Onward (and Upward) For Westmont

The Westmont College Master Plan update was finally approved 5-0 by the Montecito Planning Commission on November 9th. Before permission to go ahead was given, fully 116 separate conditions had been imposed on the private college (they do operate, after all, under a CUP or Conditional Use Permit). Some of those conditions include: a limitation on the number of daily trips allowed to and from the campus; events that will attract more than 300 guest vehicles on campus are restricted to 12 days a year; outdoor intercollegiate athletic events shall be held only between the hours of 9 am and sundown; the maximum number of persons participating in summer activities shall be limited to an average of 600 participants per day; between 9 pm and 7 am, no outdoor organized group activities shall be permitted, except for jogging and walking (what, no bicycling?). There are 112 similar additional conditions dealing with everything from perimeter landscaping to canopy replacement to rooftop design treatment to building finish materials and colors, ozone precursor control, energy conservation, bird nesting, riparian enhancement, tree protection and replacement (i.e., “All trees located within 25 feet of buildings shall be protected from stucco and/or paint during construction”), and more, lots more.

The Montecito Planning Commissioners focused on complications dealing with ADTs (average daily trips) and other traffic related impacts, because that was the highest priority for most neighbors. Westmont will incur severe penalties – like the addition of an additional year of “downtime” if the ADTs exceed those limitations over the course of a year.

Architect David VanHoy and crew produced an intriguing re-design of the layout after community groups made it clear to Westmont administrators that the previous plan was unacceptable and would probably not be approved. The new plan was met with quick approval by both the MPC and the nearby Mountain Drive community. Despite what some might call micro nitpicking over certain issues, what seems to us the most important design feature – that of the 49-foot-tall chapel – was approved with very little discussion. Montecito’s Community Plan calls for an overall height limitation of 35 feet and, taking in the entire roofline and averaging the height, the chapel does indeed come very close to conforming to the “overall” 35-foot limitation. Other factors were taken into consideration, for instance the chapel cannot be seen from the road or from any adjacent property and does not impact anyone’s view. We fear, however, the approval of such a tall structure may introduce a precedent that will be difficult to argue against when the next applicant comes along with a plan and a spire.

Westmont’s construction phase will negatively impact Montecito traffic, so we wonder why so many conditions have been imposed that will slow construction. Montecito residents have expressed more concern over the effects of long-term noise and congestion and less about short-term traffic. Condition 83 of the Construction Traffic Control Plan, for example, mandates that “Construction workers shall not be scheduled to arrive during the peak AM traffic period (7 am to 9 am). The construction workday shall end no later than 4 pm and construction workers shall be required to depart no later than 4:30 pm, but not between 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm on days when Cold Spring School is in session.”

Shortening labor to fit into a European 40-hour week schedule will hurt, or at least inconvenience, both Westmont and residents of Montecito. Our feeling is construction equipment and workers should get in as soon as possible, and out as quickly as feasible. We’ll have more to say on this subject in future issues, so bring your eyeballs back to this page regularly.

The Real Thanksgiving Spirit

James and Rose Marie Towle have been bitten by the Thanksgiving Bug. The couple live in Montecito and have decided that the best way, for them, to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday is to give away turkeys. Lots of turkeys. Hundreds of turkeys. First come, first served. You should know too that the Towles neither asked for this recognition nor sought it. We feel, however, the rest of Montecito ought to know how generous some of its fellow citizens are.