Summer is Coming: Some (Burning) Issues for Montecito Just Got Hotter
Bucolic scenery, coastal oaks, mountains, and ocean. Montecito is lovely, and a terrific community, but we have issues here. If you recently moved in, here’s where you can get resources:
Fire Danger – There have been multiple fires in the past few weeks all over the county, well ahead of the official fire season. Of course, official fire season sunset back in 2017, when the Thomas Fire broke out in December. We are in high fire country here. The high winds and dry conditions mean you need to be prepared. Sign up for Aware and Prepare alerts at readysbc.org to receive evacuation warnings by text. Have a plan for evacuation that includes medications and key papers. Have a ‘go bag’ ready by the door in case a wildfire breaks out and you have to evacuate, particularly if you reside above East Valley Road. Our wonderful Montecito Fire team can help you look at ways to clear defensible space around your home and bolster your fire protection. Montecito Fire also clears brush and chips it, and hired sheep to graze our mountain areas to keep fuel down. See montecitofire.com to learn more about how to prepare for wildfire danger.
Obviously, the overcrowded parking situation at Hot Springs Trailhead and some of the night behaviors observed by neighbors on that trail, in particular, heighten concerns regarding fire and evacuations. Still working on a resolution there…
Difficulties with homeowner’s insurance: We’ve been dealing with this issue since early 2019, when insurers started sending non-renewal notices to Montecitans, throwing them onto the insurance market, where they faced significant price spikes and reduced coverage. The L.A. Times this week reported the number of California properties at risk of wildfire are expected to increase sixfold in 30 years, so the problem of obtaining homeowner’s insurance is statewide, and increasing. We’ve worked with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Senator Monique Limón on this issue. We’ve met his opponent, Marc Levine. We’ve talked with insurers, held forums, and continue to work on this issue, including through the California Legislature, and two legislative proposals could help Montecito homeowners. You can call us for the latest on this at (805) 969-2626.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) – watch your mailbox, as Southern California Edison just dropped a glossy mail piece on these. When fire weather cranks up, as it has in the past few weeks, with hot, dry wind gusts, SCE has the ability to call for a public safety power shutoff in an area that can last for days. Like fire evacuations, you should have a plan in the event a PSPS occurs. Go to sce.com/psps for more information.
Water – we’re in a severe drought in Santa Barbara County. The Governor has called for conservation statewide. Montecito is using water at a rate well over our water budget. Los Angeles is implementing restrictions on landscape watering, limiting it to one day per week. You need to conserve. Our Montecito Water District has tips to help you conserve, and offers a free conservation consultation to help you increase your water efficiency. Call (805) 969-2271 to schedule a consultation and see montecitowater.com/conservation for more tips to help you conserve water.
Drive Safe – Watch those roads! Drive carefully, and don’t speed. There are wild animals here, kids and people walking alongside our neighborhood trails, bicyclists, and road closures exactly when you’re trying to get somewhere. Montecito Water is replacing their main on East Valley Road. Edison is replacing poles all over. The 101 is a construction zone, so everything around Sheffield is jammed. People try to use Coast Village and the 192 as an alternate, driving aggressively through our neighborhoods. San Ysidro backs up after 3 pm going south towards the 101. Infrastructure repairs, freeway expansion, and roadwork mean we are a congested community most days. So breathe, and roll with traffic delays. Don’t drink and drive. Slow down at night in particular, as it can be harder to see turns in the roads.
Wildlife – See our road problems above. We regret to report that Carla the bear, a regular visitor to our community for at least the past two years, was killed on Ladera Lane Friday night. It was a hit and run, and Ladera is known to have a lot of speeding. This is very tragic, as we learned from California Fish and Wildlife how to best live with bears. Carla had cubs, so Gretchen Lieff of the Wildlife Care Network has put out a call to action to try to spot the cubs and report them so they can get them to a California Fish and Wildlife rehabilitation center. If you see the cubs, as they may be searching for food and water, please call Dustin Pearce at California Fish and Wildlife at (562) 343-3232 immediately.
Sharon Byrne is the Executive Director of the Montecito Association