Gas-Powered Generators Being Installed; 101 Widening to be Reviewed

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 14, 2021
The old northbound bridge at Sheffield has been removed; drivers and residents can expect noise during daytime pile driving for the underground supports of the new bridge

At this month’s Montecito Association Land Use & Transportation Committee meeting, the group heard from Carla Leal of Cox Communications, who reported on new gas-powered generators being installed in Montecito.

The project, which aims to install 49 generators throughout the Montecito area, stemmed from a decision issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) earlier this year, which requires California’s facilities-based wireline providers, such as Cox, to develop comprehensive resiliency strategies to prepare for catastrophic disasters and power outages, including Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). The wireline providers are ordered to implement 72-hour backup power requirements in high fire threat districts by August 2022.

Leal explained the project is to ensure that customers will still have access to communication networks in order to call 911 and 211, receive emergency alerts and information, and have access to critical information, in the event of a large-scale power outage, earthquake, or fire. As it stands now, communication networks are dependent upon commercial power, with a backup battery in place to provide several hours of run-time in the event of a normal duration commercial power outage. Outages are occurring more frequently, necessitating longer-term solutions, Leal said.

There were more than 25,000 outage events in California in 2019, which was a 23% increase from the previous year. The option to utilize natural gas-powered generators has the smallest physical footprint possible, and so long as natural gas supply lasts, the generators will not require electricity.

“The natural gas will shut off automatically if the generator is damaged or sheared off in an event such as a debris flow,” Leal said. 

Installation of the generators will require a new above-ground cabinet adjacent to an existing power supply cabinet. The cabinet is slated to be 44 inches high, 26 inches wide, and 24 inches deep, and will be located in the public right-of-way. There will be 19 generators installed this year and next in “critical” locations, with 30 more sites to follow. There are 130 sites total in the Santa Barbara area. Cox is currently working through the permitting process with the county, and some of the sites require permits from the Coastal Commission.

Also discussed at Land Use: Kirsten Ayars with the 101 Widening Project reported that the project will be seen by Montecito Board of Architectural Review on September 23 for conceptual review. The project currently has three segments – and seven miles – in construction through Carpinteria, Padaro Lane, and Summerland, adding peak period carpool lanes and improve freeway operations and safety.

The MBAR review will discuss intersections and bridge updates as part of the “4D” segment of the project, which includes a new peak-period carpool lane in each direction from the Romero Creek Bridge north to Olive Mill Road. The project includes new bridges over Romero, San Ysidro, and Oak creeks, in addition to four proposed sound walls.

“We anticipate multiple conceptual review hearings,” Ayars said, adding that timing related to the roundabouts at Olive Mill/Coast Village roads and San Ysidro/North Jameson is still being decided.

The current construction is on schedule, with Ayars reporting positive progress due to lighter traffic last year because of the pandemic and a lack of rain. In Carpinteria, in addition to the new carpool lanes, there are new bridges being built as well as freeway on- and off-ramps, six new sound walls, and intersection improvements at Santa Monica and Via Real, Reynolds, and Carpinteria avenues, and Bailard and Hwy 101. At the Padaro segment, the project will add new peak-period carpool lanes, new bridges at Toro and Arroyo Parida creeks, a new south Padaro Lane/Santa Claus Lane undercrossing, new bridge and on- and off-ramps, three new sound walls, and a new separated bikeway that will connect Santa Claus Lane and Carpinteria Avenue near the salt marsh.

The Summerland portion of the project includes new peak-period carpool lanes, new bridges at Sheffield Drive and Evans, on- and off-ramps replaced at Evans, Ortega Hill, and Wallace Avenue, two new sound walls, and undercrossing improvements at Evans including new lighting, sidewalks, bike lanes, design elements, and landscaping. 

For more information about the current and future highway widening projects, visit

Next week is the Montecito Association’s monthly board meeting, Tuesday, September 14 at 4 pm. For more information visit


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