Montecito 2.0

Building a Resilient, Sustainable Community

In the early morning of January 9, 2018, Montecito, California was devastated by flash floods and debris flows that demolished houses, destroyed infrastructure and changed the face of the town forever.  Twenty three people died.  

Geological threats had been underestimated, and in a few terrifying hours critical infrastructure failed, management systems were blind-sided, and emergency responders overwhelmed. In the months ahead, significant obstacles remain, including how and where to rebuild in a way that will minimize risks in the future, and enhance Montecito's resiliency while honoring the families who have suffered such terrible losses.

A recent study by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Hayagreeva Rao suggests that an equally devastating problem often trails in the wake of disasters.

The “silent killer” is a lack of community cohesiveness, as represented by the number and diversity of its voluntary organizations and their willingness to cooperate. “The real impact of disasters is cushioned by those,” says Dr. Rao. "The better the infrastructure, the better the recovery. A disaster is a shock. Think of those organizations as shock absorbers.”

Utilizing an innovative, interactive electronic forum, Novim together with local online news service Noozhawk is assembling a team of individuals and just such organizations to address the choices and opportunities in Montecito's future.

In July, 2018 the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors met and endorsed Novim's plan by a vote of 5-0.

In October, 2018 the County Office of Emergency Management issued its latest debris-flow evacuation risk map -

Following is an overview of the project titled Montecito 2.0.



Inventory and survey what remains

Identify continuing threats

Establish what is possible

Imagine what could be

Fashion a common vision

Avoid prior mistakes

Begin to lead


Local Partners

UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative

Santa Barbara Environmental Council

Montecito Association

Westmont College


Regional Advisory Partners

Davenport Institute for Public Engagement & Civic Leadership under the Pepperdine School of Public Policy

California Council on Science & Technology

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Stanford Institute for Public Policy Research and Graduate School of Business


Government Advisory Partners

Santa Barbara County

City of Santa Barbara

State of California

Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Homeland Security (FEMA)



Working with its partners, Novim will identify and staff a series of study groups organized
around specific topic areas. Groups will include local and nationally-known scientists, engineers,
and government experts with backgrounds specific to disaster recovery.

Noozhawk and local Santa Barbara media will report on the  progress of the interactive site and emerging conclusions.

Utilizing a customized, interactive website acting as an "electronic town hall," residents
will be encouraged to analyze study group suggestions, comment, submit additional
ideas, and ultimately to vote their opinions on the developing vision. Participation can be
from cell phones, tablets, or computers, night or day, in multiple languages.

The result will be an updatable compendium of approaches, methods, and techniques
sensitive to the unique aspects of Montecito, and meant for use by its citizens and leaders.


Study Groups

Geology and threat analysis

Protection and emergency response

Infrastructure - Utilities, communications and transportation

Local governance







Community Interaction Site

Idea submission–from science study groups, community teams and citizens

Map-based submissions–pin drop indications of areas of concern

Survey–open and closed-ended questions built around common themes

Instant polling–offering quick feedback on individual issues or team questions

Photo sharing–top down and bottom up from study groups, local teams, and citizens

Targeted challenges–solutions submitted can be voted on with recognition awards

Group inclusivity–multilingual interaction to encourage active participation by all community groups