Living in Unprecedented Times: Water in Montecito
By Sharon Byrne   |   May 10, 2022

Last week, the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles ordered outdoor water usage to be restricted to one day per week, starting June 1. This order affects six million people in Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando, San Bernardino, and southern Ventura County. All outdoor watering in these areas could be banned by September […]

When a Beloved Natural Site Suffers From Over-Use: The Montecito Hot Springs Trail
By Sharon Byrne   |   May 3, 2022

A lawsuit has been filed against the County to halt them from making a parking lot out of Mountain Drive for the Hot Springs Trail. Neighbors are understandably upset. Stakes were driven deep into their yards in October, showing the County’s right-of-way. The implication: they could seize all of it for trailhead parking.  The Hot […]

Who Can Fix California’s Homeowners Insurance Woes? Insurance Commissioner Race Heats Up
By Sharon Byrne   |   April 26, 2022

Things are getting hotter regarding California homeowners insurance, and threat of wildfire is just one factor. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is up for reelection this year and at least one candidate is laying out a viable case to replace him.  Last week, former California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (2007-2011) ran an op-ed in the Los […]

State Audit Finds Problems with State’s Mandated Housing Numbers
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 29, 2022

On March 17, 2022, the California State Auditor released a very important report on California’s Housing and Community Development Department’s (HCD) Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA). The audit was assertively requested by the California Alliance of Local Elected (CALE) officials, a strongly activist group of councilmembers from across the state. CALE asserts that California’s Regional […]

It’s the 2022 California Legislative Session, and They’re Churning Out More Housing Bills
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 22, 2022

Here they come! If you feel a little confused about what the state might be up to re housing, here’s a handy primer: 1. California officials said the state is 3.5 million units short of housing, a statistic used relentlessly to drive Senate Bills 9 and 10 last year, whose primary mission was to end […]

Upcoming Road Closures
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 17, 2022

After a water main break this Tuesday, March 15, in the Bike Lane of North Jameson Lane at Loureyro Road, there was a lane closure set up at this location for most of the day. Here are some of the other road closures to be aware of:  Wednesday to Friday, March 16-18; 600 – 663 […]

Pursuing Sound Walls
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 15, 2022

On February 3, we learned in a public meeting the Montecito segment of the 101 project would no longer have sound walls. The reason was hydraulic modeling that showed significant flood water rise in a major weather event. This was a major shock to the community. We’ve been looking at the project in our Land […]

New Regulations to Reward Fire Risk Reduction
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 15, 2022

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announces new regulations to improve wildfire safety and drive down cost of insurance. Under the proposed regulations, which could be in effect by this summer, insurance companies would be required to factor consumers’ and businesses’ wildfire safety actions into their pricing of residential and commercial coverage. The new regulations also […]

A Year Later: Hands Across Montecito The Model That Makes the Difference in Homelessness
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 8, 2022

In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic unfolded, Montecito neighbors started noticing a significant uptick in homeless individuals on Coast Village Road, traveling along the tracks, and encampments began mushrooming along the freeway. I contacted Luis Alvarado from Santa Barbara County’s Behavioral Wellness Homeless Outreach Team, and we started walking the tracks and outreaching. […]

‘Our Neighborhood Voices’ Lost For Now, As State Housing Machine Unleashes On Communities
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 1, 2022

For those following this topic and Senate Bills 9 and 10, they took effect on January 1. These bills upzone communities by allowing four to 10 units on a single-family residential lot. Just pull your permit and go. Pushed by a cabal of pro-development forces, California embraced densification and “build, baby, build.” The intent was […]

California’s Housing Fight Can Give You Whiplash
By Sharon Byrne   |   February 8, 2022

Here’s the conversation between California cities and the state government: California (Housing and Community Development Dept. – HCD): Hey cities, you need to build more housing. We’re short. Cities: Oh, um, hey, we don’t actually build housing. Developers do that. You guys stuck CEQA on us, code regulations, and housing elements. Where do we build, […]

Rumors and Actual News
By Sharon Byrne   |   January 25, 2022

A few persistent rumors have spread through the Montecito community, thus proving the old adage that a lie can get halfway round the world before the truth can even get its boots on. Here are a couple that we’ve thoroughly debunked: – Rick Caruso is buying the Upper Village and plans to turn it into […]

‘Four Years Later, We Remember’
By Sharon Byrne   |   January 18, 2022

On January 9, a community-building memorial was held across Montecito to remember and honor the victims and survivors of the 1/9 Debris Flow. A partnership between the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, Montecito Association, Montecito Fire Protection District, and Westmont organized the event — and it followed the template the organizations created in 2021, for safety […]

Giving Thanks to Our Wonderful Community
By Sharon Byrne   |   November 30, 2021

We just want to take this opportunity to tell you how grateful we are for you, our beloved community, for all the ways you’ve inspired us with your generosity, come through in spades for your community, been through the worst of times and stood so strong, and made this just one of the finest places […]

Get Ready for the First Annual Montecito Magical Nights Holiday Parade
By Sharon Byrne   |   November 23, 2021

Yes, we’re going to do it: a nighttime holiday motor parade through Montecito on Saturday, December 4 at 5:30 pm. It’s been a tough few years for Montecito, and we could all use more light, love, and magic in our lives, particularly as we head into the time of year at the Winter Solstice when […]

Montecito’s Beautification Day: A Huge Win for Our Community
By Sharon Byrne   |   November 16, 2021

Last Saturday, something amazing happened in Montecito. A community got on its feet and spread care and love into the world. It was Beautification Day — and the impact was powerful.  The day unfolded with two ensemble casts that had never rehearsed together taking on two big projects. The first team consisted of Montecito Fire, […]

Why the Montecito Traffic & Transportation Summit is Critical
By Sharon Byrne   |   November 2, 2021

The Montecito Association is hosting a Roads, Traffic, and Transportation Summit on November 3 at 3 pm via Zoom. We have invited all affected agencies to attend this meeting and are opening this to the public. The following agencies operate and serve the following jurisdictions within Montecito: —101 construction and management, Highways 144, and 192 […]

Why the Montecito Traffic & Transportation Summit is Critical
By Sharon Byrne   |   October 29, 2021

The Montecito Association is hosting a Roads, Traffic, and Transportation Summit on November 3 at 3 pm via Zoom. We have invited all affected agencies to attend this meeting and are opening this to the public. The following agencies operate and serve the following jurisdictions within Montecito: —101 construction and management, Highways 144, and 192 […]

Montecito Is Leading the Way
By Sharon Byrne   |   October 26, 2021

Montecito always was a place of talent, care, resources, and community. There are a lot of smart, accomplished people making this beautiful place their home. It has also suffered its share of disaster, with the biggest fire in California history at the time — the Thomas Fire in December 2017. That fire has now dropped […]

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 […]

Bob Short: A Community Icon
By Sharon Byrne   |   October 5, 2021

Bob Short, an icon and pillar of the Montecito community, passed this week. While we all adjust to the news, we will be visiting with his friends and family in the coming days to do a much longer piece on his remarkable life and significant contributions to Montecito next week. But, for now, please know […]

California Enacts Legislation to End Single Family Zoning
By Sharon Byrne   |   September 28, 2021

Canada is holding Parliamentary elections, and the fate of President Trudeau will be decided. Trudeau called the election to capitalize on the liberal government’s handling of the pandemic. But the big issue Canadians are upset about is housing. Trudeau pledged to ban foreign investment in Canadian homes for two years and end the process of […]

Fire Smoke Drifting In; Housing Bills Facing Opposition
By Sharon Byrne   |   August 31, 2021

In the past few weeks, you may have noticed a smoke smell in the air and greyer skies. That’s wildfire smoke drift coming into the area. If you watch the Purple Air site (purpleair.com), you can zoom in or out to monitor air quality conditions in our area and across the state. Our Air Pollution […]

Housing Bills Facing Serious Heat
By Sharon Byrne   |   August 19, 2021

Turning a corner is both a huge endeavor, and a welcome relief. We may have turned the corner on the dreaded Senate Bills 9 and 10. A little recap: The bills have seen a third and fourth time, respectively, through the legislature. Former Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson single-handedly torpedoed SB-10’s predecessor, put forth by San Francisco […]

The Montecito Association: 73 Years Old, Still Fighting Tirelessly, and Standing with YOU
By Sharon Byrne   |   August 12, 2021

I came to the Montecito Association in September of 2018, brought over from the Coast Village Association by then-president Charlene Nagel. The Montecito community was hard hit by the first giga-fire in California – Thomas — and resultant Debris Flow. I had disaster recovery experience, from finding my missing parents in the aftermath of Hurricane […]

Worried About Drought? Wells? We Are Too. Come To Our Next Board Meeting.
By Sharon Byrne   |   August 12, 2021

If you’re new to Montecito and California, you’ll want to pay extra attention right now. Wildfires are burning presently in Greece, Italy, Turkey, British Columbia, and of course, here in California. The Dixie Fire has now burned 249,000 acres. It ranks No. 11, as of today, in largest California wildfires in history. The Thomas Fire, […]

Volatility in Homeowners Insurance Market Continues Amid Another Unprecedented Fire Season
By Sharon Byrne   |   August 5, 2021

Rate hikes, non-renewals, and cancellations of homeowners insurance have been hot topics for the past three years, and Montecito’s issues on this front trend with problems statewide.  Here’s a quick recap: 2019 March: Montecito homeowners get notices of non-renewal. They struggle to find replacement policies, with price shocks — up to 10 times what they […]

Here We Go Again? Indoor Masking Recommended as COVID Variants Flourish
By Sharon Byrne   |   July 29, 2021

On July 19, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued guidance recommending folks wear masks while indoors, whether vaccinated or not. This isn’t a surprise, given what has been happening with the Delta variant, which includes: •Significant uptick in cases in Israel, the UK, Los Angeles, and now the Bay Area. •Israel resumed mandated […]

COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted Tuesday, but Masking Will Be Around for A While
By Sharon Byrne   |   June 24, 2021

Tuesday marked 453 days since Governor Newsom issued the first stay-at-home order for California. It also acted as a Reopening Day, of sorts, with all tiered systems of restrictions lifted for California. Santa Barbara County barely squeaked into the yellow tier one week ago. Now all the tiers are gone. What does reopening and lifting […]

Fourth of July Parade is Happening!
By Sharon Byrne   |   June 17, 2021

You asked, and we’re delivering. A crew of dedicated Montecitans is busily pulling together a Fourth of July Parade. We’re sensitive to our emerging-from-the-pandemic status, and to the President’s pledge that all Americans will be able to celebrate with your families.  We plan to keep everyone safe, welcoming you to be with your family at […]

Many Priorities, One Team — US!
By Sharon Byrne   |   June 3, 2021

Last week, we helped three Santa Barbara City Councilmembers host a very important community conversation on the California Housing Legislation with our state legislators Senator Monique Limón and Assemblymember Steve Bennett. You know we’ve been working on this closely with our former State Senator, Hannah-Beth Jackson. You can watch the Town Hall at our website: […]

Tackling Homelessness is Hard, Emotionally Exhausting Work
By Sharon Byrne   |   May 27, 2021

When we started the Hands Across Montecito project late last year, we counted 31 individuals living unsheltered along our railroad tracks and on beaches. We took an approach now touted by Bakersfield: work cases individually, on a by-name basis. Each person’s needs are different, so you have to find the solution that works for them. […]

The Bear is Back. Time for Montecito to Get Serious About Co-Existence — or Euthanasia.
By Sharon Byrne   |   May 20, 2021

Our autumn bear has made a roaring spring appearance. Sheriffs saw him on Romero Canyon Road at the end of April. Neighbors reported the bear hit chicken coops in the Oak Grove area at the beginning of May, where he also dined on guinea pigs. He hit our board member Penny Bianchi’s place at East […]

Big Problems Call for Big Solutions
By Sharon Byrne   |   May 13, 2021

High fire season in Santa Barbara County started on May 3, with California coming off a record-setting year. According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council (SBCFSC), a total of 9,639 fires burned some 4.4 million acres of land, making 2020 the largest wildfire season recorded in the state’s modern history. The 2021 fire […]

Special-Interest Groups Negatively Impacting Single-Family Neighborhoods and Affordable Housing
By Sharon Byrne   |   April 29, 2021

We attended the Senate Housing Committee last week to provide input on two key bills: Senate Bills 9 and 765.  Our unexpected gain: insight into who’s calling the shots at the state. Hint: it’s not you.  Senator Toni Atkins (San Diego) introduced the revised SB-9. It will allow four units on a single-family lot, newly […]

Pack ‘em and Stack ‘em Housing in Montecito? Act Now Before It’s Too Late!
By Sharon Byrne   |   April 15, 2021

I visited a project on Hill Road this week after receiving complaints from neighbors. As soon as I saw it, my heart sank. This is a second story ADU (accessory dwelling unit) that will decimate views and is built right to the edge of the driveway easement. Neighbors report it was piecemealed in permitting, so […]

A Compassionate Partnership: Hands Across Montecito, Sheriff’s Office are Quite the Tandem
By Sharon Byrne   |   April 1, 2021

Last Friday, Jane Olson, one of the founding members of our Hands Across Montecito homeless outreach project, happened to be out walking near Hammond’s Meadow and encountered a very thin woman screaming at the top of her lungs and disrobing.  We had met this woman before, during the homeless point-in-time count at East Beach in […]

Updates on Housing Bills
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 26, 2021

We attended the Senate Housing Committee hearing on March 18 and advocated for Montecito on the following bills: •SB15, Sen. Anthony Portantino: This bill allows local cities to replace sales tax lost from closure of big box stores and rezone for affordable housing. Sen. Scott Wiener, who chairs the committee, and is putting forth the […]

Attention California Legislators: Stand with Your Community!
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 25, 2021

There are two particularly bad bills wending through the legislature, proposed by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (Senate District 39, San Diego) and Scott Wiener (Senate District 11, San Francisco). They are determined to fulfill Governor Newsom’s pledge to build 3.5 million units of housing in California. Prior attempts that have failed to date: –Wiener’s […]

A Story of Helping Hands and Hope
By Sharon Byrne   |   March 18, 2021

In 2020, the Montecito community witnessed a growing population of unsheltered individuals in the area. Encampments mushroomed and became quite visible. Bicycle thefts were up as were incidents of trespassing on private property. I started visiting the encampments in Montecito with Luis Alvarado, a case manager from Homeless Outreach Services at Santa Barbara County’s Behavioral […]