Deal, Or No Deal?

Ty Warner is the right man to bring the Miramar back to life. We’ve written that before, and many readers have written in concurrence. Recently, Warner expressed his intention to bail out of the renovation and reconstruction of the Miramar. The list of grievances and obstacles placed in his way for even minor repairs on some of his other properties finally became too long, too much to bear. Lucky for us, Mr. Warner still owns the old resort grounds and no buyer, as far as we know, has stepped forward. So, before it’s too late, we’d like to suggest a deal.

The new group calling itself “Voices of Montecito” has issued the following Mission Statement: “The Mission of The Voices of Montecito (VOM) is to ensure a fair, expedient, legal and user friendly planning/development process in Montecito in which all property owners in Montecito have an equal and democratic voice.” The group’s formation is in response to developments at the Montecito Association concerning not only the Ty Warner group, but also Westmont College, another supplicant wishing to proceed with a major building project. But, let’s stick to Mr. Warner and the Miramar.

Our proposal is this: The Voices of Montecito should make, as the first manifestation of its mission, entreaties to Ty Warner Hotels. Let them know the citizens of Montecito are desirous of seeing the Miramar renewed. As an enticement, we suggest VOM members contact appropriate officials of Southern Pacific Railroad and seek their assistance for moving forward with permission to surround the railroad tracks that run through the Miramar property with a wall/hedge, some of which may intrude on railroad property, and to assist the Warner group in receiving permission to tunnel under the tracks for access to the beach for its hotel guests. The current setup is no longer viable in this litigious age. Once VOM made contact with Southern Pacific, it could/should move on to the Coastal Commission for pre-approval, if possible.

We believe if the current Miramar owner saw evidence of such proactive support, he could be convinced to charge ahead with his plans and get the place open in time, perhaps, for the summer of 2011. If you agree with our somewhat modest proposal, or have other ideas, please go to our website to “Editorial” and respond. We need to keep this dialog going or we are going to lose the Miramar forever. And forever, it seems, isn’t very far away.

If members of the board of directors of the Montecito Association wish to join this delegation, or as a group to sign on to the advocacy of doing “whatever it takes” to get this project moving again, they should be encouraged and welcomed.

So, we ask: deal, or no deal?

A Portent Of Things To Come

On Tuesday, December 19, at 5:40 am, a tractor-trailer rig traveling northbound on US 101 collided with the bridge railing on the Cabrillo Boulevard overpass, jackknifed, and caught fire, blocking both traffic lanes. The Hot Springs Road southbound exit and northbound US 101 were closed near the Olive Mill Road exit. Coast Village Road was used as a detour to US 101 and the Santa Barbara Police Department helped move vehicles through Montecito. Needless to say, traffic was horrendous. We surmise that a similar traffic situation will develop both during construction phases of the Coast Village Road roundabout and then forever, once the southbound ramp off Cabrillo is closed.

At the December 12th Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting, Kirstin Ayers, media relations coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), displayed an aerial view of the proposed roundabout at Coast Village, Old Coast Highway, and Hot Springs Road. This particular intersection is highly congested most of the week, and a roundabout makes sense. But, the efficiency gained will be lost as southbound traffic heading down the coast from the beach and no longer able to enter the highway at Cabrillo will simply continue on through Coast Village Road and enter the highway at Olive Mill, where a new three-lanes-to-two squeeze will take place.

With the likely construction at Westmont, the 76 Station having been turned into office space, and increased traffic flow from beach goers and tourists, the traffic consequences for Montecito will be horrific. The number of cars traveling through Coast Village Road and East Valley Road will greatly increase. Once, and if, the planned nine-year construction project gets underway to widen 101 from Olive Mill to Carpinteria, traffic around here will never be the same. We, our elected representatives, Caltrans, and SBCAG, will have succeeded in turning Montecito into Santa Barbara’s high-traffic, dirty, noisy, congested L.A.-like “gateway.”

That future is near, unless the Montecito Association or Voices of Montecito uses its influence and collective wisdom to advocate for a different one. With all the revenue generated for Santa Barbara County by Montecito’s property taxes, a little more consideration (and thought) should go into plans for what seems now a project destined to destroy what remains of Montecito’s “semi-rural” ambience.