Dear Mr. Cox and Cox Communications

By Montecito Journal   |   February 21, 2023

We feel so lucky to live in Montecito, a beautiful community with great neighbors and friendly dogs. And you owe me $30,000. This is what I was forced to spend on legal and engineering fees trying to stop your company from ripping out our landscaping and killing our trees in order to put a large, noisy, and noxious gas generator by our front gate. 

But wait! If you act now, I’m also going to throw in, for free, a clue as to why your company has a consumer rating of 1.14 stars from 90 reviews.

This all started last January, when we received a letter addressed to “Neighbor,” telling us a gas generator was going “somewhere in your neighborhood.” This was Cox’s first mistake. They did not inform us, as required, that the gas generator was going on our property.

Second mistake: Before work commenced, your people did not perform a survey. Surveys are really useful to show property lines. 

Third mistake: Hey fellas, the Right of Way is not 73 feet, as you indicated, but only 40 feet. So my property was not yours for the taking.

Fourth mistake: Cox neglected to mention to the county the row of old-growth trees that would have been impacted by the 21-foot trench. Cox obtained a permit by giving the county wrong information.

Fifth mistake: The local Cox person would not let us know who we might talk to because “it was against
company policy.”

This is why we had to hire a lawyer, then an engineer to prove the obvious – that Cox was entirely in the wrong. Even after our attorney tried to get your attention, your lawyer, Mr. Strong out of Atlanta, stonewalled us. The billable hours mounted. We even tried to have an onsite meeting to show Cox the property line. But the powers that be canceled.

We have written to all our representatives, including Gavin Newsom and the head of the Public Utilities Commission. The only person who responded was Salud Carbajal, whose representative said this was a legal matter – not their thing. We even went to Chubb, who has insured us for decades. They replied that the legal fees we paid to prevent Cox from encroaching, didn’t qualify as an insurable loss because we stopped them from encroaching. Really?

Since you are worth $32 billion, according to Forbes, and we’re not, we are appealing directly to you. Let’s show people you have a heart. Give us back the money we spent trying to right a wrong. Let’s see if together we can get Cox up to two stars.


Chris and Dori Carter

Setting the Record Right… A Difference of Opinion

Last week, former long-term and highly respected member of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission Addison Thompson took issue with my contention that Mayor Helene Schneider bore primary responsibility for the continued 14-year closure of the 101 on-ramp at Cabrillo Boulevard, which has resulted in the addition of at least one million vehicles each year to clog Coast Village Road (CVR). Thompson named Caltrans as the primary culprit; I still maintain it was MayorSchneider. 

Thompson is correct that all decisions on the 101 ultimately rest with Caltrans, particularly those related to the highway widening. However, the so-called parallel projects, intended to improve local traffic flows, involve numerous entities and are the results of tradeoffs negotiated and voted upon by such disparate players as the mayor of Santa Barbara, the SBCAG (Santa Barbara County Association of Government) board, the S.B. City Planning Commission, the city transportation chief, the S.B. City Council and, in this case, permit approvals from the City of Santa Barbara and the California Coastal Commission.

Following the completion of the 2007-2012 five-year Phase One widening of the 101 between the Milpas interchange and the Hot Springs/Cabrillo interchange, in March 2012, Caltrans released its Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) recommending a reopened on-ramp at Cabrillo at the earliest possible date. The preferred Caltrans Cabrillo solution, labeled F-modified, recommended a right-hand lane on-ramp reopening solution.

A group of influential Montecito dissidents calling themselves “Common Sense 101” began lobbying the California governor, Caltrans, SBCAG, and County Supervisor Salud Carbajal for their own Cabrillo configuration to retain left-lane ramps and reject the Caltrans F-modified solution. Their plan did not include restoration of a right lane on-ramp at Cabrillo.

Horrified by the Montecito opposition to the Caltrans plan and fearing continued gridlock on CVR, Montecito resident and philanthropist Vicki Riskin and I met with Helene Schneider on Jan. 13, 2014, to ask the mayor to reject the unsafe Montecito left-lane proposal and support approval of the Caltrans EIR with its plan to reopen a new southbound right lane on-ramp at the Cabrillo interchange. 

Schneider explained that her goal in supporting the Montecito left-lane advocates was only to pressure Caltrans into agreement to fund her pet $28-million negotiation with the Union Pacific Railroad to widen the Cabrillo railroad overpass. The bottom line was that she planned to withhold City permit approval of the Caltrans EIR, including the new on-ramp at Cabrillo, unless Caltrans funded her railroad bridge.

In 2014, the Mayor published highly controversial editorials supporting the Montecito left-lane retention group. Left lane advocates threatened to sue Caltrans, or anyone else favoring Caltrans’ recommended F-modified solution. The mayor decided to play a dangerous game of chicken with Caltrans, hoping to secure funding for her favorite railroad bridge in return for Santa Barbara’s approval of the Caltrans EIR. Meanwhile, support for the Caltrans F-modified solution grew among SBCAG staff and board members, to support an early Phase Two widening from Cabrillo/Hot Springs to the Sheffield interchange.

In December 2014, the SBCAG Board refused to name Schneider, who was its sitting VP, to assume the chair of SBCAG, citing her rejection of the Caltrans EIR and her support of the Montecito left-lane advocates. Carbajal and all but one SBCAG voting member agreed that the Union Pacific bridge should be replaced, but they did not agree with Mayor Schneider’s position that the railroad bridge replacement should be weaponized to delay the entire northern freeway widening proposal.

When left-lane advocates retained Santa Barbara attorney Marc Chytilo to sue Caltrans, Judge Thomas Anderle ruled that the Caltrans EIR was deficient on some of the charges made by Mayor Schneider. He ordered that portions of the EIR be recirculated, causing an indefinite delay in the Cabrillo entrance reopening. Caltrans, facing lawsuits, rationally decided to switch all widening and intersection funding and construction away from Montecito and to move the 101 construction efforts to Mussel Shoals
and Carpinteria. 

That’s why I fault Mayor Schneider, and not Caltrans, as the principal culprit in this sorry saga. The southbound 101 on-ramp at Cabrillo still remains closed, 14 years later and counting. There is plenty of blame to go around in this 20-year political gamesmanship, but I still believe Mayor Schneider, and not Caltrans, was the primary contributor to the continued Cabrillo on-ramp closure that has unnecessarily punished Montecito’s CVR since 2009. 

Bob Hazard

Santa Barbara: Where Transactional Politics Trumps Science 

When it comes to intellectual curiosity or developing problem-specific solutions, our county lags far behind other $1.4B entities. Our money goes many places (take a look at our budget!) but rarely is it, as Montecito painfully knows, solution-driven or scientifically thoughtful. Allow me to explain:

Most every legal Cannabis jurisdiction in this state and others requires residential-close cannabis to be grown in greenhouses that use carbon filtration to neutralize the odor. This minimizes emissions, ground level ozone, and keeps the smell property-line contained. In other words, it does not create the textbook definition of a public nuisance, something – I might add – that is the county’s obligation to abate. 

Now, had our supervisors done even a bit of homework before passing the most sweeping countywide ordinance in 50 years or, better yet, invited an open symposium exploring how other states handled the issue, this is something they would have understood. Instead, our 4,600-employee county simply rubber-stamped what the Cannabis lobby drafted, an ordinance that is now universally categorized as the worst in the state — a veritable poster child for influence peddling and intellectual laziness.

Last week, even the state’s Coastal Commission weighed-in, calling our ordinance “the underlying problem” with the coastal chair, Dayna Bochco, taking the unprecedented step of chastising the county, saying that it was “time for Santa Barbara to revisit the ordinance.” I agree, but without supervisor term limits or political competition, our five monarchs (some of whom I actually like) have little political impetus to act, especially when campaign-contributing special interests
are involved! 

While there are a variety of ordinance changes that should be made, I’ll focus on just one – an easy fix based on some recent science that would merely require greenhouse growers to practice their “good neighbor” mantra. 

In 2021, a group of growers contracted with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis, agreeing to move toward and test carbon filtration against less expensive experimental technologies now being used in the area. While some of these same growers have shamefully reneged on their promise, more responsible growers facilitated the study which, in November, produced an in-depth third-party report showing what the entire world already knows: Carbon is superior and could reduce the smell “to a level that would result in no perceivable cannabis odor.” This hugely expensive endeavor was funded (like Resilient Communities) by private (always private!) coalition donors and was sent to the board of supes on Nov. 29, 2022, and as is Santa Barbara-typical, nothing happened!

Instead, certain supervisors (most notably “ours” in the First District) are using this truth to do what our county does best, practice transactional politics. So, on some Cannabis-appeals the more expensive carbon filtration is being required, and on others it’s not, leaving us with a patchwork of regulation and a grower-by-grower “let’s make a deal” approach that doesn’t begin to solve the problem. 

We need three supervisors honest enough to admit the ordinance has failed and courageous enough to make science-based changes as it relates to “Best Available Control Technology.” Board unanimity is a followers game, and it’s time that someone on the board begins to lead in the area of ethics (where S.B. is uniquely twisted) and ends the type of transactional politics that continues to plague our county — being “open for business” should mean something other than paying tribute!

Jeff Giordano, SB County Resident

Input on Debris Flow Strategies

I don’t know enough yet to come to more than provisional conclusions about the Montecito debris flow tragedies, but I do know that if I had been on the subdivision advisory committee when proposals came in to build on what appears to have been active alluvial fans, I would have objected to building within any present or potential flood/debris flow zone. I once served on such a committee in one of California’s large cities for several years. 

I would hesitate to jump to some of the popular conclusions that seem to have been reached, apparently largely based on media reports and interviews. When I operated a land restoration consulting business in the last century, I followed the Robin Hood/Peter Drucker/Admiral Hyman Rickover strategy; I made sure to build a team that could knock me off the log in terms of knowledge strength and would make sure to pay close attention to minority reports and publish them as appendices to the main report.

Here’s some of what little I “know” or suspect about the situation:

The biggest watersheds are large (knowing how large would help), so I would find the top hydrologist(s) and geologist(s) in the field.

The climate of the future may be different, so I would find the top climatologist(s) in the field (not necessarily just the noisiest).

Conventional flood-control engineering might be more costly and less effective than unconventional alternatives. I would find the most creative young engineers I could who would objectively, rather than traditionally, engineer any needed facilities on the real-world numbers and adequate knowledge (other team members?) of the entire context. No linear thinking.

Here is just one of the questions I would want as much clarity about as possible and necessary to permit future flows to pass by as harmlessly as possible: Should runoff velocities/volumes be increased or decreased – why, how, and where? 

Unless clearly necessary for public health and safety (not development) purposes, I would tend to favor reducing the runoff volume and velocity to the minimum necessary to meet project goals, including provision for capacities well above the “worst case” design scenarios. I probably would not settle for a single debris basin near the “mouth” of the canyon(s). I would probably suggest to the reconnaissance/design-study team the effective methods for reducing the volume(s) and velocities at several strategic points within the stream courses. 

This would, in effect, flatten the runoff peak flows and retain a significant fraction of the event discharge to the maximum feasible, allowing the volume to drain more slowly over a longer period of time. While also simultaneously restoring/increasing riparian woodland, increasing the period of active streamflow (year-round?), and eliminating standing-water basins in favor of subsurface water storage and flow metering to prevent mosquito and other disease vectors from finding habitat for reproduction.

From recent aerial photography, the drainages appear to contain sufficient debris for yet another disaster. Because alluvial fans are built by deposition and alteration of runoff routes across their surfaces, the best researcher/team should study the present deposits to confirm this.

I welcome editing, corrections, and additions. These observations are necessarily limited in scope and detail.

Wayne Tyson

For the Love of Uni (and Local Fishermen)

My first-time visiting Santa Barbara, years ago, I vividly remember hearing people rave about the fresh uni — more commonly known as sea urchin — that was caught locally in the area and served onto your plate the same day. My first bite, I remember being blown away by the silky texture and fresh yet delicate taste of the salty animal. Caught locally using sustainable practices, fresh from sea-to-table; this is how seafood is supposed to
be consumed.

However, it wasn’t until earlier this year, when I first heard about the federal government’s order allowing industrial finfish farms off of the Santa Barbara Coast, that I realized the importance of supporting our local fishermen. With plans to set up multiple fish farms along the Southern California Coast, the federal government, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, has made it clear that the health of our oceans and support for local fishermen is far less important than the profits associated with industrial fish farming. A series of fish farms along the coast would result in untreated fish waste, excess feed, chemicals, and antibiotics leaking out of the designated pens, into the open ocean, harming the entire Santa Barbara Channel and its ecosystems.

Every Saturday morning from 6 to 11 am, you can find a handful of local fishermen selling their local catches down at the harbor. Come support Santa Barbara’s fishing community next time you’re craving a seafood snack. And while you’re at it, make sure to call your local congressman to let them know that you do not support the federal government’s attempt to industrialize our oceans. Santa Barbara is known for its local fishing community; let’s make sure to keep it that way.

Christopher Hyder

More Letters to ‘Montecito’ by Michael Cox

Hi, Michael.

Just finished your delightful, original, captivating novel Montecito. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing it and to the MJ for serializing it in print. What a brilliant and innovative retro idea! 

I read MJ most weeks in hardcopy. However, when I missed a week or two of your book, I was quite upset and emailed MJ, and Zach Rosen responded that I could read the missed weeks online, so I did. I was VERY HAPPY that MJ was savvy and intrepid enough to “print” it online, as well as hardcopy, and to keep the back few weeks and the beginning, for those who missed some, to reread and catch up with your fascinating story. I didn’t want to miss any. And I liked your surprise ending! 

Your story is SO quintessentially Montecito. I know women whose husbands pulled similar scams on a smaller scale in Montecito. One husband, like your Genevieve, fled the country for parts unknown. The other was in lengthy litigation. And I heard of many women who were misled to make bad investments with high interest rates and defrauded. I do not live in Montecito but have spent much time over the years lunching, dining, and shopping in Montecito and have been reading the MJ print copy for several decades. 

Best wishes with finding an agent and publisher!

Sasha Leiterman

After reading the first couple of chapters of your book, I was HOOKED! Every time my daughter would come home with “The Journal,” I would grab it to see what Cyrus was planning to do to Hollis. 

I pretty much knew that Cyrus found himself a patsy. I waited to see whether I was correct. 

Your ending surprised me. Now that Hollis had the recipe for Key Lime pie, Cricket should open a pie shop and you should have book number two on the way and me as a happy reader.

You have given me at 97 years young much to look forward to with your excellent readings. I spend many hours a day reading and so looked forward to your chapters. Pure entertainment!Thank you so very much!

Best regards,
Pearl Bloom of Buellton

It was nice to see all the letters in last week’s Montecito Journal from readers who enjoyed Michael Cox’s contributions with chapters of his novel. I may be late to the game, but I just wanted to add one more voice in support. For the past few months, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Thursday’s MJ to read Michael’s latest chapters. I hope we can see more from him in the future.

Tal Avitzur

This serial story was outstanding! Perhaps the best new offering for the Journal. Each week promised a captivating read of a very well-written mystery with the added enjoyment of local interest. Best to Michael on his writing career! Will there be a new serialized novel soon? Hope so!

Kristen Salontay

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Michael’s book. Thanks for giving it a platform. He is quite the storyteller! I awaited with anticipation his new chapters each week.

Betsy Friedl

I am desperately sad that Michael Cox’s novel Montecito, which you serialized, has concluded. I could hardly wait for each new installment and am so grateful to you for making it possible for this wonderful work to be shared with the world!

Cathy Randall

We love your paper and particularly appreciate your running Montecito by our friend Michael Cox. Just thought you should know.

Best, Ryan

Hi Michael,

I wanted to thank you for an enjoyable and, at times, exciting, read in the Montecito Journal, that is, your book Montecito.

As each week went by, I found myself looking forward to the next chapter, and I think by accident, I was hooked on reading MJ as well. Hollis was certainly my favorite character, and I commiserate with him through the unfolding horror show he and we endured. 

There are a few unanswered questions. Was there anything sinister involved in the horseback riding accident Tripp had? What was Genevieve’s role in all this? I know she was in on it, but there were never any flashback chapters taking us to how this all began and what Cyrus did to bring the thugs on the scene.

You want to be a novelist rather than a Wall Streeter. Good for you. I encourage you to continue your writing. It can only get better.

Thank you and best wishes in your endeavors,
Jeanette Nadeau

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for sharing your novel with Montecito Journal readers. I looked forward to reading it every week, making it my “reward” for reading the paper cover to cover! Such fun reading about places I’ve discovered during my nine years here in Santa Barbara – and learning about some yet to be experienced. Hope this success will inspire you to continue. (I noticed the door might be open for Hollis to return to find Genevieve?) In the meantime, I am now off to Mony’s to discover the burritos and pistachio salsa for myself!  

Best wishes,
Kim Holmquist


You might also be interested in...