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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 5:03 pm | Mostly Cloudy 63º


Bill Macfadyen: Sputtering Late-Season Storms Still Lead to Mandatory Evacuation Dance-Offs

NoozWeek’s Top 5 gulps at a disastrous loss of property values, picks up after a fatal motorcycle crash, watches San Marcos High hit a new low, and prepares to celebrate Jack Cantin, but first a shout-out to Noozhawk’s Kim Clark

Aaaaand they’re back. From left, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown; Rob Lewin, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management; and Montecito Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Taylor. Click to view larger
Aaaaand they’re back. From left, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown; Rob Lewin, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management; and Montecito Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Taylor. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Noozhawk is proud to salute Kim Clark, who was honored March 15 with the NAWBO Santa Barbara BRAVO Award as Member of the Year.

Kim, our vice president for business development, executive editor Tom Bolton and I are partners in this business (ad)venture, and we all believe our company has an obligation to serve our community in ways that extend beyond our commitment to report on it.

In addition to her five years of past service on the NAWBO Board of Directors, including two as president, Kim is a board member of Downtown Santa Barbara; the Multimedia Arts & Design (MAD) Academy at Santa Barbara High School, where her twin daughters are students; and the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, of which Noozhawk is a founding member.

Kim Clark, Hawk Star. Click to view larger
Kim Clark, Hawk Star. (Noozhawk file photo)

As she is with Noozhawk, Kim is all in on everything she’s a part of, and NAWBO has been no exception. She was instrumental — and tireless — in growing the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and in revitalizing several of its programs.

Among Kim’s trademarks are organization, drive and loyalty, but we at Noozhawk know firsthand what an inspiration she is as a mentor and a leader to other women business owners, to LION publishers, and to us. We are blessed to have her on our team and as our friend.

As effective as Kim is with her extra-curricular activities, she’s even better at selling ads, which is a linchpin of Noozhawk’s own success.

She and her team — Kimberley Collins and Emmalia Sutherland — have been getting great support from our readers, thank you very much. According to our Google Analytics, we had 159,865 of you this past week, an average of nearly 23,000 a day. I’m pretty sure there’s no other news organization in Santa Barbara County with that kind of daily traffic.

Meanwhile, several thousand of you read my Best of Bill column each week — again, according to our Google Analytics — and for that I am grateful. As well as amazed.

But enough about us. Let’s get on to what you were reading this past week. Here’s my take on your Top 5 stories:

1. Evacuations Ordered as Latest Storm Heads to Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County emergency officials ordered another mandatory evacuation for much of Montecito and other neighborhoods at “extreme high risk” for dangerous debris flows in advance of a late-winter storm that was forecast to hit the South Coast on March 13.

Affected residents were to be out of their homes by 8 o’clock the night before.

“On the call today from the National Weather Service, there was no equivocation that this storm they anticipate to be more intense than the previous storm,” Sheriff Bill Brown told a March 12 news conference.

According to those weather service predictions, the storm could produce rainfall rates as high as 0.7 inches per hour, with the heaviest dump likely between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. March 13.

At 10:30 a.m., however, the county Office of Emergency Management abruptly dropped the evacuation orders. The weather service also rescinded a flash flood warning.

“It’s still there,” weather service meteorologist Stuart Seto said of the storm. “It’s just not as intense as they were thinking.”

This storm was the second “major” storm to roll into the county since the Jan. 9 deluge that sent massive amounts of debris roaring down the Thomas Fire-scorched mountainsides. The flash flooding and mudflows killed 23 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Montecito.

The first major storm — on March 2 — also ended up being less than advertised, and its mandatory evacuations also were canceled, although not as quickly.

More rain is in the forecast for March 16, but officials say the intensity is not likely to rise to evacugeddon levels.

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2. Property Values Plummet Over $1.3 Billion in Wake of Montecito Debris Flows, Thomas Fire

It’s not just Montecito that’s buried in the rubble from the Jan. 9 flash flooding. Click to view larger
It’s not just Montecito that’s buried in the rubble from the Jan. 9 flash flooding. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

In the aftermath of December’s Thomas Fire and the Jan. 9 flash flooding and mudflows in Montecito, the community’s attention has been focused largely on the physical, emotional and human toll of the back-to-back disasters.

Lurking in the background are the financial impacts, and our Tom Bolton spent some time digging into early estimates to get a better idea of what we can expect. It’s not pretty, and the repercussions will be felt for years to come.

According to Santa Barbara County Assessor Joe Holland, the initial review of the 80 residences destroyed or damaged in the Thomas Fire has resulted in an estimated $163 million in lower property assessments.

January’s catastrophe was so much worse, of course, with nearly 400 homes, businesses and other real property destroyed or damaged. The mostly Montecito carnage all adds up to an estimated $1.2 billion loss in property values, Holland says.

That cumulative $1.3 billion figure is breathtaking, and the associated plunge in revenues — $7 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and $14 million for the one that begins July 1, according to Holland — is going to hurt. It’ll be leaving a mark on Montecito’s schools, especially, but also the county, cities and special districts, including other school districts.

Recovering from that hit won’t be easy, and may be impossible.

“In some cases, nothing is there but a pile of boulders,” Holland told Tom. “Obviously, that’s going to remove the assessed value of the improvements, but now you have to ask yourself, what’s this lot worth?

“There are places where you could see that the creek bed went from being 20 feet wide to 200 feet wide, and a few of the lots are smack dab in the middle of it.”

In short, he noted, some property owners may not be allowed to rebuild, which means some parcels “may not have any value — close to zero.”

As I mentioned last week, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project will be exploring this topic in larger scope and deeper detail at a March 28 forum at the Lobero Theatre. Check back with Noozhawk for more details.

Moderated by Janet Garufis, chairwoman and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, and Ed Edick, co-owner and co-founder of Village Properties Realtors, the panel includes Holland; Peter Rupert, the Economic Forecast Project’s executive director; Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara; Nina Johnson, senior assistant to Santa Barbara City Administrator Paul Casey; Betsy Schaffer, the county’s assistant auditor-controller; and state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

In the meantime, business owners are asked to participate in a fast and easy Countywide Small Business Survey about the wildfire and flooding effects.

Click here to complete the survey, which is sponsored by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, Visit Santa Barbara and Women’s Economic Ventures.

3. Motorcyclist Killed in Crash Near UCSB Entrance in Isla Vista

A deadly turn at UC Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
A deadly turn at UC Santa Barbara. (Noozhawk reader photo)

A UC Santa Barbara student died in a motorcycle crash near the campus’ Isla Vista entrance on March 9. No one else was injured in the wreck.

Authorities said the motorcyclist was traveling up Stadium Road just after 4 p.m., and crashed his 2015 Kawasaki after turning westbound on El Colegio Road.

“For reasons not yet determined, the motorcycle veered to the right and collided into the raised concrete curb located on the north side of the street,” California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said.

James Lu, 1999-2018 Click to view larger
James Lu, 1999-2018 (Dignity Memorial photo)

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover identified the motorcyclist as 18-year-old James Alexander Lu of Irvine.

Gutierrez said the collision threw Lu into a bus stop bench and a pole, and the motorcycle continued another 20 yards or so before coming to rest on its side.

After 20 minutes of unsuccessful CPR, Lu was declared dead at the scene.

It was not known if alcohol or drugs were a factor, but Gutierrez said the collision remains under CHP investigation.

According to his obituary, Lu was a biology major at UCSB and taking additional classes at Santa Barbara City College to earn his Emergency Medical Technician certification. At the time of the crash, he reportedly was on his way to Isla Vista School, where he tutored students in music and piano.

Lu is survived by his parents, Ye Zhang and Fang Lu, siblings Catherine and Jonathan, and his “shelter rescue” dog, Seraph.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. March 18 at Pacific View Memorial Park Chapel, 3500 Pacific View Drive in Corona del Mar.

4. Despite Public Show of Support, San Marcos High Principal Ed Behrens Demoted

Your move. Apparently. Click to view larger
Your move. Apparently. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

What the hell is going on at San Marcos High School?

I know I asked that question last week, but the mystery has only deepened since then.

In the face of widespread and impassioned public opposition, Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees voted March 13 to get rid of Principal Ed Behrens, who by all accounts — including personnel evaluations, apparently — has been an exemplary leader since his promotion from assistant principal in 2011.

After meeting for nearly three hours in closed session, the school board voted 4-1 to remove Behrens at the end of the school year. Demonstrating a real profile in courage, the board then gave him the option to either quit or take a teaching position with a substantial pay cut. (Hey, Ed, you’re not welcome here, but it’s your call!)

Trustees Ismael Paredes Ulloa, Kate Parker, Jacque Reid and Wendy Sims-Moten voted to demote Behrens, with trustee Laura Capps in dissent.

The decision — which was not explained because it’s a “personnel matter” — did not sit well with the large crowd of Behrens backers in the audience. To accommodate the increased public interest, the board meeting had been moved to The Marjorie Luke Theatre on the campus of Santa Barbara Junior High School.

As our Brooke Holland first reported, the crowd erupted with loud boos, and one individual shouted “shame on you” at the trustees.

Rumors and speculation are roiling Royal Nation, and Behrens’ sudden end appears to be tied somehow to social media threats allegedly made by a few San Marcos students in January and the subsequent criminal investigation by sheriff’s detectives. The cases are being reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office.

During the public comment period, more than 50 San Marcos students, parents, teachers and alumni voiced their strong support for Behrens.

“The reason why San Marcos is fantastic is because of Mr. Ed Behrens,” said AP economics and entrepreneurship teacher Jamie DeVries, the county’s 2010 Distinguished Educator of the Year. “I wish I could take you back six or eight years ago to San Marcos and see the changes.”

Among the changes are two organizations that DeVries leads: Kids Helping Kids and the San Marcos Entrepreneurship Academy, which have flourished on Behrens’ watch.

One parent delivered a change.org petition with signatures from now-more than 2,500 Behrens supporters.

Behrens himself addressed the board and Superintendent Cary Matsuoka, asserting that he embodies the values and priorities of SBUSD and noting that student and staff accomplishments under his leadership ought to be recognized.

“Please don’t throw away what I have achieved,” he said. “Nothing I have done warrants my removal.”

Stay tuned.

5. Jack Cantin of Montecito, 2000-2018

Jack Cantin’s remains — and those of 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa — have still not been found, more than nine weeks after the deadly Montecito flash flooding and mudflows. The Jan. 9 disaster killed 21 other people — including Jack’s father, Dave — and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Jack Cantin, 2000-2018. Click to view larger
Jack Cantin, 2000-2018. (Cantin family photo)

But for the second week in a row, Jack’s obituary and the details of the upcoming celebration of his young life remain solidly in our Top 5.

His mom and sister, Kim and Lauren Cantin, will be honoring the life of the 17-year-old Santa Barbara High junior at 10 a.m. March 17 at the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St. His dad’s funeral service was held at the mission last month.

Jack, his dad and the family’s Irish setter were swept to their deaths when a wall of debris hit their home near Montecito Creek. Kim and Lauren were badly injured when the house broke apart, but both were found alive in the wreckage — albeit hundreds of yards apart.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Pedestrian Struck, Killed by Amtrak Passenger Train in Montecito.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Information you didn’t know you needed, but are glad to have: 8 Pro Tips for Taking Incredible Pictures of Your Pets.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

It’s rodeo season in Texas so that’s where much of my Instagram feed was this past week.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Bear with me before you soldier on.

(Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! video)

                                                                 •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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