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Montecito Community Leadership Forms The Partnership for Resilient Communities

November 27, 2018

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Logo for non profit created by Montecito Community Leadership
As our neighbors in Ventura and Los Angeles begin to recover from the Woolsey Fire, Montecito community leaders form The Partnership for Resilient Communities

I’m thoroughly impressed with the Montecito community leadership that formed the Partnership for Resilient Communities (PFRC). This non-profit 501(c)(3) was created by community leaders -- from emergency responders to elected officials -- after the tragic Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow to collaborate with the County of Santa Barbara and rebuild our fine hamlet by doing whatever it takes to avoid a repeat of that natural disaster.

The focus of PFRC’s partnership with Santa Barbara County is on expanding the bandwidth of talent and money available to the County when it comes to natural disasters. The all-volunteer team of local residents and founders of the PFRC includes many of my friends and neighbors. My heartfelt thanks go out to Gwyn Lurie, Brett Matthews, Les Firestein, Alixe Mattingly, Pat McElroy, Ron Pulice, Mary Rose, Joe Cole and all the other volunteers who are working diligently to keep us safe.

PFRC’s Accomplishments to Date

The non-profit is consulting with the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management to understand local debris flow hazard areas and risk assessment. Geohazard experts were retained to advise the County of Santa Barbara and PFRC on the risks remaining in our hills, and possible ways to lessen the destructive impacts of future debris flows. That led to the purchase of LIDAR (extensive military grade topographic mapping) from a private defense contractor.

PFRC examined other similarly distressed communities in Switzerland and Japan to learn what these countries are doing to prevent the damage we experienced. Research in Switzerland led the PFRC team to Kane GeoTech, Inc. The firm specializes in difficult geotechnical solutions to slope stability, debris flow, rock slides, avalanches, and instrumentation technology and manufacturing of slope monitoring systems. GeoTech has partnered with European barrier manufacturer GeoBrugg, to build high-tensile steel nets that snare dangerous debris before it damages homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. Successful GeoBrugg nets have been installed in Switzerland; Washington State; New Mexico; Camarillo, California, and other locations throughout the world.

The group is currently working to secure permission from the U.S. Forest Service to install 16 nets by the end of the year. Because Montecito’s wild canyons and creeks are critical habitats, in order to move forward, the partnership must pull emergency permits from several regulatory agencies: namely Santa Barbara County Flood Control, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which must consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

“There is still rock moving up there in the mountains,” said the partnership’s spokesperson, Pat McElroy, who retired as the City of Santa Barbara’s longtime fire chief on March 17. “Essential to all of this, including getting permission and all the permits, is the urgency of it. We’re trying to get ahead of winter.”

3 Part Emergency Solution

PFRC has developed and proposed a 3-Part Emergency Solution:
1) Steel mesh debris nets
2) Enhanced monitoring
3) Accelerated revegetation

Debris Basins and Creek Channel Maintenance

Since last year’s disaster, revegetation has been sparse. Making things worse, our California drought continues. Weather experts predict El Niño conditions this winter will bring higher than average rainfall and intensity. While no one can prevent rain, flood and debris flow, we can leverage best practices from around the world to reduce the impact of the next debris flow.

By working closely with public agencies to activate private, non-profit and government funding, PFRC believes it can get more done, faster.  

Cash-hindered County Agency

Historically, mountain mitigation has focused on larger and more sophisticated debris basins as the primary defense against destructive debris flows. The research performed by PFRC uncovered the fact that the County Flood Control has no budget for routine annual maintenance of Montecito’s six inadequate, undersized debris basins. The research also showed that there’s no capital improvement budget to build larger and more efficient debris basins.

The organization concluded that sophisticated debris basins are needed. If approved, the first phase of net installation will be completed before December 31, 2018, prior to the onset of our winter storms.

Funding Requirements

Because of the hard work of PFRC members, the picturesque town of Montecito has an opportunity to act on warnings, scientific data, and current technologies in an effort to reduce the high potential for future calamitous debris flow in Montecito. Thanks to generous private and philanthropic donors, PFRC is halfway to their goal of raising $5.6M for urgent emergency measures. PFRC continues to work with the County, state, FEMA, US Forest Service, and private experts to find and secure funding for additional short-, medium- and long-term mitigation solutions.

14 Ring Nets in 5 canyons                          $3,800,000
Monitoring system                                       $100,000
Engineering, plans, permitting                 $600,000
Expertise and Personnel                             $500,000
Vegetation regrowth                                     $100,000
Performance bond for cleaning out nets  $500,000
TOTAL                                                             $560,000

Doing Our Part

Now is the time to contribute! Interested? Send checks payable to the Santa Barbara Foundation, earmarked for the Partnership for Resilient Communities, mailed to PFRC, P.O. Box 5476, Montecito, CA 93150, or make an online donation. Generous donors in Montecito have pledged to match individual contributions up to a maximum of $500,000 to kick-start the campaign.

Supporting the Partnership for Resilient Communities is one of the many ways we in Montecito can ensure the beauty, safety and property values for which our incredible community is world-renown. I’d like to personally thank the Montecito Community Leadership for all their efforts.

If you don’t currently reside full- or part-time in Montecito, you should consider acquiring property here. It’s a fantastic place for a home or home away from home. Give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at if I may be of assistance with your residential purchase or sale. My portfolios of distinctive homes for sale and sold in the area are excellent places to begin the dialogue.


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“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

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“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

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“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

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“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

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“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch