Let’s Get It Started

MONTECITO MONTAGE! This column will be a weekly electronic postcard from Montecito about the people, places, and politics of Montecito. Readers’ interests and events will define the column, so let us hear from you by emailing The more input, the better we can better investigate the things that intrigue you.

LAST DAYS OF POMPEII? Kudos to the Montecito Fire District (MFD) and MERRAG, Montecito’s volunteer civil defense organization, who came to the rescue this week by providing community-wide electronic answers to all those burning questions everyone had about Sunday’s ash storm. With blankets of ash and the smell of acrid smoke infiltrating refined noses, concern and anxiety mounted. But it seemed most news agencies were on lockdown for the weekend, so answers were scarce.

smoke.jpgMontecito Fire’s Geri Simmons woke up with the similar concerns and was herself frustrated by the lack of news. She called the MFD central dispatch, the only live weekend dispatch operator in Montecito, and found that the district had been besieged with calls. Though her mother was evacuating Lockwood Valley, which is still in the Day fire’s path, Geri put her personal worries aside and set out to to find a way to disseminate information to Montecito and Santa Barbara. She quickly pulled together a fact sheet providing fire information links, on-line maps, the perimeters of the fire, the expected effects on Santa Barbara, the weather conditions, and how to handle the ash fallout.

By 9:20 a.m. Geri posted a broadcast email to MFD’s and MERRAG’s large contact list, who in turn re-broadcast the information across Santa Barbara. By 10 a.m., emergency information had reached the blogs and wide mass distribution had been achieved.

“I just wanted to ease minds,” Geri said, explaining her off duty efforts. “I wanted to know what was going on, and I knew others must want information too.” Geri is the MFD’s administrative secretary and the district’s liaison to MERRAG. She said anyone wishing to be placed on MFD’s broadcast email list for future emergency updates may call her at 969-2537 or log on to (By the way, MERRAG stands for Montecito Emergency Response and Recovery Action Group.)

The fine response of the Montecito Fire District, and the extra effort of its employees, exemplifies the district’s superior organization and fine management. So here’s timely tip-of-the-firehat to District Chief Ron McClain. He’s heading into retirement on September 29 after 33 years with the Montecito Fire District. Thank you, Ron, and congratulations on a fine job!

LATENIGHT AT LUCKY’S: Gossip remains more delicious than dessert along Coast Village Road. While waiting for the valet at one eatery, we overheard Rob Lowe is not too pleased with his mention in the October Vanity Fair, but insiders say he got off lucky.

VF writer Michael Shnayerson spent four days here in July and interviewed some 49 people. Initially, he turned in a 6,500-word story but, for legal and space reasons, the editors pared the article down to a brief 4,000 words, shearing off lots of Lowe “color.”

But life goes on and, in spite of the unwanted attention, Lowe was said to be all smiles when his protesting neighbors, Fred and Linda Gluck, dropped an appeal to block the actor’s ultra-large Montecito house. With the Gluck stymie resolved, Lowe got full design approval from the Montecito Board of Architectural Review (MBAR) and we hear he is moving fast to commence construction.

SEEING GREEN: After the making Lowe a happy man, MBAR then generated more smiles from Westmont’s new architect team David van Hoy, Susan van Atta, and Ken Radtkey.

After taking several months off to re-group, the Christian college unveiled some novel ways to add 300,000-plus square feet to the rustic Montecito campus. The amended plan got a good reception from the review board, who commented that they liked the softness of the meandering paths, the smaller, light-infused buildings and the sustainable green design that features copper roofs bedecked with live plants. And while everyone appreciated the improvements, some nearby neighbors voiced continuing concern about the effects of the overall additional and massive square footage.

THE TRAFFIC WAS MURDER: No smile on the face of a Goleta woman who showed up Monday night to the Sheriff-sponsored Montecito Association safety forum at Montecito Union School. She said she crossed town because KEYT erroneously reported the town hall meeting was going to focus on community solutions to the recent shooting on West Islay Street in Santa Barbara. But once in Montecito, the Goletian heard lots of complaints and learned that the only thing deadly about Montecito is the traffic. Lt. Darin Fotheringham of the Sheriff’s Department facilitated the town hall meeting and confirmed traffic, not murder, was what drove the meeting.

WON’T MAKE THE POODLE HAPPY: It was frowns as well for Dr. Bonnie Franklin, the Montecito veterinarian who got a resounding “nope” to her request to operate a veterinary clinic out of her home. In a firm 5-0 vote, the Montecito Planning Commission stated that her proposed concierge pet clinic might be “noisy”, “smelly,” or just plain detrimental to the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

MONTECITO IN MOTION: Look for two possible controversial discussions at the September 25 MBAR meeting: the Coral Casino seawall (not to be confused with the polarizing “Biltmore steps”) and Westmont. Speaking of Westmont, the MPC takes up the expansion plans after a four-month break at a special October 16 meeting. As for the rest of the Channel Drive beachfront, neighbors will be getting together on September 24 and October 4 to discuss the merits of a pedestrian path there. And for an early warning: Mark your calendars for an the semi-annual homeowners meeting of the Montecito Association which is slated for October 25, 4:30 p.m., at the association’s Community Hall.

(J’Amy Brown has been a resident, rainmaker, and chronicler of Montecito for 11 years. The opinions stated in this column are not necessarily those of The Independent.)

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