A President Arrives at a Critical Time

Bill Palladini, the new president of the Montecito Association, learned that he was taking helm of the homeowners group just as he was leaving for a long trip to Argentina. He returned from South America a few weeks ago to assume leadership of a beleaguered organization that in 2006 endured one of its most tumultuous periods in its nearly 60-year history, including a botched election ballot, a decline in membership, a wave of criticism about its members’ role in land use issues and persistent public accusations of bias in decision making.

Palladini, who spent a year as an Association director and Land Use member before assuming the presidency, says he’s used the last couple weeks to educate himself on Montecito’s most urgent issues, speaking with past presidents of the Association, whom he refers to as the “elder statesmen,” in order to “get a sense of the context of the Association and the bigger history of Montecito.”

Palladini was born in Italy, raised in Chicago and has 40-plus years of business experience, much of it in the paperboard packaging industry. He built his Montecito home in 1994, moved here from Pasadena in ’96 and retired two years ago. He and his wife, Carol, have three sons – Jeff, Doug and Michael – and three grand-children.

The following conversation took place last week at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Coast Village Road.

Q. Why did you agree to become president of the Association, especially at this critical juncture?

A. The Montecito Association has a wonderful history of supporting and facilitating for this community. I think it’s made a huge contribution.

Many of the issues we look at are broad issues and you’re never going to have complete consensus in a proactive community like this. The sense I have is that not everybody can agree with us on some of the positions we take, but our job is to support the Montecito Community Plan. As long as you’re focused on that and you do the best you can with that position, you may not speak for everyone, but you’ll be fine if you have the right motives.

Is that how you saw the Association when you first became a board member?

Well, I’ve learned a lot by being part of the Association, and that is why I will encourage people in the community to participate in the process, come to meetings, get on a committee and volunteer. The advantage is that you’re going to learn a lot more about your community, the issues and the role that the Association plays.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about this “planning process” and whether it is broken or needs reform. What do you think?

I do not think the process is broken. Broken is a pretty significant word to use. I would say there’s no reason that the community can’t participate in dialogue about tweaking the process. But I would not say that the process is broken. If you observe it, it actually functions pretty well.

What are the top three issues facing Montecito today?

This is in no particular order, but I would say traffic, density of development and scale of development.

Speaking of development, one issue that can breed a lot of tension is that many people have big houses in Montecito and people who move here want to have big houses at the objection of their neighbors. How do you overcome that?

When someone pays a huge amount of money for a property, I understand that they have the rights to maximize their investment, but they also have the responsibility to consider the context that they’re working in.

The sense I have is that people move here, come from other places and may have a different point of reference about what a house should be. The only thing I would say is that it’s important for them to educate themselves on the issues of Montecito and how their wishes will impact the community.

What drew you to Montecito?

The natural beauty. It’s a unique place and one that’s really worth protecting. When you travel nationally or internationally, you begin to realize what a special place this is.

What is your perfect Montecito day?

You get up in the morning, you work out, maybe go for a bike ride, have breakfast on the patio. Where I live there’s a lot of trees and an incredible bird population. Take a minute, look at the birds, take a walk in the garden, do some gardening, get your hands in the dirt. Read the paper, relax and do something productive – get involved or volunteer. It can’t be a fifty-two-week vacation because we’re all privileged to live here and we should all give something back.