(If you have something you think Montecito should know about, or wish to respond to something you read in the Journal, we want to hear from you. Please send all such correspondence to: Montecito Journal, Letters to the Editor, 1122 Coast Village Circle, Montecito, CA. 93108. You can also FAX such mail to: (805) 969-6654, or E-mail to tim@montecitojournal.net)

Note to Montecito: SLOW DOWN!

Thanks to all who are trying to make it safer for Montecito's children to walk or bike to school. We walk our second- and third-grader to Montecito Union School everyday. Although the walk is very short, it is often terrifying due to speeding and swerving vehicles. This has exacerbated with the addition of my seven-month-old riding in a stroller in the bike lane. Please slow down Montecito! It is frightening to push a baby against traffic that forgets the school zone is 25 miles per hour and extends south of MUS. A clear, smooth path along San Ysidro Road would make it safer for all: strollers, bikers and walkers.

The challenge to get to school safely doesn't end on San Ysidro. Upon arriving at Montecito Union's lower or south entrance there is no safe entry for bikers and strollers. There is no crosswalk at the entrance to the south parking lot to alert drivers to foot or bike traffic. If bikers don't carry their bicycles up the stairs they must fight the traffic in the lower parking lot along with strollers and pedestrians. A ramp beside the stairway and crosswalk at the south entrance would help alleviate these dangerous situations.

I urge residents, parents, school administrators and local government to continue efforts in developing safe routes to school. In the mean time, please slow down and watch out for parents and little ones by the side of the road.

Wynne Benhayon

Montecito

Not the Montecito We Chose

Mr. Jaffe's sympathy for Hank Hurst (www.montecitojournal.net/archive/13/11/835/) is not justified. He bemoans the drawn-out review process for the Hurst project on the erroneous premise that Mr. Hurst was required by the MBAR to appear multiple times for review of his ever-so-reasonable project. Anyone taking the time to attend the reviews or to read the record of the reviews would know from the beginning, this project had many conflicts with the Community Plan which Mr. Jaffe claims to support. Unfortunately, in spite of these important issues, the MBAR accommodated Mr. Hurst to a fault, allowing him to return for repeated review of his project, despite the fact that on each of those occasions Mr. Hurst failed to make the substantial changes recommended by the MBAR that would have merited an approval. Finally, after six reviews, Mr. Hurst acknowledged that he did not intend to reduce the height, size, excessive grading and other detrimental features of his project and he would accept a denial so that he could appeal to the Montecito Planning Commission. The plans that Mr. Hurst presented to the Planning Commission at the appeal hearing are not the same plans that the MBAR denied. Mr. Jaffe asserts that the Hurst project has always been entirely within the Montecito Architectural Guidelines and therefore should be entitled to an approval. In fact, the revised project is in compliance with the guidelines only if the community's decision makers ignore neighborhood compatibility, hillside development standards, and good neighbor policies. These are intended to protect the community from self-serving, oversized development that is completely out of character with its surroundings, for which the Hurst project has surely become a poster child. Mr. Jaffe's notion of a streamlined development process suggests removing any discretion in the review process.

We count on our decision makers like the MBAR and the MPC to exercise their discretion to protect our community, not to rubber-stamp a project that barely meets basic requirements. In Mr. Jaffe's Montecito, the developers reign supreme, free to spend their money on grandiose projects to the great detriment of the immediate neighbors and the community. Finally, Mr. Jaffe seems to imply that neighbors do not have the same rights as developers and others who want to build in their neighborhoods. Is this the Montecito we all want? It certainly will not be the Montecito we chose as our home.

Patrick Smiekel

Montecito

(Mr. Jaffe responds: I do not know why people keep putting words in my mouth. Mr. Smiekel says that I approve of the Hurst project: wrong. I don't have an opinion about it. He says I support developers over neighborhoods: I challenge him to find one quote that even remotely says that. He claims that if I had ever read the entirety of the Hurst case I would know that Mr. Hurst had been given numerous opportunities to adapt his plans to the views of the MBAR. Well, I have read the record, all of it, and of course knew that Mr. Hurst didn't adapt his plans (enough) to MBAR views. On the other hand, however, the record proves the very point I'm trying to make: If Mr. Hurst can't present plans – for whatever reason – that the MPC or the MBAR think are reasonable, then deny the application and let him move on with an appeal to the Supervisors. Two bites at the MBAR apple should be about it. If people can't agree, then move on and let the chips fall where they may. I do not think the MBAR or the MPC does anyone any favors by continuing stuff ad infinitum. The mere fact that they are 14 months into this and two more months away from resolution, at best, and still haven't gotten anywhere, is exactly what is wrong with the system. Have the courage to send him packing. Maybe he'll get the message and fix things! On the other hand, of course, the MPC may be overruled, but that's the risk of a democracy. And by the way, I didn't say it was within the guidelines, all four MPC Commissioners said that in their hearing two weeks ago. – Michael Jaffe, President of Voices of Montecito)

Pushing the Gas Tax

Your editorial on introducing a local Santa Barbara gas tax (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/10/), in place of the proposed sales tax as a replacement to Measure D, is refreshing and I want to applaud you for your stand. Local politicians are weak-kneed about setting up a gas tax to replace the sales tax of Measure D; they feel that they would be run out of town at the next election due to introducing a “new tax.” It helps the gas tax cause a lot if a newspaper of known conservative tendencies like yours argues for a gas tax to replace Measure D. I agree with all your points – of reducing use of gasoline-run vehicles, reducing congestion, and reducing road maintenance costs. There are other reasons to be in favor of a local Santa Barbara county gas tax. It is much more fair than a sales tax to pay for local road work. The users of the roads pay for the maintenance; what else could be fairer? Why should someone who walks to the corner store to buy groceries pay a sales tax to fix the road, the same as the person who drives to the corner store instead of walking? A gas tax would reduce the miles people would drive locally, or would make people buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Either way, the environment, and the problem of global warming, would be helped tremendously. I think all the local newspapers need to help lead the charge on this issue. You would think that conservatives, liberals, and people in the middle would all agree. When I sent e-mails to my local Santa Barbara City Council on this subject of a gas tax, I got very wishy-washy answers on why we cannot do a gas tax. It is good that your newspaper has the guts to take the right stand on this issue.

Sincerely,

Blair Whitney

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s note: There are probably more issues like this where common ground can be found; let’s look for them! – TLB)

Wider Roads, More Traffic

With the vote by the City of Carpinteria to approve the expansion of 101 to six lanes from Mussel Shoals to Casitas Pass, I was left wondering how the inhabitants of La Conchita would deal with the expansion. Sadly, the death of a teen driver there recently indicates an answer. Does the 101 expansion consider the public health and safety of anyone merging with freeway traffic at La Conchita? The accident proved once again that stretch of highway’s deadly reality, and with only four lanes. The proposed freeway will be 50% wider! Faster. More dense…

Not only La Conchita, but also that entire stretch will be wider, with more vehicles, going faster… More road kill, more accidents, more automobiles exiting. Think about Casitas Pass at peak traffic time with 50% more cars exiting. Arterial feeder streets will need to be expanded, widened, again more cars, higher speeds, more traffic collisions, and yes more people. How is this in the public’s best interests? Perhaps the proposed commuter lane will shave five minutes off a commuter’s drive time – in theory. Reality is people don’t carpool. Has any public official read a Caltrans traffic study recently? In a nutshell, wider roads beget more traffic.

Leland Walmsley, Landscape Architect

Carpinteria

(Publisher’s Note: Right you are. SBCAG opposes a gas tax because it might deter people from driving, which would reduce revenue considerably! Much like the tobacco tax that government relies upon, politicians of all political persuasions are reluctant to pass effective measures that would really cut into the revenue stream that smoking – or driving – brings in, even though fewer people on the road would mean fewer accidents, less traffic, less pollution, and fewer carbon emissions. – TLB)

Correction

In our cover story in the last edition, "Child Safety Goes Back on the Road" (Issue # 13/11), we incorrectly identified Assemblyman Pedro Nava's legislation that seeks to expand school speed zones as Assembly Bill 372. It is Assembly Bill 321.