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 j.amy.brown@att.net. 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 MERRAG.com. (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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