Our Priorities for 2020

By Sharon Byrne   |   March 12, 2020

At the end of February, we issued a survey electronically to our membership, and the response rate was pretty strong and super-informative. We did this same thing in 2019, and it informed our work for the year. In 2019, our community identified as their top three priorities:

1. Safety and security: evacuations, emergencies, crime, and community safety. So we responded to that concern by offering emergency three-day backpacks as a gift with your membership. We teamed up with MFPD and the Sheriff’s Office to watch environmental and weather conditions, as well as inform the community on safety-bolstering for themselves and their homes.

2. Rebuilding Montecito with resilient infrastructure. A great deal of effort was expended here, on debris basins, ring nets, the solar-powered Microgrid, and then the unexpected hit: insurance companies began not renewing our policies, and SCE and PG&E threw us into the world of Public Safety Power Shutoffs. We produced a battery-back-up and alternative power workshop in November in response to these concerns. We had our Assembly Member and the Insurance Commissioner of California come meet with us on our insurance issues.

3. Preserving our rural character. Montecito didn’t just happen, in the immortal words of Joan Wells. We have a strong history of protecting this place, and we are no less engaged in that work than we’ve even been.

4. Traffic was also pretty high on your concerns list. 2019 saw bridges re-opening, and the moving up of 101 widening and the two roundabouts in Montecito. We connected with Caltrans, the county, CHP, and the city in our Traffic Committee meetings.

This Year’s Survey Results

So, it’s not surprising that the 2020 survey followed similar patterns, with some changes. Here’s what you told us you care about for 2020, and we will prioritize our work as an association accordingly:

1. Resilience and hardened infrastructure. Debris basins, abating geologic hazards in the community, mitigating power shutoffs, solar-powered microgrid, undergrounding utilities.

2. Preserving our rural character. Balance is required here, as we strive to make the community more resilient, that we do so from a place of preserving and protecting what makes it so special.

3. Water. Includes desal, recycled water, conservation, rates, groundwater, and more. For the first time, this issue was tied with traffic, which is eye-opening. There is an election coming up this November for both Water and Sanitary Districts. There are hearings pending about a new building, recycled water capability, and ADUs to be constructed on the Montecito Sanitary District property, in the coastal zone. In our survey, people wrote in comments that indicate a growing concern with conservation, reducing or eliminating ocean discharge, and seriously pursuing recycled water.

4. Traffic. This one goes along with hardened infrastructure. As we build it, and continue our rebuild and recovery efforts, we have a lot of construction vehicles in the neighborhood. Edison is busily replacing poles to bolster their defenses against wildfire. County Public Works has done a lot of work in the community, and installed some traffic controls to avert people using our neighborhood streets as detours from the 101. But there is still a lot of work to go.

So there you have it. These priorities, selected by you, will inform our work in this year, and of course, like last year, there may be unexpected issues to deal with, like the coronavirus. There was a meeting last week at the county with state officials to introduce $250 million in grants made available by HUD for disaster recovery infrastructure, and rebuilding in California. We could qualify for two grants to build infrastructure that helps us avert disaster that could be up to $5 million each. The input from those grants is due shortly from the county. You can be sure this is also a priority for us. What would you like to see that money used for? Microgrids? Debris basins? More ring nets? Let us know at info@montecitoassociation.com.


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