The real estate community of Montecito, California, is in the heart of catastrophic mudslides burying Southern Santa Barbara County with an onslaught of flooding and debris — another crisis on the heels of the devastating Thomas Fire that scorched the area just weeks before.
“We had time to prepare with the fires,” said Realtor Cynthia (Cindy) York Shadian, head of Coldwell Banker’s Montecito and Santa Barbara operations. “We saw them coming. With landslides, you don’t have the luxury of even 15 minutes — it’s massive.”
Following heavy rainfall, the deadly mudslides began pouring into the area early Tuesday morning, so far claiming 15 lives, trapping around 300 people in their homes, and destroying 100 homes, according to the New York Times. “A number of homes were ripped from their foundations,” the LA Times reported, “with some pulled more than a half-mile by water and mud before they broke apart.”
Coast Village Road, where a number of Montecito real estate offices are based, was one of the hardest hit. The road has been closed off, though intrepid brokers were still making their way to check on the premises today.
Shadian’s office at 1290 Coast Village Road, across from the Montecito Inn, was at the “epicenter” of the mudslide but was miraculously saved from flooding thanks to being on slightly higher ground, Shadian said. “We are completely impacted,” she told Inman. “It’s scary, you put your toe in the mud and you don’t know how deep it is to get out of.”
Working from Coldwell Banker’s Santa Barbara office today, Shadian was keeping close tabs on her 128 agents in Montecito and Santa Barbara, who so far were all OK. But yesterday she had spoken to one of her Montecito agents whose own house flooded. He had saved several lives, she said, and was recovering from the trauma of enduring a living nightmare.
Another real estate pro with an office on Coast Village Road is Gary Goldberg, broker-owner of Coastal Properties, who spoke to Inman while he was en route to the office from a borrowed guest home. This was the second time he had evacuated in recent months, first from the fires, now the mudslides.
Goldberg spent Monday filling and putting down sandbags for clients. He helped one family — formerly buyer clients — who had just welcomed a new baby before the mudslides hit, along with one of his elderly clients.
On Tuesday, Goldberg was inundated with Facebook messages from concerned friends and colleagues.
“Being a local Realtor, clients call. My CPA called; you don’t talk to your CPA the first week of January!” Goldberg said. But his house and office emerged unscathed.
“My office is on the western half of Coast Village Road but the eastern half is lower lying and has tons of damage,” Goldberg said. He described the mudslide like “an avalanche of mud and water.”
Keller Williams’ top producer in Montecito, Louise McKaig, meanwhile, was staying put in her part of town and away from her office on Coast Village Road, fortunately located on the second floor.
“They [TV news outlets] keep showing the building we are in, but we are upstairs. Everything around us — over by the Montecito Inn — looks bad, there is mud in the lobby,” she said.
Some of McKaig’s clients had been affected by the mudslide. “Everything is at a standstill, people are just stunned,” she said. “You know people, you know they are missing — we see clients on TV — it’s sad … everybody has a connection here.”
Local agents were already working to find rentals for clients displaced by the mudslides.