Governor Gavin Newsom Visits the Randall Road Debris Basin

By Joanne A Calitri and Zach Rosen   |   January 24, 2023
Governor Newsom presenting a press conference at the Randall Road Debris Basin on January 13 (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Governor Gavin Newsom toured the flood damage statewide on Friday, January 13 and stopped in Montecito in the late afternoon to visit the Randall Road Debris Basin, where over 80 California National Guard were deployed and working around the clock to do environmental remedial improvements that would ensure the safety of the area, and direct any water flow and debris away from residences. This urgency measure came due to the threat of more heavy rainfall expected over the January 14-15 weekend, and containment achieved at the week’s prior rainfall said to be at 17 inches. Newsom also spent time with the Bucket Brigade, who was busy deploying sandbags to the local community, along with other emergency preparedness efforts.

Congressman Carbajal, Carmen Muñoz, and Adam McKaig stand with servicemembers after delivering them warm meals (photo courtesy of Congressman Carbajal’s office)

Present at the conference and providing brief statements were Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Das Williams; Kelly Hubbard, Director of Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management; Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart;Senator Monique Limón,Rep 19th District for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties;and Congressman Salud Carbajal,who introducedGovernor Gavin Newsom. On site were also Montecito Fire Department Fire Chief Kevin Taylor and Mark A. Hartwig, Chief of Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The Governor lauded the Montecito community, saying: “Thank you for your pride and spirit, thank you for having each other’s back. There is no substitute for that. Thank you to the local leaders, and thanks to the local representatives, Sheriff Brown, and all the men and women in uniform. We want to have a more sustainable mindset; we can’t walk away with patchwork efforts. I’m here to make that commitment to you. We have $8.6 billion of state resources going to infrastructure, to update our systems to the 20th century. I go back to my notes when I was Lieutenant Governor after Gov. Brown [in 2018], this is exactly what they predicted. The question is, are we resilient enough, resourceful enough, to be creative so that we cannot just survive through this new reality? The beauty of California is the ferocity of Mother Nature. California has the population of 21 states combined, and we are dealing with scale, and requested a major disaster declaration from the Biden administration, who responded proactively. The FEMA Director is in California today assessing damages. I know how fatigued you all are, we ask you maintain more vigilance over the weekend, we’ll get through this and get back to the real work that needs to be done to make sure we can get through the next century to enjoy the greatest state God has ever conceived, the State of California.” 

(Statement edited for length and clarity, visit for the full video.)

On Environmental issues, the Governor said, “We have a $48 billion Climate Package, and there is no jurisdiction on Mother Earth that is investing more in green growth strategies, no state in America that is long leading that charge to change the way we produce and consume energy, to address the underlying reasons why we had the 6th hottest year in recorded history of this planet, and I’m proud of it – California has no peers in that space. A huge part of that is 30 by 30, which is protecting and preserving 30% of our natural lands, purchasing and acquiring natural lands, and stacking private philanthropy in that space. But the Green Infrastructure I am speaking about is the one Mother Nature did before we got here, which is Flood Plains, and how we can capture rainwater and storm water; that’s a big part of our broader strategy.”

Salud Carbajal (center) with Kevin Taylor (left) and Mark A. Hartwig (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

During the Q&A, I asked Governor Newsom if he could respond to the impact of the fires and floods in Montecito to California Senate Bills SB9 and SB10. He replied, “I’m very mindful how controversial those bills are and how many years we debated the merits, and without going too off on a tangent, I think the issue beyond the issues that bring us here today, which are climate change and Mother Nature’s fury, is affordability. And affordability manifests in many different ways including this acute homeless crisis that we continue to experience, and what we are trying on SB9 and 10 and a series of housing bills is to address the affordability crisis, and build housing at all income levels so we can live together and advance together. And I think it’s incredibly important for the state to not take the accelerator off in terms of some of the new progress we have in terms of trying to clear the hurdles so we can start producing more housing and accommodate more people and reduce the stress we all have in common, and that is the cost of living in California.”

After fielding questions, in closing he said, “What I am most proud of today, at our UCG meeting, all-hands emergency with the FEMA director, all we talked about was equity as the foundation principle on how we see the world and our responsibility to people.” 

Later over the weekend, Congressman Carbajal visited the site again, saying, “We went out last night at 11 pm with community volunteers led by Carmen Muñoz of the Santa Barbara Memorial Veterans building and Adam McKaig from Adam’s Angels – who provided food – to help deliver meals to our California National Guard service members who are working 24/7 clearing the storm debris from the Randall Debris Basin to ensure it continues to work during ensuing storms.”

Then, on late Tuesday night, Santa Barbara County was added to the list of three California counties included in President Biden‘s Major Disaster Declaration, making these areas eligible for FEMA assistance. Another big push that came from Congressman Carbajal.  


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