Community recovery in a natural disaster depends in large part on the goodwill of its citizens. California has seen amazing acts of heroism and selflessness over the past few years in communities hit by fire and flood.
What we don’t see as clearly is the impact of landlords who don’t step up to help.
We know. Our community, Big Sur, has been hit by three wildfires, a failed bridge, and massive slides over the past eight years. Every disaster impacts all businesses along our fragile coastal highway.
Community recovery, every time, has depended in large part on those businesses. When schools, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, and retail close due to smoke, reduction in visitors and/or lack of access, families go unfed, tax revenue suffers, and businesses accumulate debt. Many prepare for this with a reserve, but in the restaurant industry where margins are thin, a reserve is eaten up quickly when a fire is followed by a debris flow.
Many look at communities like ours and Montecito as rich neighborhoods that can take care of themselves. The truth is that our communities are made up of a wide socio-economic demographic. When a greedy landlord refuses any concession on lease or rent, they can put our small business owners out of business. When enlightened landlords work with their lessees, everyone benefits and businesses have a chance of weathering the downturn.
In Big Sur, most employers with staff housing and a majority of private property owner and landlords renting out a guest house to a member of the local workforce, either forgave or sharply reduced the rent they charged. Businesses that did not own the land under their brick-and-mortar storefront received reductions in their monthly obligations, and donors stepped up to provide funds to keep iconic establishments from going under.
Doing these things helped minimize the trauma to workers, managers and small business owners struggling to get their bearings, and has led to a swift path to recovery, on our part of the coast.
Our hope is that landlords who own property in the Montecito area step up and lend a helping hand for our grieving neighbors to the south. The community deserves their support.
Butch Kronlund, is president of Coast Property Owners Association of Big Sur.