Money and Business

Financial recovery and losses calculated by Santa Barbara after mudflow impacts

Some reimbursements will help with mounting costs

After two disasters and lost business, some Santa Barbara businesses are getting cost reductions from the city for outside dining table fees. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The financial impacts from the recent mudflow disaster in Montecito, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara are still being calculated but already there's a complex picture coming together.

For the city of Santa Barbara, a new report says it will be trying to get about 94 percent of its costs reimbursed for expenses linked to first responders, debris removal and to provide clean water during the ordeal.

The range of impacts stretch from the Thomas fire ash that fell on the city and into water sources, along with the subsequent rush of mud, trees, boulders, and structural pieces that erupted in the January 9th storm.

Cleaning up Coast Village Road alone was estimated at $700,000.

There may still be other costs linked to damage incurred on roadways from the event and the large use of heavy trucks to clear out the area.

A partner in the Sandbar Cocina y Tequila restaurant and nightclub, Aron Ashland said his business dropped "about 90 percent" during the six week period. Some employees couldn't get to work, and those who were on the job were worried about losing their homes to the spreading fire.  At times there were only a few people running the restaurant, but at the same time, the public was not out with any frequency due to the unhealthy air.  Outside for most of December,  many people wore masks to protect themselves from the ash particulates.

The financial help will be coming from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and CalOES (California Office of Emergency Services.)

It's expected that other governmental agencies will also be seeking financial relief through the same channels.  The largest request will come from the County of Santa Barbara where the majority of the mudflow occurred.

Over 100 local businesses are looking for bridge loans from the Small Business Association and representatives have made themselves available to help with the necessary forms.

What the city can not recover will be the $1.5 million that's estimated to be lost in sales and bed taxes, or money from lost rentals at city property.  There was also a drop in business at the city owned golf course that can not be reimbursed from any source.

The two week closure of Highway 101 where the runoff mud covered four lanes of the highway prevented many people from getting into the city.  CalTrans estimated that cleanup project to cost in excess of $13-million.

Despite the negative pictures that have been shown worldwide of the disaster, much of the area was untouched by the mudflow and remains as scenic and picturesque as ever.

"We have encouraged our employees and friends to post pictures about how beautiful Santa Barbara is.  I wish I had the reach of Oprah but that's what we are trying to do, " said Ashland.

Visit Santa Barbara is also encouraging residents to put out more sunny and lifestyle pictures of Santa Barbara.  This week a special photo and video shoot has been taking place in Santa Barbara to add local pictures to a Visit California ad campaign.  

Social media, radio and print ads will be increasing as well.  The Los Angeles market will be heavily targeted.

Ashland says the bad times come and go, and he's lived through some big ones. "I have been through a few of these over the years, the other fire (at the Sandbar) and we will always come back. You just don't know when so we just circle the wagons and make sure we can be open."

For restaurants with outside tables and chairs, they pay a fee for the use of the city's sidewalk space. Due to the disasters, the city says it will be giving a two month reimbursement back to the businesses.  Already it has paid out $22,000.

The city also increased its free parking downtown for shoppers during the peak of the fire impacts.


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