”

“We’re all in this together,” said Johnson. “We have to help each other. It’s the humanitarian thing to do.”

Come and visit us from 9 am to 3 am on Coast Village Road during the upcoming Montecito Motor Classic on Sunday, September 23.

Coast Village Association

(Editor’s note: There was plenty of trepidation to go around during a discussion among a group of supporters and organizers when the subject of closing Coast Village Road was contemplated after the events of earlier this winter. Fortunately, by the end of the get-together, everyone agreed that holding the Montecito Motor Classic was an important element in the recovery and rejuvenation of Coast Village Road. Congratulations are in order for the Coast Village Association and its board of directors for helping make this happen once again. – J.B.)

A collection of Model A Fords will be among the featured automobiles at this year’s Montecito Motor Classic on Sunday, September 23; the human models are Dolores Johnson (left) and Sharon Byrne (photo credit: Alma Rose Middleton)

What Would Jesus Do?

You missed out on a golden opportunity to help last week’s letter writer (“A Liberal Found, MJ #24/24) discern whether Jesus was a liberal or conservative when He said, “And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.”

The spirit of the passage is the emptying of oneself, and of personal surrender. The parenthetical emphasis Jesus says is, “If someone takes yourcoat, then you give them your tunic as well.”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus preaches to our individual, not collective response. 

This follows the conservative mantra of personal responsibility and initiative.

Note that Jesus did not say “make sure there is a government program to also provide for a tunic by taxing the rich of their tunics, so that everyone will be equally attired.”

And to that point of personal response and initiative, note that conservatives give substantially more than liberals, even when controlling for demographic variables and even when taking out churches and religious institutions. (See Arthur Brooks; also The Chronicle of Philanthropy and columnist George Will, who reports conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.)

Rachel Cooper
Santa Barbara

Phoenix Arising

I was leaving the debris field on East Valley Lane recently and saw this sunflower growing out of a pile of dirt. Also notice wild mustard, nasturtium, and other blooming plants. Life is returning.

Dan Seibert
Santa Barbara

Missing Teeth

I’m a Montecito native who lost everything in the Thomas Fire. I got an emergency evacuation order at 4 am and ran with only the clothes on my back. The main problem is that I was so panicked, I left my dentures behind. I know it sounds funny, right? Well, I’m 67 years old and just have Social Security to live on.

I can’t afford to get a new set of dentures, and I can’t get help from anyone, it seems.

I was wondering if there is some organization out there that might help me. I know people lost a lot more than I have, including their lives. I know my situation is small potatoes compared to everything else, but it’s a disaster to me. You can contact me at (805) 636-8181.


(Editor’s note: My guess is you’ll be contacted by someone who should be able to help you. Please get back to us in a couple weeks if you don’t. – J.B.)

Collin Committed

I would like to sincerely thank you for your exceedingly generous words in the Montecito Journal (Coming & Going, #24/21). I am profoundly grateful to be someone you would trust and believe could support our community and state.

Although I am not moving forward toward this elected office, I do feel I am moving forward in a direction that would allow me to wholeheartedly serve the public. The destination from which this will take place is unclear, but the pathway is not. I am boldly committed to following that path wherever it may lead, in the name of goodness, honor, and the future that will unite us in peace.

Sofia Collin
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: We enjoyed an extremely pleasant half-hour conversation with you in the middle of your run for State Assembly; we wish you luck in your future endeavors. – J.B.)

Real Cultural Appropriation

China is pushing multinational companies, like United Airlines, to eliminate the democratic nation of Taiwan from the map, literally, and to not even mention them, fly there, or do business there. China has already invaded Tibet, persecuted its leaders and monks, and kicked out their spiritual head, the Dalai Lama.

This is what real cultural appropriation looks like; it is not wearing an Asian dress or building a tepee. Someone should explain this to the faculty at our universities and colleges. Alarm bells should be going off on campus and across our country that democratic ideals and values are being threatened by a bullying China, a country that uses the latest technology to invade the private spaces of those it governs and uses economic intimidation on those who do not kowtow to its totalitarian world view. It controls the press and media, imprisons its own Nobel Prize winners along with acclaimed artists. It pollutes the air, then creates a beautiful facade for the Olympics.

We all need to step back and realize it is not government but free women and men who create great things when they own their own lives. Professor, you say you choose a Democratic Republic over a coercive Communist state – well then, fight for it on campus, for the young minds you influence.

J.W. Bur
Santa Barbara


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