Latest from Montecito Association

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 17, 2020
) A new bridge to the new nature lab at Montecito Union School has been installed, just one of the initiatives being used to get kids back to school later this month

At a monthly board meeting last week, the Montecito Association Board of Directors heard from Brett Balint, CEO of Onward & Upward, who presented a very conceptual idea of modifying airspace over Santa Barbara and Montecito.

Balint, who was in attendance on the Zoom meeting with Jasenka Rakas, Ph.D., from the University of California at Berkeley, explained that communities that live beneath the airspace of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties along the coast have been dealing with hundreds of helicopter flights each month, with limited oversight by the FAA. In addition, Balint explained that there are several new aircraft technologies coming down the pipeline, which might affect our local communities in the future. These include modifying local airspace to redirect flights over the ocean, drone delivery services, and affordable helicopter commuting options. Balint suggested utilizing Rincon Island as a helipad; the artificial island was built in 1958 to house an oil drilling and production facility, but after multiple issues in the early 2000s, the island is now on its way to being decommissioned through CEQA. Balint suggested the island could be leased for private helicopter commuting, leading to safe, on-demand air travel.

Balint says he has assembled a team of public and private aviation experts as well as a proposed feasibility study to modify the airspace. For more information, visit

Also at the meeting, the Board heard from Cold Spring and Montecito Union School superintendents Dr. Amy Alzina and Dr. Anthony Ranii, who are both endeavoring to have their students back to campus in the coming weeks. Dr. Alzina reported that younger students will go back to school as early as next week, for half days until noon. Older students will do four half days and one full day. “The schedule will help ease us back in,” Dr. Alzina said. Dr. Ranii reported that work continues on building outdoor classrooms in order to properly social distance. Both schools were granted waivers from Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, September 15.

Also during Community Reports, Nick Turner from Montecito Water District reported that a long-term water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara was approved earlier this summer by the MWD Board of Directors; it was later approved by the City of Santa Barbara. “The agreement is fully executed at this point,” Turner said. “It provides such a significant water supply reliability for our community, and we are really glad the community supported it.” The water supply agreement guarantees the City’s delivery of potable water to Montecito for the next 50 years; those deliveries will begin to take place in January 2022. The agreement increases the District’s current local, reliable water sources, irrespective of hydrological conditions.

Turner also reported that piping projects are taking place on Santa Rosa Lane, San Ysidro Road, and San Leandro, and should be finished by mid-October. This week, the District is picking back up the Smart Meter program, which was put on hold due to COVID-19. Seventy percent of meter replacements have already been installed; the remaining 30% will be completed by early December. Once installed, it will take about a year for the District to begin using them; the technology allows customers to track their water usage on their smartphones, and for the District to read meters remotely. If customers want to opt out of the program and wish to continue to have their meters read manually, they may do so by contacting the District.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi read through recent crimes in Montecito, which included fraud on Fairway Road; residential burglary on Hot Springs Road; beached vessels below the cemetery; theft of mail on Oak Grove Drive; and theft of art by a moving company on East Mountain Drive. Lieutenant Arnoldi reported that due to fire danger, the Los Padres National Forest is closed for recreation, which is an unprecedented move.

Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor said the fires across the state are unprecedented, with thousands of homes burned, over two million acres burned, and nearly 8,000 fires burning. Chief Taylor also reported that the District has hired consultants to formulate one more “storm risk decision” map, which will be published in early December.

Darcel Elliot from First District Supervisor Das Williams’ office reported that annual paving is underway; this year includes paving on Olive Mill, Channel Drive, and Hill Road. The bridge at San Ysidro Ranch damaged in the 1/9 debris flow will be in construction this winter, and the Hot Springs walking trail from the triangle near Casa Dorinda to Highway 192 will go to bid later this year. Elliot also reported that the Board of Supervisors is studying short-term rentals, with staff tasked with building an ordinance for the coastal zone that will be satisfactory to the Coastal Commission. If you have a complaint about a short-term rental near year, you can file a complaint at:

The next Montecito Association meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13. For more information, visit

Montecito Union Update

As of press time, the Montecito Union School board of trustees was considering approving superintendent Dr. Anthony Ranii’s plans to reopen the campus to students on September 28. “Things are looking really good,” he told us on Monday, September 14.

All MUS staff has been tested for COVID-19, and 100% of the tests have come back negative, Dr. Ranii said. In addition, the teachers’ union, Montecito Union Teachers’ Association, has approved the changes to working conditions that come with reopening, including staggered start and stop times, and waiting in classrooms with children until they are picked up after school. “These were two things we needed to accomplish before we could move forward with in-person learning,” he said.

On Tuesday, September 15, both MUS and Cold Spring School received their waivers from the County. As reported earlier this month, 91% of parents at MUS wish to send their kids back to campus, following virtual or distance learning since March. For the 40 students whose parents have voiced their opinion not to send their kids back to campus, there will be a virtual learning or independent study program available. 

In preparation for reopening, each of the 26 classrooms will have dedicated outdoor space, and kids will be taught in cohorts to minimize exposure to each other and to teachers. The same cohorts will recess and eat lunch together. Campus staff is busy building outdoor learning areas, adding shade, plexiglass, handwashing stations, and more. The campus will also utilize the vacant land next door to the main campus as an outdoor science lab; an A-frame structure is being built to provide shade. All students and staff will be required to be in face coverings at all times with the exception of strenuous physical activity, respiratory issues, or while eating lunch; even students from kindergarten to 2nd grade, which is more stringent than State regulations.

For more information, visit


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