Michael Towbes
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Apr. 15 to Apr. 17, 2017

Michael Towbes
1929 – 2017

July 17, 1929 - April 13, 2017 Michael Towbes, age 87,
Chairman of the Board of The Towbes Group, Inc. and
Montecito Bank & Trust, beloved philanthropist, and all-around
mensch died at home in Santa Barbara on April 13, 2017.

Mike was surrounded by his family at the time of his death following a short but valiant
battle with pancreatic cancer. Mike will be remembered as a pillar of the Santa Barbara
Community. For years he has been admired as a savvy entrepreneur, a generous
humanitarian, and a true gentleman. He believed in working hard to build a better world and
giving back to the community that had given him so much.

Mike was born in Washington DC on July 17, 1929 the oldest child of Thelma and Louis
Towbes. He attended
Roosevelt High School (1947) and went on to obtain his B.S.E. in
Civil Engineering from Princeton University, graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta
Kappa in 1951. Mike was the manager of the Princeton basketball team, played intermural
tennis, and was an active participant in the Terrace Club and the Center for Jewish Life.

Mike pursued graduate studies in Structural Engineering at MIT, but in 1952, with the
Korean War underway, he joined the Naval Civil Engineering Corps as an Ensign. Mike
was assigned to the Naval Air Missile Test Center in Point Mugu, CA. While stationed at
Point Mugu, Mike met his first love, Gail Aronson, at a UCLA fraternity party. He learned
from a friend that Gail loved the ballet. Somehow, he secured tickets to the American Ballet
Theater's performance in Los Angeles and invited Gail as his date. They were married on
Valentine's Day in 1954 and their oldest daughter, Lianne, who was born in 1956, is named
for the prima ballerina who danced that night.

Shortly after his wedding, Mike was transferred to the Bureau of Yards and Docks in
Washington DC, where he completed his Navy Career in 1955. After suffering though a DC
summer and winter, Gail convinced Mike to make their home in California. They settled in
West Los Angeles in 1955. Once in Los Angeles, Mike teamed up with a fellow
Washington DC transplant, Eli Luria, to start a real estate construction and development
company known as the Luria-Towbes Company. Eli and Mike started by building one
custom home in Brentwood. In the late 1950s they began building in Lompoc, Santa Maria,
and Santa Barbara, motivated in part by the transfer of Vandenberg Air Force Base from
the Army's jurisdiction. Because of the housing needs this generated Mike and Gail moved
to Santa Maria in 1957. Their younger daughter, Carrie, was born in 1959 and the young
family relocated to Santa Barbara in 1960. Mike was a loving and devoted husband to Gail,
who passed away in 1996 following a more than 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Mike
and Eli ended their partnership in the early 1960s and Mike operated as a sole proprietor
until 1970, when Michael Towbes Construction & Development, Inc. was formed. This entity
was the general contracting arm of Mike's operations and served as general partner in a
number of his real estate partnerships which survive today. In 1975, Mike was one of a
group of people who formed the Bank of Montecito, now known as Montecito Bank & Trust,
the oldest and largest, locally-owned community bank on the Central Coast. The bank has
assets over $1.3 billion, with 10 branches from Solvang to Westlake. Mike became the
sole shareholder in 1983. In his role as the bank's Chairman and owner, he was proud of
the work of the more than 210 bank associates. In addition to the many awards the bank
received under his vision and leadership, Mike was recently named 2017 Banker of the
Year Runner Up by Western Independent Bankers. He was always most proud of Montecito
Bank & Trust's role as a leader in local corporate philanthropy, giving more than $1.3
million annually to area nonprofits through the Community Dividends program, Anniversary
Grants, and nonprofit sponsorships, focusing primarily on organizations whose missions
support the arts, youth and education, social welfare and medical and health services
sectors. Mike used to say that as a real estate developer, he was not a banker, "but, I'm a
very experienced borrower." In the mid-1990s the contracting and property management
activities were shifted to the Towbes Group, Inc., and what began with a part-time secretary
and a superintendent has grown to 125 employees with properties under development and
management from Pismo Beach to Westlake. Under Mike's leadership, the award-winning
Towbes Group committed to provide exceptional service at all stages from project
development to ongoing management. Widely recognized for delivering excellence across
all its products and services, The Towbes Group has distinguished itself as a trustworthy,
innovative organization and a vital community member. The Towbes Group has developed
more than 6,000 residential units, with an emphasis on affordable and workforce priced
housing, and 1.8 million square feet of commercial properties, primarily in the tri-counties
region. The company also holds a strong commitment to sustainability and philanthropy.
Mike celebrated his 60th year in the construction and development business in 2016 by
completing one of his largest and most complicated projects of his career, the Kavli
Institute of Theoretical Physics residence hall at UCSB. The project was funded by noted
philanthropist Charlie Munger, and built and perfected by Mike. Mike's hard work has
earned him numerous accolades including entry into the California Building Industry Hall of
Fame, The Home Builder's Association of the Central Coast's 2014 Builder of the Year,
and numerous Santa Barbara and Goleta Beautiful awards. Mike continued his leadership
in the real estate industry right up to the time of his death with the completion of Hancock
Terrace Apartments in Santa Maria, which recently won an American Planning Association
award. Mike had a passion for giving back that began early in his career. As a developer
who helped build the community, he recognized the need to support the community where
he lived and worked. His service began with active volunteerism in the 1960s. As a
community leader, Mike served and chaired innumerable local nonprofit boards. He was
president of the Santa Barbara Foundation and served on the board of Cottage Hospital
for 27 years, including five years as its chair. He also served as president of Montecito
Union School, Laguna Blanca School, and was a founding board member of the
Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. He has served on visiting advisory committees
for the Princeton University Department of Economics and the MIT Department of Urban
Studies. Other nonprofit boards on which he has served include the Santa Barbara Center
for the Performing Arts, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, the Housing Trust Fund of
Santa Barbara, the UCSB Foundation, the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College,
Lotusland, and the local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, to name just a
few. In 1980, Mike and Gail started the Towbes Foundation, dedicated to meeting the
diverse needs of local nonprofits. The Towbes Foundation focuses on a broad range of
organizations from social services to education to the arts. The Towbes Foundation started
with a $500 donation 37 years ago and now donates over $900,000 annually to more than
300 organizations.

Michael met his second true love, Anne Smith Towbes, in 2004 through their mutual
involvement in the Lobero Theater. Their first date was at the San Ysidro Ranch on
Christmas Eve and it was love at first sight. They were married at Lotusland on September
4, 2005. Their eleven-and-a-half years together were filled with shared interests including
tennis, a love of the arts, philanthropic involvement in the community, and travel to six
continents. To cap it off, in 2015 they even camped at Burning Man! Mike leaves an
amazing legacy of giving that he hopes inspires others to continue his good work.

He is survived by his wife, Anne Smith Towbes, daughters Lianne Towbes and Carrie
Towbes, son-in-law John Lewis, grandchildren Allison Lewis Towbes and Zachary Lewis
Towbes, Anne's children, Jennifer Smith Hale (Nicholas) and Michael Smith (Natali), her
grandchildren, Leighton Hale, Carrington Hale, Ella Smith, and Leo Smith; sister Carol Lee
Skinner, step-brother Harold Sinrod (Allison), nephew, Robert Skinner (Meghan), and niece
Amy Sweeney (Patrick), and 4 grand nieces and nephews.

A public memorial service will be held at The Granada Theater in Santa Barbara on
Tuesday, May 23 at 2:00.

In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations to The Granada Theater, c/o Hayley
Jessup 1330 State Street, Suite 101, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, or to your favorite
nonprofit organization.