Arrogance Run Amok In Montecito

Montecito is an unhurried land of natural beauty, spectacular orange and magenta sunsets, soft ocean breezes and the smell of jasmine on a clear morning. Because we are blessed with one of the most perfect climates in the world, we are environmentally sensitive and deeply respectful of our heritage of Mediterranean architecture, Spanish-style roofs and community improvements that reflect quality and good taste.

The Montecito community needs an Association, an Architectural Review Board and a Planning Commission to preserve our semi-rural residential character and make certain that all new development conforms to the community plan in terms of public safety, traffic, noise, and aesthetics that reflect the architectural standards of our community. We salute public servants who serve on planning commissions to protect our neighborhoods.

At the same time, these planners need to respect the delicate balance between legitimate private property owner rights and the arrogance of power that can come from an unrestrained ability to inflict their personal whims and prejudices on the private property owner, including the right to reject the plans of talented and recognized architects by demanding their own design ideas that have nothing to do with community interests.

I got in touch with my inner gorilla at a recent meeting of the Montecito Planning Commission. The subject was MPC approval of a new set of stairs to Butterfly Beach across from the Biltmore to replace the stairs that were washed out by the winter storms of ’04 and early ’05. For two years, the missing stairs have been boarded up with plywood, denying access to the beach for Biltmore guests and members of the community.

Ty Warner’s architectural firm of David VanHoy presented an inspired stairway-landscape design that was beautiful, tasteful, elegant, aesthetically pleasing, and appropriate for the community. Numerous speakers testified in favor of the project, urging the MPC to approve the outstanding high-quality design immediately so that work could begin in the Fall to finish the project in time for next Summer’s crush of beach walkers and bathers on Butterfly Beach. There was not one word of public testimony from anyone objecting to the proposed design.

Some decisions are controversial; this was a no-brainer. After several hours of questions and public testimony, the chair called for deliberations. Commissioner Thielscher called the stair design a magnificent project worthy of approval. Commissioner Phillips echoed the same sentiments and moved to approve. Commissioner Bierig favored the project.

Commissioner Gottsdanker expressed concerns that the more expensive brick pavers on the beach side of Channel Drive and the low wall planters leading to the viewing deck might lead some residents (unidentified) to think that the stairs were owned by the Biltmore, which they are. They own the land on which the stairway is to be built and the beachfront out to the high tide mark.

Gottsdanker opined that VanHoy would not agree with her changes, preferring his own integrated design. When VanHoy went to the podium to explain his rationale for something more attractive than concrete, the chair ruled he was out of order because public testimony had ended, although no one had previously objected to the aesthetics of his design.

Phillips then modified his motion “to include whatever concerns Gottsdanker had suggested.” A commissioner asked whether Gottsdanker was merely expressing her personal opinion and asked Phillips to articulate Gottsdanker’s changes to the motion, which he could not do, but insisted they be kept in the motion. The vote was 4 to 1, with only Bierig voting to endorse the VanHoy design

In the last two minutes of a multi-hour hearing, the design integrity was blown away, the applicant was denied his design, the project start date was delayed and the design now has to be re-worked and re-costed to accommodate Gottsdanker’s pet peeves that had never been raised by any member of the community at the hearing or by any staff member.

Gottsdanker downgraded the owner’s design, fearing it to be either too good or too Biltmore. This is arrogance run amuck that makes a mockery of public or professional input. It suggests a pre-planned outcome to penalize the owner and deny his private property rights. In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to mobilize community outrage against this type of high-handed behavior. Many in Montecito shake their heads in disbelief at the absurdity of the Montecito approval process, but the issue does not rise to outrage until it directly affects them. Surely as a community, we can do better!

Bob Hazard

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: In last issue’s editorial we asked 21 question for and about Montecito>, we received scores of replies – they are still coming in – but except for a few people, most people sided with Ty Warner’s plans for the stair improvements. If informing residents that it is in fact a public access area is important, a sign posted at the stairs would easily solve all this nonsense. – TLB)

One Last Auto Court

In regards to the article “Auto Transformation; Part 1” by Hattie Beresford >, there is still one original Auto Court in the Santa Barbara area. It is located on the corner of Hollister and Nectarine avenue behind the 7-11 market and is still in use as rentals.

This court was probably constructed in the 1920s when the 101 highway ran through downtown Goleta, being in a excellent location for tourists and the Greyhound buses.

Jackson Cianfrone

Santa Barbara

Way To Go Guillaume!

The article “Hotel Owner Battles Against ‘Anti-Ty’ Campaigners” by Guillaume Doane > was good, solid, objective reporting. I rarely read your paper, don't follow local news, but happened to see the Board Meeting of this application on TV. The Board members are all obviously very limited intellectually and intoxicated with their power. That these non-entities have the power to obstruct a man who is trying to improve the beachfront at his own expense is disgraceful.

The business about the brick walk chilling public access was particularly transparent pettiness.

I only hope these fools do not cause Ty Warner to forego the challenge of the Miramar. Warner has done an outstanding job with the Biltmore, and all who live here should thank him.

I was pleased to see that some of the Butterfly Beach locals went to the meeting to support Warner.

Submitted via www.montecitojournal.net

(Publisher’s Note: We too believe Guillaume did an excellent job on the article and we thank you for the response. Soon, reading our paper will become a weekly, rather than bi-weekly, routine. We plan to publish every Thursday, beginning in November. – TLB)

Iraq Quagmire Continues

How ironic it is that the first big political head to roll over the Iraqi debacle is a Democrat, Joe Lieberman. Like many of our politicos, he thought Iraq would be a slam dunk so he hustled on board the War Train before it left the station; like most of them, he now wishes he had never heeded that siren call to War: “All Aboard.” The verbal histrionics of our leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, as they try to distance themselves from the Iraqi farce is a study in shameless guile.

I would begin to have a modicum of respect for these people if they could begin to express a modicum of regret for the choice they made. But, no, they pathetically cling to the opinion that the invasion was the right move but then offer a passel of reasons why the war has become disastrous, usually dealing with execution. The truth is that the invasion was wrong, wrong and wrong from its inception because it was based on lies. Another war based on lies was the Vietnam War and we all know how that ended; that dismal scene atop the US Embassy in Saigon where the last of the lucky ones were being run out of Dodge in an overloaded helicopter.

I served in that muddy, bloody monsoon nightmare called the Vietnam War. For eighteen months of my four-year duty in the Marine Corps I was stationed in the northern sector of Vietnam known as “I Corps.” We moved from Chu Lai in the south to Phu Bai in the north, with Da Nang and Hue in between. Without getting into the grisly details I’ll just say I saw it all but, at the time, it didn’t matter because they were only G***s [racial expletive]. (Amazing how that word rings like “Orcs.”)

I was a 19-20-year-old high-school dropout who believed every word that came down from the great liars of the era: President Johnson, General Westmoreland, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. When my four years were up I was eager to reenlist and keep “fighting for freedom,” but my mother persuaded me to come home and go to college. My first memory of campus life was the longhaired idiotic freaks that were protesting against the war. I was disgusted by their treasonous demonstrations, which could only come from ignorance and, as a vet with firsthand knowledge, I wrote many passionate letters to the college newspaper in support of the war. Little did I know that a mere two years later I too would be one of those longhaired freaks protesting the war. Why the change? Simple: education.

A recent poll found that 50% of Americans believe that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were found in Iraq and another poll found that 49% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was part of the 9/11 tragedy. Such profound ignorance is beyond my comprehension, yet it is precisely this stupidity that keeps the present era’s great liars in power and keeps fueling the insane war in Iraq.

I have come to loath George W. Bush and his lying cabal; not because they made a titanic mistake by invading Iraq but because of their refusal to admit that mistake. They are more concerned with their perceived place in history than by the great damage their refusal continues to inflict on this nation. They put their personal reputations above the welfare of our country. Sometime next month we will be fighting the Iraq War longer that it took us to defeat the Germans and the Japanese in WW II. And there is no end in sight! In fact things are getting worse: the insurgency is gaining strength, Iran and Syria are emboldened, Islamic fundamentalism and hatred are increasing, Iraqis are fed up with our troops in their land as are all the Arab nations, and the world no longer sees us as victims, as they did after 9/11, but as arrogant aggressors. Our goodwill is spent. The monetary tab so far is 400 billion dollars and counting upwards at the rate of over six billion a month; the human costs are incalculable (How do you calculate the cost of an arm, a couple of legs or quadriplegia?).

Bush calls it the “center of the war on terror.” Does anyone really believe the President is brilliantly tricking all the world’s terrorists into entering Iraq where we proceed to destroy them before they manage to come over here and do evil deeds? Yes, pathetically, the answer to that question is, yes, if the polls are correct. The truth is that we are breeding terrorists by the bushel loads with every day this lunacy continues. After all, what would you do if some infidel army came over here and killed some of your family, accidental or not?

The so-called “War on Terror” will not be won with armored divisions, squadrons of warplanes and naval carrier groups. This is akin to sending a herd of elephants to stomp out a flea epidemic. The war on terror will be won with good police work, sound investigative techniques, reconnaissance missions, shutting off the money supply, the occasional cruise missile or Green Beret assault and, most of all, by winning hearts and minds in the Islamic world.

With the November elections approaching the Republican attack dogs are being unleashed. Vice President Cheney recently compared those who vote for antiwar candidates as Al Qaeda types and those who actively oppose the war are being branded as treasonous.

The Vietnam War produced many types of heroes but the unsung ones were those who actively demonstrated against it. But for their shrill courage and “treasonous” activities that obscene war would have inflicted much more damage than it did. To Jane Fonda…Abbie Hoffman…Jerry Rubin…Professor Ellsberg…Eugene McCarthy and the countless others that did what they could to get us out of that barbarous war I say Thank You. The next generation of such unsung heroes has begun to emerge and the defeat of Joe Lieberman is the beginning of this process: thank you Ned Lamont and Cindy Sheehan. Have you ever seen how quickly a wave disappears on the sand? As you read this, month after month and every hour after hour, wave after wave of America’s great wealth is disappearing forever into the sands of the Iraqi desert. And for nothing other than keeping the pack of liars in this administration in office; led by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neocons that convinced our multi-challenged president that this little romp in the desert would be a slam-dunk.

I give them the benefit of the doubt that they really believed the WMD hype but at this point it’s over. The huge error has to be admitted not merely morphed into another rationale to justify the war. Unless you’re Senator Santorum, who can make a case for Drano or Lysol being a precursor to a WMD, the chickens have long since come home to roost.

Like Vietnam, we are losing this war and will continue to lose it until the scoundrels that got us into it come clean or we boot them out of power. Our lying pants are on fire and the entire world knows it, except it seems about 50% of Americans. I wonder, now that Bush’s daughters have graduated college, has Daddy recommended that they join the military and volunteer for service in the great march of freedom taking place in Iraq? After all, in his youth their Daddy protected this nation against a Cuban invasion through the Gulf of Mexico with his courageous, albeit hazy, service in the National Guard.

David Bostick

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: For what it’s worth, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, over 500 of them. As reported in a declassified document released June 22, 2006, “forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain downgraded mustard or Sarin nerve agent.” Granted, these weren’t nuclear munitions nor were they a direct threat to the United States, nevertheless, they qualify as weapons of mass destruction.

In hindsight, by withdrawing precipitously from Viet Nam as we did, almost a million South Vietnamese lost their lives, as did over two million Cambodians, thanks to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. The real question now, even if you believe the Iraqi war was built on lies is: Do we leave or do we stay? If human body counts are the criteria, leaving Iraq may not be the wisest course.

As for Cheney calling those opposed to this administration’s policies “Al Qaeda types,” here is the actual quote, as reported during an interview with wire service journalists: “…and as I look at what happened yesterday [a reference to the Connecticut primary which Joe Lieberman lost], it strikes me that it's a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was, just six years ago, their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe's support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.

“The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, from the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.”

What part of that statement could anyone possibly disagree with? – TLB)