Remembering Robertson “Bob” Short

By Sharon Byrne   |   October 12, 2021

The Montecito community sadly lost one of its greatest Benevolent Godfathers (and there are a few running around here) in Bob Short. A force to be reckoned with, Bob left a great legacy for Montecito. You may not have known him – or known him well – so we want to take a moment and honor this great man with some remembrances and highlights of his achievements, so you get a sense of this great communitarian we were blessed to have in our midst. 

As the Executive Director of the Montecito Association, I had the fortune of seeing Bob’s work first-hand, and it will live on for decades.

First, a Little History

Bob was born January 7, 1929 and grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs. He’s a graduate of Purdue, with a degree in mechanical engineering. This explains his favorite color – of deep maroon, for Purdue. He also had an MBA from the University of Delaware. Bob’s career was in commercial real estate development, predominantly in building skyscrapers. He also developed a real estate textbook used by four universities — clearly making him an overachiever well before landing in Montecito.

Once he landed on South Coast, he became a foremost civic activist in these parts, continually striving for this community, for more than 30 years. Here’s a partial list of Bob’s incredible record of service to Montecito:

—Commissioner for Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO)

—Member of the Grand Jury of Santa Barbara County

—President of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara

—Served as a stellar director on the Board of the Montecito Association

—Member of the Land Use Committee of the Montecito Association

—Current member of the Montecito Association Transportation Committee

—Donor to the Montecito Association’s Hands Across Montecito homeless outreach project

—Mentor in Santa Barbara’s Fighting Back youth program

—Chaired a joint committee of the Taxpayers’ Association and League of Women Voters to pass a Performance-Based Budgeting measure in Santa Barbara County

—Key strategist and candidate recruiter for multiple campaigns here, including the Santa Barbara County Supervisors District 1 race, the Montecito Water District, and Montecito Sanitary District to get desal and recycled water for Montecito

—President of the Casa Dorinda Residents Association.

I asked some of our community leaders for their thoughts on Bob, and here’s what they shared:

Ken Coates, Montecito Water District Board of Directors

“He was such a prince of a man, with a twinkle in his eye, and did so much, especially behind the scenes, for this community. He never wanted the spotlight.”

Jack Overall recalled, “the approval of Casa Dorinda — he was instrumental in that.”

Jack was still on the Planning Commission at that time, and Bob said they really needed an expansion of the dining facility, which struck a chord with the commission. 

Kirsten Ayars of the 101 Project

“Bob Short was an intelligent and strategic thinker who proved that being a doting father and friend should always be a priority in anyone’s life. He loved bringing people together. Anyone who knew Bob knows that he had a big heart, a pragmatic mind, and the will to move things ahead. I will greatly miss him and his willingness to consider many sides of any issue.”

Dick Thielscher said, “I thank him every time I drive up that third lane on the 101 to Santa Barbara.” 

Dick Nordlund: “Bob fought for that third lane to be open between the Hot Springs on-ramp and Salinas St. It should be named ‘the Bob Short lane.’ He fought for doing the 101 Project right, made all the presentations, and went to Sacramento with Ron Pulice, Jack Overall, Tom Bollay, and myself. We met with the Governor’s Chief of Staff, the California Transportation Commission, and everyone you needed to meet with. Turns out the one we needed to talk to was SBCAG, who voted in majority for our plan. Then Caltrans undermined all of it, and with the support of our Supervisor at that time.”

This recounting from Bob Hazard details the story of that third lane from Hot Springs to Salinas on 101 North, and how Bob Short made that happen:

“Bob Short was one of those rare individuals who believed that hard work and perseverance could conquer all obstacles, and he was right. He never gave up on a good idea.

“My favorite ‘Short Story’ involves Bob’s unique role in the widening of Highway 101 north of the Cabrillo/Hot Springs roundabout. Caltrans and traffic engineers from the city of Santa Barbara had looked for years at their design for that northbound entrance to the 101 and concluded that a third lane could not be included in the plan. Despite public outcry about probable traffic backups, the road engineers stood their ground… at least until they felt the heat from Bob Short.

“A director of the Montecito Association at the time, Bob was unwilling to settle for having only two northbound lanes coming out of Montecito, and he insisted upon finding a solution. He alone stood up against the huge Caltrans planning and engineering staff, as well as Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and her city’s transportation experts. Thanks to Bob’s perseverance, the design/engineering team ultimately found a way to squeeze in a third lane on the northbound side of the 101 by robbing enough inches from the central median to create a third lane instead of a merge lane.”

Bob’s life of achievement could best be summarized as, “Never interrupt someone doing what everyone else says cannot be done.”

Bob is survived by his two adoring daughters, Barbara Short of McKinleyville, California, and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Chicago, and eight grandchildren. He will be sorely missed in Montecito, but his legacy will endure. Donations in memory of Bob can be made to the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County at 632 East Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara, California, 93103.


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