Protect the Montecito Association

After my wife and I bought our house on Humphrey Road some years ago, we discovered a local developer had bought the one-third-acre property next door, intending to assert an ancient lot split and to build 2000-square-foot houses on each sixth-acre piece, half-clad like wainscoting in faux stone, with two-car garages ass-end to the street.

Humphrey Road is an odd little street next over to Eucalyptus, running between the SP tracks and the 101, a backwater little changed from when it was originally built out in the first decade of the last century, with modest cottages to house the butlers and gardeners of the big estates up the hill.

Those two proposed monster spec houses had no place on Humphrey Road. But the very successful developer-builder had a lot of relationships around town, and he made it clear through his architect that he didn't care about the street, the neighbors or anyone's opinion. He was rich and he wanted his way.

How do you fight money and influence? With the careful help of the Montecito Association, who walked me and our friends on the street through the sometimes confusing land use process (as Bob Collector did a couple of weeks ago in your paper), and with the thoughtful advice of its land use consultant (I believe this was the excellent Susan Keller, whose specific rebuttal of the ridiculous charges spewed by Warner's people was welcome reading too), we identified the specific steps in the process where our voice could be heard and we found the language of the Community Plan that spoke to our concerns.

We took our case to the MBAR, where the developer's attorney did us the great favor of arrogance. “Those people on Humphrey Road have to recognize that gentrification will come to them, regardless of whether they like it.” Well, not really. When our charts and lot footprint diagrams, photographs and testimony were presented, the designs got sent back to San Diego or whatever suburb of hell they came from. And now, instead of two hideous tarted-up boxes stuffed into slices of our bucolic street, we have a lovely restored Craftsman house and a couple of cleaned-up creekside cottages as neighbors (and the folks that did those restorations made a bundle – only wish it had been me).

Without the Montecito Association's cautious shepherding of the planning and development of Montecito over decades, faithful to a vision spelled out in simple language and true to standards that are published law, not only my street but yours and yours and yours would be much the worse.

Right now there's a lot of blather about the Miramar, how glorious its past, how tragic Warner's abandonment, how vile the Montecito Association, its designated bad guys (as though they had anything to do with Warner's decision). How many of your readers stayed there in the decade before it closed? It was a mildewed tacky ruin, abutting the noisy 101 and skewered by the train tracks running a few paces from the beachfront rooms.

That's a screwy layout for an expensive hotel, yet the Schrager-made renovation plan had approvals at every level and even by the supposedly obstructionist Montecito Association. But Warner chose not to build out that plan, despite his promise to do so, and as a neighbor I haven't heard or seen an alternative from the Warner folks in the couple of years since the purchase.

Is it just possible that when you factor in the 20% rise in freight traffic over recent years (projected to grow more as oil prices stay high), the proposed increase in commuter trains, the possible widening of the 101, and the general surge in construction material costs as India and China started to suck up resources, that Mr. Warner's pencil snapped?

And that this decision, this betrayal of a promise made to the Miramar's neighbors and all of Montecito, had nothing at all to do with the Montecito Association, who became a whipping boy and the excuse du jour?

Now the Montecito Journal wants the Voices of Montecito, identified as developers and well-heeled businessmen who “want to make the planning procedures less burdensome” to beseech Ty Warner to reconsider, to petition the SP to build a wall, and to tunnel beneath their tracks? And when that fails, will the Journal turn to the so-called Voices of Montecito (the name itself how populist! how representative!) to petition to alter the CUP to allow the kind of development that the Montecito Association has fought to a standstill in the past?

The fear mongering that you publish, in your recent editorial and Private Property Report columns, as though the only alternative to the restoration of the once glorious Miramar is an onslaught of low-income housing under State mandates, is worthy of our President. There's no evidence of that threat associated with this property, is there?

And what's wrong with working people, anyway? When we moved into our quiet cottage on lovely, homely Humphrey Road, we had public school teachers, artists, and a fisherman for neighbors. Half of them are gone now, and their kind won't be coming back. Montecito has lost some of its raffish charm now that only millionaires can buy in. And it will lose more if the Montecito Association has its teeth yanked out by the kind of people who want to make it easy to build without their careful scrutiny.

Sincerely yours,

Caldecot Chubb

Santa Barbara county

(Publisher’s Note: Those “working people” you speak of are people just like myself and as much as I would enjoy winning a lottery to a below-market unit, I don’t believe in handouts or free/cheaper homes for “working people” or anybody else. As for the Miramar, how does warning Montecito that the Miramar property, if left undeveloped, might attract the Affordable Housing lobby fall under “fear mongering”? We don’t want the Miramar to become housing, certainly not dense housing, just as you didn’t want high-density units built next to your house. The Miramar site is zoned for a tourist-serving enterprise, but we fear if Mr. Warner doesn’t act on this soon, that designation may change. The only thing the VOM is against, as far as we can tell, is the arbitrary nature of some of the conditions and approvals the Montecito Association has recommended. – TLB)

Farewell Gerald Ford

Many deserved tributes have been offered by the nation for President Gerald R. Ford, 38th President. There is one special aspect of his long life that has been missing from them all and should be mentioned for the record. On September 30th, 1949, Gerald Ford was initiated (along with his three half-brothers) into membership of Malta Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Freemasons at Grand Rapids, Michigan. After becoming a full member of his lodge he joined many other Masonic degrees while serving in Washington D.C.

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world and came to America in 1733 where it first became established in Boston. From George Washington to Gerald Ford, there have been fourteen presidents who were Masons. Masons have stood for integrity, freedom, and individual dignity – all characteristics that Brother Ford abundantly represented throughout his life. Brothers working individually and collectively toward the objective of Masonry can add much to leave the world in a better condition.

During 2003, President Ford was presented at Rancho Mirage with the Grand Lodge of Michigan's 50 Year Masonic Membership Award on their behalf by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of California.

Freemasons take pride in the part which the fraternity has played in the history of America since its founding. The Masonic fraternity as well as the country mourn the passing of our 38th President.

NJD Gallimore

American Lodge of Research

Santa Barbara

A Hidden Treasure Lost

The demise of the “Miramar Hotel” is of great concern to many, not only residents, but former guests and employees, the latter of which I represent as the longest tenure than anyone. (Thirty-five years plus.) Consequently, I too have a selfish interest in wishing the beautiful piece of art could be quickly restored.

The hotel served as a haven for rest, as well as recuperation, for people from many parts of the World (Europe, Africa, Canada and Mexico).

It was questionable when the recent purchaser tore down practically everything! Then, for whatever reason, he stopped! Was it money?

A new “mogul” brought the property with renewed interest, and rebuilding seemed to be no problem, financially. He found the situation too difficult to solve, however. He too, threw in the towel! There is a problem somewhere…

Former property owners, guests and well wishers, for the restoration of a beautiful piece of “art” situated between majestic mountains and Pacific Ocean, for whatever reason, a hidden treasure lost by mankind, only mankind can resolve the problem.

Sincerely,

Grover Barnes

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: Mr. Barnes, we congratulate you for recently celebrating your 100th birthday – TLB)

Serenity at Westmont

Well, I find have reverted to the realm of my childhood by wishing every day could be Christmas. Why is that, you may ask. The answer is quite simple. Christmas Day offered an unusual, nay, rare blessing: it was perfectly, tranquilly, peacefully, blissfully silent at Westmont College. As I sat outside enjoying the warm sunny day I was struck by the absolute quiet. I must tell you that it was glorious and I cherished every blessed moment. This was an event to be relished and I did!

This morning at nine am, that peace was utterly shattered by some unbelievably loud equipment doing who knows what at the Westmont Campus. This, on the day after Christmas, when many of us have precious time off from work. But, of course, it was convenient for the campus as all or most of the students and staff are on their holiday elsewhere.

Just thought I'd share a day in the life of a Westmont neighbor. As I said, I wish every day could be Christmas at Westmont College.

Sincerely,

Juliana Hydanus

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: I empathize with your sentiments. Christmas is always a beautiful and quiet day, and not just around Westmont. Christmas day is the only day I don’t wake up to the sound of leaf blowers and lawn mowers! – TLB)

A Charter School?

It will truly be a shame and a loss for our community if the Santa Barbara school board rejects Bob Noël’s proposal to start a charter high school. The proposed pre-advanced placement academy will greatly benefit the average performing student while the proposed construction and police/fire academies will greatly benefit those students in need of something outside of the traditional school setting. Given that the News-Press has reported that 73% of new City College students failed tests of their readiness to take college entry level English writing and reading courses in 2003 and that 55% of City College freshman are from the local high schools, this new charter high school is sorely needed.

Bob Noël has secured $405,000 in state grant money to get this charter school started. As his grant proposal was only one of 45 selected out of 250 proposals, it will be a hugely wasted opportunity not to go forward with the charter high school. The community expects the board to put personal differences and grudges aside and do what is best for our students. It will also be very ironic if the other school board members do not approve this project and lose the $405,000 state grant money when one of their biggest arguments for proceeding with the Dos Pueblos Olympic pool project was the loss of “use or lose” funding.

Chris Messner

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: We’re with you. The charter high school concept is promising. For adolescents who would rather be working with their hands, fighting fire, or protecting our neighborhood this would be a great resource for them – certainly more effective than anything our current public academic system can offer. – TLB)