Montecito Planning Commission Meets

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   February 28, 2023

At the first hearing of the year of the Montecito Planning Commission (MPC), the commission was back in person for the first time since before the pandemic. Chair Ron Pulice thanked former Commissioner Susan Keller for her nearly 10 years of service on the commission; it was decided that election of the 2023 MPC Chair, First Vice Chair, and Second Vice Chair would wait until the vacancy left by Keller is filled, which could be as soon as next month. 

The commission had a busy agenda, beginning with a presentation by Public Works reps Scott McGolpin, director, and Chris Sneddon, and Walter Rubalcava, deputy directors. The trio outlined the impacts and recovery efforts following the storm on Jan. 9. 

Storm impacts are estimated to cost $71 million, with 139 impact sites on local roads and 64 impact sites being managed by Flood Control. These impacts included wash outs and road closures on East Mountain Drive from Coyote to Cold Spring and Cold Spring to Ashley, on Bella Vista from Romero Canyon to Ladera Lane, and a bridge closure on Padaro Lane. Twenty bridges needed a range of debris removal, slope protection, and abutment repairs. This is in addition to 124,000 cubic yards of material filling up our local debris basins and debris impacting culverts and creeks. 

McGolpin reported that the Randall Road Debris Basin worked exactly as designed, protecting properties below Highway 192, as well as the freeway. “We were close to the system breaking,” McGolpin said. “It bent but it held up. We are pretty proud of that.” There were 1,500 truckloads of material that fell in the Randall Road Debris Basin, with the National Guard helping to clear out the debris. As of last week, 75% of the material had been removed. 

The team reported that the rainfall event on Jan. 9, 2023, was considered a 25- to 50-year event in Montecito, and a 50- to 100-year event on the San Marcos Pass. We received 0.7-inches an hour in Montecito during the worst of the storm, totaling 20 inches in Montecito this year, which is 200% of a normal year. 

Lake Cachuma went from 35% to 81% in 48 hours, and to date, it is near 100% full, along with Jameson Lake and Gibraltar Reservoir. More rain is still needed to recharge the groundwater basins. 

Rubalcava reported that while the majority of the county, including Montecito, fared relatively well during the event, the issue is that there is still a potential for significant flooding during a 50- to 100-year event, even when the basins and creeks are fully maintained. “Floodplain management has to continue to be the priority in Montecito,” he said, adding that North Jameson Lane has flooded eight times in the last 60 years, including on Jan. 9 of this year. 

The county is working on a feasibility study to look at potential projects on San Ysidro Creek, both upstream and downstream from the 101, and FEMA is currently updating flood mapping for our area, which could determine the possibility of adding sound walls to the 101 in the future. 

Sneddon noted that the resources the county invested in recovery following the 1/9 Debris Flow in 2018 added more resiliency to Montecito roads. “We built it back better and more resiliently, but there is still a massive amount of work that needs to be done to damaged roads,” Sneddon said. 

To view the presentation, visit


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