Don’t Miss the Latest Update from the Montecito Association

As a consistent and reliable resource for all things Montecito, I wanted to share their latest update and encourage you to join this excellent community association. It’s only $70/year for an individual to join and the value is immeasurable! Check out their variety of membership options here. This update is being sent to you on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Montecito Association.

I need to start tonight's update with a massive thank you from us to all of you! If you could see what I've seen in the past couple of months, you'd know without a doubt that you live in the best possible community, perhaps in the world. You wrote letters to the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff to protect the community from poor behaviors. Some are making masks to protect our community. You bought and delivered pandemic kits for neighbors who couldn't buy them. You bought gift cards to keep our merchants going during closure (PLEASE see this week's Montecito Journal for great pics of our merchants deeply moved by your incredible generosity). Some of you contacted me, willing to serve on a team that's going to tackle the issue along the railroad tracks from the Bird Refuge to the Miramar. You donated...just because you wanted to contribute in any way you could. You sent us helpful hints and inspiring videos to share with the community.

You are clearly informed, on your feet, with rather formidable skills and powers of articulation, and entirely willing to do what's needed for your community.

You also deluged the Santa Barbara City Council way back in early March (doesn't that seem like forever ago) to stop the cruise ship docking here - the one that later docked in Oakland with multiple COVID cases aboard.


You're amazing!

Do you know how rare in this world that is... a community that pulls together like this, and repeatedly?

That's you, Montecito!

I just needed to take a minute here to appreciate you, with sincere thanks from our entire board.

It's been truly amazing to witness you in action. here's what's happened today:

1. County's Guide on reopening is out. This will be on the Board of Supervisors' agenda Tuesday. Read it here, all 80 pages. No surprises in here, but a lot of detail. The Lompoc Prison will be the hard part for us going forward. We'll keep you posted, but you may want to tune in Tuesday for that discussion.

2. The proposed restricted parking ordinance was sent to us today.  We had a good call with Public Works yesterday morning re signage, and then a meeting with Barney Malekian, assistant CEO at the county, and Scott McGolpin, the Roads Commissioner at 12:15 PM. Cliff Ghersen, our former chair of the Transportation Committee, joined us. The county cannot do much with Butterfly Beach, given what we observed at noon on a hot Thursday was pretty respectful of physical distancing. They will tackle Humphrey closest to the Miramar beach area, and they will look at restricting Miramar beach parking to two hours to limit overrun and crowding. They're also scoping out the Hot Springs trailhead and Riven Rock because it's getting super crowded and there's a camping issue. The ordinance is here.

I am an engineer, though not a road engineer. Once they translated some of their vernacular and limitations for us, we understood that their toolbox is fairly limited. They can do some things to help particularly with the narrower streets where over-parking and over-crowding causes too much proximity, and therefore health risks from exposure during the pandemic. Channel Dr does not meet those criteria.

Again, some of this is due to our neighboring jurisdictions having very tight rules on beach access, limiting parking, and lots of signage on how to behave. Since we had none of that, we became a very attractive destination, and some visitors abused the community. That needed to stop. Now that LA County reopened beaches, and SLO county pushed an ad campaign urging people not to go there, we may see reduced traffic in the weeks ahead. This weekend the weather will be cooler, and hopefully, that will reduce impacts to the neighborhoods near beaches and trails as well.

The ordinance will only be in effect on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, during the COVID pandemic. But it may give us some needed relief from poor behaviors.

3. Next steps on the issue of people camping on the railroad tracks and invading adjacent neighborhoods. 
I had a good call with Brad Fieldhouse from Citynet and Jeff Shaffer from SB Act today. Jeff and I pioneered the Milpas Outreach Project in 2014-2015, a community-based effort to move chronically homeless individuals indoors that succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. These were people that social services agencies had given up on years ago. We want to attempt something similar in Montecito, working with multiple partners like we did on Milpas. Citynet has a contract with the city of Santa Barbara to tackle their top 50 service utilizers, and they recently cleared the Milpas underpass at Cacique St. They also work up and down California, performing assertive outreach like I do, and that's what we need right now.

This will need funding and partnerships, but basically the strategy is to focus intense resources in the area that has recently erupted along the tracks into a major Corridor of Concern between the Bird Refuge and the Miramar, and get as many to come in for services and shelter as we can. The group I've been working to get indoors are younger, more aggressive, criminal-justice involved and engaging in substance abuse. This is not the group we usually meet during the January homeless count, and it feels to me this younger group may have run the older and non-problematic homeless individuals out of the area. Neighbors have reported increased thefts, camping on private and public property, and trespassing - also not normally associated with the folks that used to live along the tracks.

So this is something new.

Citynet has a contract with Union Pacific to do outreach on railroad tracks up and down the state, so it may be possible that UP picks up a lot of this tab here. Given the havoc COVID has wreaked on government budgets, it's not certain what the county could contribute, so we may have to get creative about funding some of this outreach if we want to solve this problem.

Thank you for stepping up to be great neighborhood watchers and outreachers. You helped make this first round of outreach get results very quickly. We need this team of neighbors to stay engaged going forward. It's been my experience that when a community steps up to solve a problem, well, amazing things can happen.

4. County Update on COVID cases: we continue to hold steady in South County Unincorporated at 23 cases. North County, especially the Federal Penitentiary, continues to climb. We're holding stead at 11 deaths countywide. Remember, the bar to hit is 14 days with no new deaths to qualify for the governor's phased reopening as a county.

5. Fire Season: It was supposed to start June 1. But as has been happening rather a lot lately, around the world and here at home, Mother Nature appears to be on her own schedule, and we don't seem to be in possession of a handy copy of it. Fire Chief Taylor alerted me it's likely the Fire authorities here will declare Fire Season beginning May 18th - Monday.
Those hot gusty winds these past few days made it feel rather like Fire Season decided to go ahead and declare itself open. 
He also let us know during our board meeting that the chipping program is halfway through its schedule, has cleared significant tonnage of flammable material from the community, for which we are immensely grateful.

6. A sad note: we lost a wonderful community godfather last night.
John Venable, a stalwart Village 4th Committee Member, former MFPD board member, former Montecito Association board member, ardent trails supporter, and just generally associated with all that's great in Montecito, passed last night peacefully at Serenity House. He was our Grand Marshal in last year's Village 4th, and he did that role proud. His lovely wife Christy designed the highly popular Village 4th commemorative t-shirt last year. 

John will be sorely missed, with his easy, welcoming, light-up smile, great cheer, and persistent eagerness to always be of terrific and selfless service to this community. Our Village 4th team is heartbroken tonight.

Rounding out and signing off, thank you again for all that you do, all the ways you've stepped up in yet another disaster, and for the fortitude and wisdom you've shown all the way through this. There is only one thing that produces that kind of sustained effort: love. Love of community is one of the highest and most selfless forms of love, because it requires you to put the wellbeing of the wider collective first, and act with care and concern for people you likely don't even know personally.

It's so inspiring to bear witness to all the beautiful ways you express love for this incredibly special village. 

Kind regards,

Sharon Byrne, Executive Director

Don’t Miss the Latest Update from the Montecito Association