WESTMONT TAKES A BREAK, ADDS ‘LOCAL FLAVOR’

Two weeks ago, Westmont College announced a 60-day break in its pursuit to update and expand its master plan with 375,000 square feet of additional buildings. After seven hearings in front of the Montecito Planning Commission, in addition to face time with the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, college officials say they’ll review comments from decision makers to address cited concerns and return with a project that works best for all parties.

“We believe that this fresh look will be fruitful, and we look forward to the opportunity to pick up where we left off and bring a plan to you that is responsive to your concerns and recommendations,” Westmont President Stan Gaede wrote in a letter to the planning commission and architectural review board.

Ron Cronk, Westmont’s vice president of finance, said the college would do its best to return after the two-month pause, but indicated the review period could last longer.

“We’re hopeful in the time schedule, but the creative process is not always predictable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the college was again critical of what it called a slow and unproductive hearing process with the Montecito Planning Commission. In the letter, Gaede wrote that “unwarranted attention” had been paid to the project’s opponents, “who are deliberately misstating the facts and the law.“

Westmont claims to have incurred more than $2 million in costs associated with the processing of its master plan update.

At the same time the college called for a break, it also announced the addition of two new architects to the project – David VanHoy and Ken Radtkey. Cronk said the two new members would “add local flavor and appreciation for local design issues.” Westmont will still retain its original architect, Los Angeles-based Pfeiffer Partners.

Radtkey brings a degree of local familiarity to the cause. He’s married to Susan Van Atta, Westmont’s landscape architect, and his Santa Barbara firm, Blackbird Architects Inc., is noted for its involvement in community planning issues. Architects credit Radtkey’s economic approach to his craft and his environmentally responsible site-specific work.

Van Hoy is as close as it gets to being a local celebrity architect, for his involvement in epic overhauls that have marked the last few years and should mark the next half decade. He was the lead architect on the $65-million rehabilitation of Ty Warner’s Coral Casino, an effort that though approved locally, is still embroiled in a legal struggle. Currently, VanHoy is working on renovations of Montecito Country Club and Rancho San Marcos, both also owned by Warner.

“You’d have to be on some other planet not to know that David’s been involved on some very high profile projects,” Cronk said.

As much as his architectural and design resume matters, VanHoy’s colleagues and peers say his biggest value resides in his experience and success with local decision makers. Current and former business partners say he has the power to properly articulate large-scale, complicated endeavors like Westmont.

“He’s got the kind of personality and confidence that clients like. He can present the projects without being in your face,” said Bill Medel, project planner for Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, who’s known VanHoy for 15 years. Medel and VanHoy worked together on Bill Levy’s laborious Ritz Carlton timeshare project.

“David has a very keen temperament,” Medel added. “He knows how to communicate with people. A lot of clients have trouble describing what they want because they don’t have the design background, but David has the ability to understand it and he’s able to tell it back to someone in a way that’s helpful, which in turn helps David.”

For his part, VanHoy said he recognizes his communication talents as crucial in getting the project approved. “When you go to college you learn about architecture and design, but one of the things they don’t teach you that’s important, in this community especially, is communication.”

Though he admitted he has a “steep learning curve,” VanHoy said he’d already found “obvious pressure points” in the project to address. He said taking step back to make adjustments was a wise decision because he understands the significance of this project for Montecito.

“For me it’s a real feel-good project,” VanHoy said. “Finding a common ground, a compromise, is something I’m confident we can get done.”

ZONING CLEANUP COULD END THIS YEAR

It’s been three years in the making, but the quest to clean up Santa Barbara County’s zoning guidelines and ordinances is almost complete, according to County planners. Anne Coates, lead planner on the Zone Ordinance Reformatting Project, or ZORP, said her office’s work to combine the county’s zoning documents into one cohesive manuscript could be ratified by the County Board of Supervisors as soon as the end of this year.

“It’s been slow to get working, but we’re getting good feedback,” Coates said during the Montecito Association’s June 6 Land Use meeting.

The effort to reorganize the County’s Byzantine zoning rules has been painstaking and costly. Val Alexeeff, former director of Planning & Development, lost his job last March in part because the Board of Supervisors was dissatisfied with the progress of the zoning cleanup.

Planning staff, widely considered overworked and understaffed, say they’re close to consolidating land use regulations for the county’s disparate regions. Zoning definitions and descriptions will be easier to use, they say, and the document will be more user-friendly. In addition, the new zoning version will offer enhanced Internet features that allow users to look up any land use guideline via word search.

The Montecito Association has been actively involved with the planning department in securing a stand-alone document for Montecito that incorporates this town’s inland and coastal zoning portions.

Association President Bob Collector said the work for such a document will cost his organization about $18,000, twice the amount that had been originally estimated. The Montecito Community Foundation also contributed a matching grant capped at $5,000, Collector said.

The Association’s ZORP study team said the transfer of zoning guidelines has gone smoothly, but reports that some changes have been substantive. “We’ve agreed with some of the changes, but you need to start keeping track of where there may be problems,” said Joan Wells, a member of the study team.

Dianne Meester, assistant director of Planning & Development, said edits to definitions are subjective, but she promised her department would work with the public to assuage concerns.

“How many changes are substantive? We believe there are zero,” Meester said. “But changes can be viewed in different ways, and that’s where we need the community’s help.”

The public comment period for ZORP ends on June 23. For more information call the County at 568-2000.

AMERICAN CREW ROWING ACROSS ATLANTIC

Two days after making an appearance on “Good Morning America,” Crane School alumnus Brad Vickers and three friends left the Statue of Liberty on June 10 headed for Falmouth, England – by way of rowboat.

The four-man crew of OAR Northwest face 3,100 miles of choppy, frigid waters in a 15-team race across the Atlantic Ocean sponsored by English company Woodvale Events.

If they make it, they’d be the first Americans to complete the North Atlantic stretch, considered one of the most grueling in the world for its violent swells.

Last July, four Brits finished the same course in a record time of 39 days.

For more info on the race visit www.oarnorthwest.com.

COFFIN BROTHERS EXCEL AT STATE

Parker Coffin, a Montecito Union fifth-grader, recently won the National Scholastic Surfing Association State Championship for the 10 and under division on the weekend of May 18-21. His older brother, Conner, a Santa Barbara Junior High School seventh-grader, placed third in the 12 and under ranks.

“It’s just very exciting to see that they both had fun and did well at the same time,” said their mother, Krista. “I’m so very proud of them.”

The victory for Parker and high placement for Conner secures a place for both brothers to compete at Nationals, beginning June 22-24 at Salt Creek in Orange County. The tournament finishes up June 27 through July 1 at Lower Trestles, the meeting grounds for performers from both California divisions, the Hawaii conference and East Coast talent.

FORMER RESIDENT TO RESTORE UNDERPASS MURAL

Montecito’s pedestrian underpass to Butterfly Lane, currently an inglorious version of its former itself, will soon be restored to its former self, with some enhancements. A former Hermosillo Drive resident is intent on repainting the mural on the walkway’s northside wall and adding a replica of the mountain-to-ocean landscape on the mural’s stark opposing wall. Austin Lampson, who now lives in Carpinteria, said residents deserve a more inviting and appealing underpass.

“This beautification will not only make the underpass more attractive to pedestrians, and promote usage – resulting in making it more viable for beach access – but it will also help to alleviate some of the parking frustrations of the area,” Lampson said.

The underpass runs under Highway 101 from Coast Village Circle to Butterfly Lane and functions as a byway for Butterfly Beach-bound pleasure seekers. On the northside wall at a little less than eight feet stands an unassuming mural of Santa Barbara coastline in muted primary colors. The work was performed by local painters Larry Iwerks and Skip Smith, at a fee of $2,000 each, and sponsored by Dick Shaikewitz, a Butterfly Lane resident, with involvement from community volunteers.

Over time the mural has degraded in appearance, tattooed by graffiti and inner-city gang livery. The underpass hallway remains a haven for transients, often filled with the stench of urine, and has become an ignoble symbol of when community volunteerism clashes with the local street culture.

Fed up with the mural’s declining condition, Lampson set out last summer to restore the underpass she used so often when she lived just footsteps away on Hermosillo Drive. Despite moving to Carpinteria last August, Lampson wanted to see the project through.

“I thought it would be nice for the community,” she said plainly.

As it was the first time, the mural restoration promises to be an all-community effort. With the blessing of Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over the underpass, and the County Arts Commission, Lampson has invited friends and volunteers to join her.

Frazee Paint donated 20 gallons of paint, Home Depot gave $25; other donors included Adelphia, Art Essentials and Barry R. Smith.

Devereux Foundation was going to participate but because its day-time student doors will be closing soon, Lampson said she’s uncertain whether the organization will be involved. Allison Kantor, of Devereux, will contribute either way, Lampson said.

On August 10, power-washers will come in to spray the site, prepping it for two days later when Lampson creates an outline for the new mural. She will cover the more than 1,100 square feet of wall space with a grid through which she’ll replicate the design on the opposing wall.

Lampson said she wants the entire project completed by Labor Day and invites the public to come on the weekend of August 26 and 27 for the final painting phase. She said she understands the mural will require sporadic monitoring, lest it return to its original state. She also plans to coat the mural in a protective seal to prevent graffiti, though such measures work only to a point.

For the County Arts Commission, preserving the mural’s condition was a crucial component of granting approval. “In this case, we wanted to be sure that there was an understanding that the original work would be maintained,” said Ginny Brush, executive director.

The mural’s original artist, Iwerks, said he’d like to be involved and has ideas about incorporating other parts of Santa Barbara’s coastline in the new mural. “Wouldn’t it be nice to see Loon Point?” he said.