Santa Barbara County officials are asking Montecito residents to suggest ideas on how to rebuild. After the January 9 mudslides and debris flow destroyed hundreds of homes and killed at least 21 people, crews have been working around the clock to remove hundreds of tons of mud, dirt and boulders from Montecito’s streets. In the process, county staff are trying to make longer term decisions about what’s next.
"We have some very hard questions now that waterways have shifted, that some of the properties may be unsafe to rebuild on, and that we have 2 million cubic yards of material out there, some of which won't very easily be able to find a home," Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams said.
Williams said this is an opportunity to do things differently.
"What we're really trying to do is think about the long run and how to rebuild in a way that prepares us for future flood and fire events," Williams said.
The county has created a community input survey to get ideas on rebuilding. So far, over 200 surveys have been turned in, and county staff expect many more.
One idea backed by Williams and others is creating a memorial park on some of the parcels too dangerous to rebuild on. Another popular idea is creating more pedestrian and bike lanes, while others suggest this would be a good time to undertake a major utility undergrounding project, since many of Montecito's streets will be dug up anyway.
Williams said while officials are doing some long-range planning, there’s still a lot of immediate work to be done by the county flood control and the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We haven't lost focus on the most important thing, which is we are still in a race against time to remove debris from the creek beds and from the debris basins before the next rain," said Williams.