Cold Spring Asks for Bond Approval

School’s $14.5-million tax would fund new classrooms, restore facilities, bring campus into 21st century
It’s been seven years since the last time Cold Spring School completed an on-campus renovation, a $2.9-million overhaul that brought new classrooms and an update of its tightly spaced auditorium. On November 7, the voters of the elementary district will have to decide whether the school deserves more improvements.

Printed on this year’s election ballot for the Cold Spring District will be Measure K2006, a $14.5-million general obligation bond that, if passed, would pay for 10,000 square feet of new classrooms and buildings and restore existing facilities. Proponents of the tax have extolled Measure K2006 as the most effective method to put finishing touches on the last renovation and lay new groundwork for prosperous decades to come.

School officials say the current campus, whose original footprint dates back to 1927, doesn’t adequately serve the 200 bodies and minds enrolled at the school. For starters, they point to the portable classrooms, 30-foot-by-10-foot units that Dr. Bryan McCabe, Cold Spring’s principal and superintendent, calls “a step above trailers.” School officials have complained that the portable units are old, deteriorating, “smelly and downright ugly.”

Just yards away from the temporary classrooms is the original part of the campus, a bright off-white stucco building roofed with a sloping layer of tiles that was designed by Edwards & Plunkett. Additions to the first buildings were made during the 1950s, which was when the school faced soaring enrollment increases from the Baby Boomer generation. Cold Spring administrators don’t count out the possibility of that happening again.

The school already doesn’t meet the needs of 200 kids, McCabe said, so why shouldn’t it make room for another 50 students? “It’s not ‘build it and they will come,’” McCabe said. “It’s ‘build it when they’re here or are coming.’”

With the addition of four classrooms, Cold Spring would be able to comfortably enroll 240 students and as many as 280. The new buildings would be built with respect to the Edwards & Plunkett design, injecting the campus with a desired standard of uniformity.

“We want to pay homage to the original design and its architectural past,” McCabe said, “but also keep it modern as a part of the twenty-first century.”

Within the implementation of the four new classrooms is space to house the school’s new front office to give Dr. McCabe and the administrative staff more room. The administrative office would be built within a new building that fronts Cold Spring Road at the entrance of the parking lot. The relocation, McCabe said, would burnish the school’s image and provide visitors with a more accommodating atmosphere.

The remaining space of the current school office would allow for the most ambitious of the improvements: a new media center that officials have slated as a “multi-use building.” The room would give the current library some space to upgrade and expand and would be home to a state-of-the-art tech center, where the school could store its extensive cache of computer and technological equipment.

But the proposed project isn’t just about making more room, it’s also about making the current room better. Included in the detailed wish list is upgrading and modernizing seven classroom interiors with energy-efficient lighting and windows, new whiteboards, and improving outdated flooring, ceiling and cabinetry. Many of the facilities, McCabe said, haven’t had the slightest touchup since the advent of the school.

“I would invite anyone who questions whether the renovation needs to occur to go visit the boys and girls bathrooms,” said Karen Phillips, a Cold Spring School Board trustee, referring to restrooms where the fixtures appear old and abused. The project also asks for four new restrooms. “It’s about creating an environment that’s health-conscious, safety-conscious and of a higher quality,” McCabe said.

Passing the Bond

General obligation bonds are the most common way to finance school constructions. Cold Spring used one, Measure O, for its 1996 renovation. Nearly 79% of voters approved that measure.

There were other options, though, to facilitate the required funds, like through the district’s current budget. But the school says local and state funding are insufficient to handle those costs.

Another alternative was a capital campaign, which Peabody School did recently when boosters raised $4 million for a new Exploration Center. But McCabe said a Cold Spring capital campaign could probably not raise even as much as did Peabody, a 600-student school that has a “broader ring of donors.”

The passage of Measure K2006 requires 55% approval from the 1,900 eligible voters within the Cold Spring attendance area, which includes Westmont College students.

The school estimates that, if passed, the new tax would cost property owners $30 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

Unlike other development applicants, Cold Spring won’t be undergoing review from local agencies such as the Montecito Planning Commission and the Montecito Board of Architectural Review. Approval or denial of the renovation will be the job of a State board that will determine whether the new facilities meet California education standards.

Public Consensus

While ironclad results are premature, Cold Spring has received encouraging response from the electorate. In an informal telephone survey conducted by school officials and representatives, 64% of 563 responders said they would vote ‘yes’ on the tax measure. This was opposed to 31% who were undecided and 5% who said ‘no.’ McCabe admitted the survey methods weren’t fully reliable.

“People saying ‘yes’ could just be afraid of saying ‘no,’” he said.

Support in places like the Montecito Association board room has been relatively more tepid. At its September 12 meeting, the Association’s Board of Directors didn’t take a position. Senior members said the organization hasn’t weighed in on tax increases in the past and they didn’t want to break tradition.

“Particularly, because this measure only affects half the population of Montecito, this is a tough one to vote on,” said Diane Pannkuk, a former Association president.

The Association, however, did support a renovation of the school. President Bob Collector, whose son Graham is a Cold Spring fourth-grader, said, “as a former Cold Spring trustee, I can definitely speak to the need of facilities to this campus.”

With Measure O, Cold Spring underestimated the construction costs and ran out of money in 1999. Some of the Measure K2006 money would be devoted to completing that work. But who’s to say that won’t happen again?

McCabe claims the school has given itself enough monetary padding to avoid falling short of its demands. To school officials, it’s enough reason to begin construction as soon as possible.

“A lot of this is time-sensitive,” Phillips said. “The more you wait, the more it costs.

“It really looks like we’ll be able to finish everything. We have seen the past and we’ve learned from it.”

Coral Casino Plans Reported Stolen

Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts officials last week reported that construction plans for the $65-million renovation of the Coral Casino had disappeared. Officials said they believed the $500 plans for the Channel Drive club were stolen some time between 5 pm on September 15 and 8 am on September 18.

The County Sheriff’s Department has classified the crime report as a grand theft instead of a burglary.

“From what [the Warner group] told us, there was no evidence of a break-in,” said Erik Raney, the department’s public information officer. “All we know from them is that when they returned from the weekend, the plans were missing.”

Though no investigative leads have turned up, Ty Warner officials said they would ask the Sheriff’s Department to complete a full inquiry of the matter. Greg Rice, executive vice president of development, confirmed last week that his office would provide detectives with a list of possible suspects.

No other items were reported missing, even though officials said the site was full of high-priced equipment, such as construction tools. In the event of a burglary, Raney said this lack of crime activity “would be very unusual.”

Sean Lavelle, Warner’s vice president of development, who oversees the Coral Casino project, said in his experience crimes at construction sites typically involve either vandalism or theft for profit.

“I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years and this for me is a first, so it’s certainly unusual,” Lavelle said.

“There’s no value to the plans; it’s just paper,” he said. “It seems like a lot of risk if there’s no value in it.”

Opponents of the reconstruction have sued Warner over segments of the project they believe would destroy architecturally significant areas of the club.

A County Superior Court denied the claims of the lawsuit and the plaintiffs appealed. A hearing before a State Court of Appeals could take place as soon as early 2007.

Ortega Reservoir Cover Ready by June 2007

A $20-million effort to put a cover on the Montecito Water District’s largest of 11 storage facilities should be completed by next summer, according to a September progress report. District officials said they hope that by June 29, 2007, the Ortega Reservoir will be capped and that the local water office will be in compliance with Stage 1 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, whose guidelines become more stringent next year.

According to the progress report, the project is in the middle of Phase 3, which involves the design, fabrication and installation of the aluminum truss roof. The new structure is meant to protect storage water from intentional and unintentional contaminates.

Following Phase 3, the project calls for new landscaping on the site, to disguise the new structure from the immediate neighborhood.

The district’s general manager, Bob Roebuck, said the project had fallen a little behind schedule because the Ortega facility has needed to stay open to meet customers’ water use demands.

Construction began in fall of 2004 as district officials pressed for a timely completion to keep up with changing state water standards. The costs, which the Montecito Water District are splitting with the Carpinteria Water District, have doubled from $10.5 million since the inception of the project.

The Ortega Reservoir holds about 33 million gallons of water, 64% of the District’s storage capacity. The Montecito Water District has 4,400 customers.

Officers: Non-violent Acts Remain Hallmarks of Montecito Crime

Deputies urge public to get involved in prevention

During a September 18 town hall meeting, representatives from four local agencies gave an audience of more than 40 people a complete rundown of Montecito’s crime situation. At the same time, the officials openly invited the public to be proactive in preventing crime and targeting regions of heightened activity.

“In Montecito, with beautiful homes and beautiful landscape, it’s difficult to see a potential residential burglary,” said Lieutenant Darin Fotheringham, of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. “We need everyone’s eyes to find those crime areas that need our attention. When we identify the problem and get public input we can easily abate crime volumes.”

The five-member panel that presided over the meeting, held at the Montecito Union School auditorium, included Fotheringham; Marty Rose, community resource deputy for the Sheriff’s Department; Don Clotworthy, public affairs officer for California Highway Patrol; Stu Pfister, battalion chief for the Montecito Fire Department; and Bob Collector, president of the Montecito Association.

The meeting was organized in reaction to public questioning of local law enforcement service and by a Sheriff’s Department impulse to stimulate dialogue with the public.

“It’s important that we have open communication between residents and the agencies that are intended to serve them,” Clotworthy said. “When you look at a place as your community, you care a lot more about that place.”

While citing that violent crimes remained absent from the current picture, Fotheringham said burglaries, thefts, graffiti and alcohol consumption at Butterfly Beach remained the hallmarks of unlawfulness within Montecito’s boundaries.

In an 11-month period last year, crime in Montecito went up nearly 12%, an increase that was mainly attributed to thefts, which were up 23%. Fotheringham said thefts from cars parked at trailheads remain of high concern, as do burglaries of tools from commercial construction sites.

While preventing crimes is still difficult, the Sheriff’s Department has had better luck resolving them. Fotheringham said the department’s recovered more than $2 million worth of stolen property in the last nine months, an amount that exceeds what was reported during that time period.

“The reason for our success is that we’re continuing to work those reported cases,” Fotheringham said.

In recent months, deputies have displayed marked interest in tagging and gang graffiti. They say the defacement of public property can have a detrimental effect on how residents perceive where they live.

“Covering it up as quickly as possible makes an impact on the community,” Fotheringham said.

Still, Fotheringham said graffiti is a tough type of crime to solve because “you pretty much have to be there to catch the person who’s doing it.”

Residents such as Sybil Rosen said they were prompted to attend the town hall meeting by their interest in graffiti. “I feel that graffiti is a symptom for serious things to come,” said Rosen, who lives on Hermosillo Drive.

The officers also praised the effectiveness of the alcohol ban at Butterfly Beach. Fotheringham credited residents for notifying the department of heightened drinking activity. Deputies adjusted their patrols level, he said, and promptly controlled the amount of alcohol consumption.

At times, the two-hour meeting seemed like a crash course on crime in Montecito and a lecture on law enforcement agencies’ job description. Tables placed at the entrance of the auditorium were covered with leaflets and brochures on safety and crime preventive measures.

Representatives informed audience members of the Sheriff’s Department level of response (which is based on priority of crime and proximity of deputies) and its range of service (between the county line and East Santa Barbara). Clotworthy stated the California Highway Patrol’s mission: to reduce the speed of people driving and to minimize collisions and alcohol violations.

Shortly before the conclusion of the meeting, residents asked about the possibility of adding supplementary deputy presence in Montecito. Sheriff Jim Anderson, who was sitting in the audience, stood up and said the department was interested but couldn’t bear the costs. He said he’d leave the matter up to Montecito property owners to create a ballot measure and approve a new tax.

“I’m more inclined to pursue this if the interest exists,” Anderson said.

As the meeting adjourned and the audience filtered out the doors, Ms Rosen sat down waiting to speak to deputies. Asked what she thought about the discussion, she responded that law enforcement members had “tried to do too many things at once,” but, ultimately, she found the meeting was a reasonable success.

“I’m always impressed when they reach out to the community,” she said.

Commission Opposes Veterinary Clinic

In a case that staked the commercial interests of one resident versus the residential comforts of a neighborhood, the Montecito Planning Commission struck down a permit request for a veterinary practice. With their 5-0 vote, commissioners told Bonnie Franklin on September 20 that an animal clinic at her mother’s Greenworth Place home would be unsuitable for the conventional uses of that residential area.

“Clearly, neighborhood compatibility is a huge issue,” said Commissioner Richard Thielscher. “I do think [this project] sets a terrible precedent for future applicants requesting this type of commercial use in a residential zone.”

Commissioners also said that Franklin’s veterinary service did not meet all of the adequate criteria for this kind of home occupation and could create noise disturbances and odor problems.

“It just doesn’t seem appropriate for that locale,” said Commissioner Michael Phillips.

The denial supports a recommendation from County planning staff to turn down Ms Franklin’s permit request. According to the planners’ staff report, Ms Franklin’s 139-square-foot den wasn’t large enough for a practice, “the dwelling is not the applicant’s primary or permanent residence,” and neighbors worried about the clinic “would affect the character of the neighborhood.”

Planning staff also took issue with building violations going on at Franklin’s property, including an un-permitted sliding glass door at the back of her garage and a fence in her backyard that exceeded the six-foot height limit.

For her part, Franklin, whose primary residence is in Santa Ynez, said she wanted to create a concierge veterinary clinic where she would pick up animals in the morning and return them to her clients by the end of the day. She said she would take care of no more than five animals per day and that the animals would be stored in a kennel.

Franklin told commissioners she preferred maintaining the practice in Montecito because her mother, Veronica Franklin, was sick and required her attention.

“I thought this was an important time to be with my family and there was a family need,” Franklin said at the hearing.

The veterinarian’s proposal was met with extensive opposition. Planners said they received more than two dozen letters from residents of the area worried about the implications of the clinic. Among the concerns were the negative impact on the livelihood of neighbors, decreased real estate values and effects of traffic on Greenworth Place, a modest suburban area that elicits little vehicle volume.

“The impact on the enjoyment of the neighborhood was most important,” said Sally Hanseth, Franklin’s direct neighbor on Greenworth Place. “We all as a neighborhood were sympathetic with her wanting to be closer to her mother; that’s a noble thing. But that doesn’t mean she should put a veterinary practice there.”

Also opposing the clinic was the Montecito Association, whose members voted against Franklin’s request a year ago. They bolstered that decision with a September letter to the Montecito Planning Commission saying the veterinary practice would be a detriment to the neighborhood.

“We did not find Ms Franklin the most credible applicant to come before us,” said Association President Bob Collector. “We would caution that asking the neighborhood to bear the burden, should there be barking, should there be needles, chemicals, medicines or anything attendant to a hospital that could be loosed in the neighborhood, would be unfair.”

In a telephone interview two days after the commission cast its vote, Hanseth affirmed the decision “was a huge burden lifted and put to rest.”