Rebuilding efforts in the wake of the Jan. 9, 2018, Montecito debris flow may not be complete for another nine years, with an estimated total project cost around $58 million, according to a report.
Crafted by Robert D. Niehaus Inc. the report was issued on the two-year anniversary of the disaster. It outlines the residential rebuilding efforts two years after the disaster and projects a timeline for unfinished building efforts.
Twenty-three people were killed and hundreds of homes and commercial properties were damaged. Of more than 600 structures inspected in the wake of the debris flow, 33 percent were deemed uninhabitable. Approximately 38 percent were deemed safe and 29 percent were allowed restricted use, according to the report.
“Although most of the structures have passed inspection as of January 2020, there are still a considerable number of damaged structures,” the report reads.
RDN published a report last year on the recovery efforts. At the time, most parcels had been considered safe, though most of the completed building projects were demolitions rather than repairs.
A total of 285 parcels had one or more structures that were moderately or severely damaged. Property owners completed various projects to repair damage, ranging from mud clearing, which does not require a permit, to demolitions and structure repairs, which require permits. More than 125 parcels have had no relevant permit activity, according to the report.
The vast majority of the full demolition projects have been completed or are underway. A number of partial demolitions are still underway, though the only types of projects for which permits require a detailed review by the county are considered “repair” or “repair and remodel” projects. More than half of repair projects have been completed, whereas roughly one-third of repair and remodel projects have been completed.
To date, the total cost of all building permits associated with the rebuilding efforts is $31,557,880. That includes about $1.6 million for full demolition, $1.9 million for partial demolition, $17.4 million for repair projects and $10.7 million for partial repair projects.
Roughly $13.5 million worth of projects have been completed and about $18 million remain in progress, according to the report.
The analysis found that projects have been completed at a “steady pace” since the disaster, with roughly 200 projects completed at a pace of nine projects per month.
The median time to complete demolition projects was 161 days from the date the permit was issued and the median time to complete repair projects is 171 days. The report also examined the cost against the time to completion, which demonstrated a “weak but positive relationship between cost and completion for repair projects.”
“In other words, more expensive repair projects have taken longer to finish than less expensive repair projects,” the report states. “However, there is essentially no relationship between cost and time to completion for demolition projects, suggesting that the size of demolition projects is not a strong determining factor for the duration of the project.”
The report utilized Santa Barbara County assessor data to estimate the cost of outstanding projects. RDN collected the 2017 and 2018 property tax assessments for all parcels damaged in the debris flow and found the ratio of “lost assessed structural value.”
“If trends continue, we estimate that rebuilding efforts will not be fully complete until early 2029, with an estimated cumulative total project cost of $57,529,065,” the report states. “We note, however, that some building codes changed in response to the debris flow and there has been uncertainty in the insurance market. Additionally, some families have decided to move out of the area and have left the rebuilding process to new buyers. All of these factors could result in a longer recovery that anticipated.”
To view the complete report, visit www.rdniehaus.com.