The Fulfillment of a Vision

Merchants Map Out the Future of Coast Village

Coast Village isn’t reaching its full potential in attracting tourist money. That’s the latest assessment from the Coast Village Business Association, whose members said earlier this month that shoppers often overlook the mostly retail and service district in favor of sprawling shopping areas such as State Street.

“For the most part, we’re missing out on a lot of money,” said Danny Copus, the Association’s president.

At the organization’s March 9 meeting, Copus announced the Association was planning sweeping changes that would heighten the business area’s profile and improve its visibility. In the process, the organization is making final steps in fulfilling a vision plan, a document that would define and protect the business area’s architectural and design identity. The Association’s recent forays send a message that members are looking to bring in State Street-like dollars without increasing the bulk and scale of buildings in Coast Village.

“People who shop want to get away and go to something unique. My feeling is that we have to be better at offering that,” Copus said. “We’re competing with ourselves.”

As part of the business improvement plan, the Association will be adding a website that Copus said would be the chief “marketing tool for the entire road.” Copus said he’s already secured the domain name, www.coastvillageroad.com, and he’s planning on approaching Coast Village merchants to advertise on the site, at no cost.

Included in the marketing campaign is continuation and improved distribution of Coast Village brochures to tell shoppers not only where to go, but what to look for. J. Charles Knoll, who owns the same name interior design shop at the eastern end of Coast Village Road, said he often finds himself giving visitors directions and informing tourists about the attractions in Coast Village.

“We run a concierge service for this street,” Knoll said.

While expanding the area’s visibility has been a priority for Association members, preserving its image has been of equal importance. By July, Copus said he hoped to have the final draft of the Coast Village vision plan turned into the City Council. The draft overlay, as it is also known, would serve as an aesthetic and architectural guide for City leaders in making land use decisions.

“This is all about showing the City how serious we are about preserving this place,” Copus said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we remained undeveloped and stayed just the way we are?”

Association board member Jan Atkins, who is also managing director of Atkins Hotel Advisory, said the vision plan would be helpful to a City Council she claimed was “leaning toward neighborhood interests,” rather than citywide planning consistency.

The document would work similarly to the Montecito Community Plan, the 15-year-old land use constitution. Joan Wells, who worked on the 1992 General Plan Advisory Committee that drafted that text, lauded the significance of having a document that helps communities maintain some autonomy and control their own destinies.

“Historically, the Board of Supervisors has been very good about recognizing the uniqueness of Montecito as an asset to the county,” Wells said.

The five-page draft overlay establishes these neighborhood interests in full, not just in architecture and design, but also in preferences for business makeup. The document identifies a number of broad goals, from protecting “historic and architectural qualities” to promoting “high standards in architectural design” and “neighborhood compatibility” to preserving “natural areas.”

In specific, the plan would create building height restrictions of three stories and 45 feet and require setbacks of 10 feet. It means to preserve the quaintness and charm of one- and two-story Spanish Colonial buildings that line the street and aims to celebrate more prominent structures like the Montecito Inn, an edifice built in the 1920s and associated with Hollywood celebrities like Charlie Chaplin.

The document also goes beyond defining architectural regulations, parking restrictions and the like, but it also sets limits on the number of business types within the area. For instance, the plan would call for “a maximum of one coffee shop per chain allowable in the area” – such as one Starbucks and one Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

“In order to protect the present and future diversity of the area, the area should not be lined with a restaurant, gas station, hotel, grocery supermarket and residential building every other building,” the vision plan states.

Copus, who is general manager of the family-run Montecito Inn, admitted this provision was partly in response to an oncoming proposal for a commercial and residential complex directly across the street from his hotel. The three-story facility, which will be heard by the City Planning Commission this spring, will include retail space that Copus said could attract chain businesses such as Starbucks paying top-dollar leases.

Completion of the vision plan, which requires certification by the City Council, is seen by Association members as the first step toward the formation of a Coast Village Business Improvement District, or BID. The BID, a fee-based program that needs approval from a majority of all Coast Village businesses, is designed for merchants to build clout with City leaders and gain access to public services, such as replacement of trashcans. Critics of the program, such as Joe Lombardo, an Association board member and owner of Captain Video, contend that BIDs trick merchants into paying for services they already pay for, through taxes and fees for business licenses.

City Councilman Brian Barnwell, who has encouraged the Association to finish its vision plan and form a BID, said local leaders don’t often know Coast Village is part of Santa Barbara, and not Montecito. A BID, he said back in 2005, would go a long way to put Coast Village back on the radar.

“In the minds of many people, Coast Village Road is in Montecito, even to some council members,” Barnwell said, “and that’s unfortunate.”

Team to Hold Draft on Thursday

The Santa Barbara Breakers, Curt Pickering’s pro basketball franchise that begins its maiden season on April 13, will be drafting 10 players during an announcement ceremony this Thursday at Madison’s.

Pickering’s team will include UCSB standouts Adama Ndiaye and Branduinn Fullove, former USC player Sam Clancy, Shantay Legan and former NBA first round pick Erick Barkley. Thursday’s draft will fill out the roster, with possible picks Santiago Aguirre, a Santa Barbara native who played at Westmont College, UCSB player Cecil Brown and Cal Poly’s Derek Stockalper in attendance.

During a phone conversation, Pickering reasserted the value of putting local talent on showcase. “This is an opportunity for fans who have followed these players through college to watch them for the first time at the pro level,” said Pickering, who founded the Montecito Basketball Academy.

The draft will be held at Madison’s, 525 State Street, at 7 pm, on March 22.

High School Madrigals Raises Money for Trip

Santa Barbara High School’s 27 Madrigal Singers are set to go to France this June for a summer singing series, but they’re about $23,000 short of the necessary funds. Parents have raised the bulk of the needed $90,000 and now kids are seeking the help of area residents and businesses to help out with the rest. The June 20-26 trip, the culmination of months of practices and rehearsals, will bring the kids to some of France’s most storied and legendary venues, from the Cathedral of Chartres to Notre Dame, in Paris.

“It’s an amazing experience for kids to get out of this environment. It just opens their eyes and gives them a new perspective,” said Carla Case, a member of the trip’s steering committee whose daughter, Lisa, is one of the singers.

For ongoing weeks, the Madrigal Singers have led an ambitious fundraising drive using mailouts and public appearances, such as regular performances at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. On April 29, the students will host a Sunday brunch at Rose Story Farm that includes a silent auction.

The high school’s Madrigals program has historically been a helpful springboard for some of the area’s best and brightest performers. Recent examples include Evan Hughes, a standout at last year’s Music Academy of the West summer concerts, and Blake Berris, the Montecito Union alumnus who now plays Nick Fallon on the daytime soap opera, “Days of our Lives.”

Madrigals has a special Montecito connection, Case said, in that it keeps students well-connected to their past. Case’s son, John, who attended the Madrigals tour of England and Wales two years ago, learned at the high school under Phillip McLendon, the school’s choral director. Before that, his music upbringing was shepherded by McLendon’s wife, Pam, who is music director at Montecito Union.

While sightseeing and relaxation will be encouraged parts of the trip to France, Case said the singing tour will involve as much effort as the practice time needed to make the weeklong visit possible.

“They’re going to work their hineys off out there,” Case said, “but they’re going to see a lot of wonderful things out there too.”

The brunch will be held on April 29, from noon to 3 pm, at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria. Tickets are $20. For more info call Carla Case at 565-0034 or visit www.madz.org.