Montecito Association Discusses Homelessness

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 16, 2020

At their monthly board meeting on Tuesday, July 14, the Montecito Association Board of Directors voted to approve a pilot program to help homeless people in the Montecito area get the help and resources they need.

The program includes partnering with outreach coordinators from City Net, an organization comprised of a team of nonprofit professionals who work to end street-level homelessness. Founded by Brad Fieldhouse, the organization is currently already working in the City of Santa Barbara and partnering with Cottage Hospital to get local homeless the medical help they need.

MA executive director Sharon Byrne, who has been deeply involved with the homeless population for years, reported that there are 25-40 homeless on the streets of Montecito, living in various encampments near the Bird Refuge, Hot Springs freeway exit, near the Pointe Market on Coast Village Road, the area near the freeway and Coast Village Circle, the area between Olive Mill and San Ysidro Road, and near the railroad tracks near Montecito Shores and Bonnymede. “Right now there really is no one to call for neighbors who are experiencing problems,” Byrne said. “I think it’s important that we look for a solution for Montecito.”

The project would be a collaboration between the Montecito Association, City Net, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and potentially the Montecito Community Foundation, who could help with raising the $40,000 needed for the six-month pilot project. The goal would be to provide consistent outreach to the homeless on a weekly basis, as well as case management, in an effort to reduce the number of homeless individuals in the area by 8-12 people. At the end of the six months, the work would be presented to the County, in hopes it could be a longer-term project, funded by the County. “We have to show them how to do it,” Byrne said. “We are the pioneers here.”

“The existing systems that are in place do not work together to end homelessness,” Byrne went on to say. “We have to change this way of doing it. The only thing that works is outreach.” The Board voted to tentatively green light the program, as well as form a working group to look into details.   

The Board also discussed a project that has been discussed in Montecito for many years: undergrounding utility lines. It is estimated that 25% of utility lines in Montecito are already underground; in order to underground the rest, it could cost up to $300 million. The Board voted to have their Land Use Committee, with the help of the Transportation Committee, look into the issue.

During Community Reports, Cold Spring School superintendent Dr. Amy Alzina and Montecito Union School Superintendent Dr. Anthony Ranii reported that both campuses are intending to open for in-person teaching in August. “We will meet every health and safety measure available to get our kids back to school,” Dr. Alzina reported.

“Small school districts have the benefit of being able to pivot,” she added, saying that many larger school districts in the State have decided to adopt virtual learning for the new school year. As we’ve reported, there has been a significant boost in the Montecito real estate since the pandemic, and many buyers report moving to Montecito because both public school districts intend on opening for in-person teaching.

At MUS, a Summer School program on campus is slated to begin next week, with 65 students participating. The school year begins on August 20. Both schools will adopt the appropriate social distancing and PPE procedures, and have alternate plans for families who would like to take the independent study route. MUS is hiring more teachers, as there has been an increase in enrollment, and the school is ready to go to a virtual learning environment if necessary. “We are prepping for having to go back and forth if there is a need,” Dr. Ranii said. “We expect it to be very successful.”

Sheriff Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi reported that there continues to be mail thefts and thefts from vehicles in Montecito. Lieutenant Arnoldi is also working with the County and the Forest Service on implementing new rules related to camping at our local trailheads.

Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor voiced his concern over the number of fireworks heard in Montecito on July 4th and beyond. “Fireworks are not allowed at any time,” he said. He reported that the MFPD Board approved a solar project at Fire Station 1, and that the Neighborhood Chipping Program was very successful this year, with 320 households participating. “We’re grateful to all of our community members who participated to keep our community safe,” he said.  

For more information about the Montecito Association, visit


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