As Montecito slowly recovers from the mud and debris floods of January 9, residents and local leaders have been looking toward their future with more optimism than one might expect from a community still coping in the aftermath of widespread devastation. They’re starting to come together in public and private groups large and small to ask important questions. Here’s a big one: If we determine it’s prudent to rebuild damaged neighborhoods, how can we make these family homes more resilient and — while we’re at it — more energy-efficient?
At Giffin & Crane, we’ve discovered part of the answer to that question while spearheading more than 20 cleanup efforts in Montecito. As of late February, government agencies had made 60,000 truck trips to clear out clogged debris basins in the foothill; they estimate there’s at least as much material on private property. With our clients we often ask: Does it all need to be moved? The answer is probably not. In some cases, rebuilding a home on top of five feet of readily available fill puts it on higher ground.
Other homeowners are considering taking advantage of the hundreds of large boulders that the debris flow deposited on their properties (similar to the boulder field pictured below, along Montecito Creek). They like the look of this native stone as reinforced perimeter walls to protect their homes from future flooding.
When it comes to building energy-efficient homes, Giffin & Crane has been ahead of the curve for years, seeking out and integrating the very latest in green building materials and technology — from spray-foam insulation to solar-heated swimming pools to smart-home systems that control temperature and lighting around the clock.
Nearly 600 homes were impacted by the January 9 natural disaster — 241 were red-tagged (unsafe for occupancy) and 152 were yellow-tagged (limited access). As the community of Montecito rebuilds itself, it’s bound to proceed with the future in mind. That means looking forward creatively to design and construct the very best homes to create something even better than what was there before.
Santa Barbara-native Rudy Raygoza started working for Pyramid Tile & Marble straight out of high school. For 17 years, his work put him on some of Santa Barbara’s finest properties, some of them built by Giffin & Crane. “I realized that Giffin & Crane was an exceptional company,” he said, adding, “I always noticed that their projects were run a lot smoother and more efficiently.” Also during his time at Pyramid, Raygoza took night classes in computer-aided
drafting, earned an undergraduate degree, then an advanced degree in business administration.
In 2017, he responded to a G&C employment ad, and landed the job in the spring. We caught up with Raygoza (pictured above) to talk briefly about his work in Montecito’s disaster area.
G&C: Regarding what you’re doing now in the disaster area, what are the range of your responsibilities?
Raygoza: Working for many years all over Santa Barbara, I am aware of the immaculate architecture in this town. When I was able to get to the storm-damaged homes my heart sank. The damage was so tremendous that you are truly left speechless. My responsibilities have been to assess the damage, strategize with my team to create a great game plan, and to execute that plan, while at the same time being that person the clients can count on through this difficult process.
What sort of difficulties or challenges have you experienced?
When we began work on the storm-damaged properties, we were having difficulty finding areas where we could take the mud and dirt. Many areas were, only taking clean dirt, and most of what came down the mountain has lots of debris and boulders in it. We have been having to sift though the dirt to separate debris and leave clean dirt to move out. Another challenge we are facing is trying not to haul things away too quickly, since the boulders and dirt on the properties could possibly be used for future storm protection.
Have you seen an upside to working in the disaster area?
It can be difficult to find anything positive through these hard times. One thing I have noticed, however, is that subcontracting companies are able to put differences aside and work together on the same projects to help out this community. I believe we all understand that we are all in this together.