(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)

Unforeseen Consequences

In response to “The Montecito Memo” by Michael Jaffe (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/11/835/):

"In this case, the undue delay was caused by the hope some real changes would be forthcoming.” You're right; they should have denied this project earlier, then maybe Hurst would have gotten less sympathy from the MPC and build a house compatible with the site.

"We understand that there are subjective neighborhood compatibility questions and other minor issues to consider." One of the other minor issues was the amount of cut fill required to squeeze these plans onto the buildable platform. Another minor issue is drainage, considering the new amount of hardscape. Also this is water not returning to aquifers. In an area that has problems with drought we owe it to the community to be vigilant and not just rubber-stamp a plan because it's within the FARs or because another house that is 80 years old and built when the property was at least ten times larger is on the same size lot now.

We must consider each project for its own merit or who knows what Montecito will be in the near future.

Thank you for your time and concern,

Rebecca and Chuck Kaye

Montecito

Publicity Much Appreciated

As a member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Music Academy of the West, I want to thank you for publicizing our May Madness event with such a nice article and accompanying photographs. Your help in raising awareness of this event is much appreciated. It is good neighbors like the staff at the Montecito Journal who support our fundraising that makes it possible to provide student scholarships. During the summer, I hope the Journal can attend some of the performances of these young, talented musicians – the sounds are joyous. Sydney Tredick

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: Gee Thanks! We will gladly take you up on your offer. – TLB)

Case Closed: Population in Decline

For all who have been screaming from the mountaintops that the South Coast is experiencing rampant, uncontrolled growth, the issue can now be put to rest. Population has declined for the third straight year in Santa Barbara County.

Annually, the Census Bureau conducts estimated population updates based on data from other federal agencies including the Internal Revenue Service. The data shows that while Santa Barbara County is losing population, neighboring San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties’ population grew. Why? High housing costs are forcing more and more people to move out of our community and to commute on the already clogged highways into the South Coast.

What does the future hold in store for the South Coast? A huge number of fully employed people – service workers, office personnel, teachers, police officers, hospital workers, firefighters, municipal workers and management – squeezed out of the community they serve because of the housing crunch. We cannot be considered a healthy, vibrant and diverse community while we continually lose our workforce.

Chris Henson

Coalition Director, Coastal Housing Coalition

(Publisher’s note: On the one hand, those people who moved and purchased homes in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties made wise financial decisions. On the other hand, if population continues to decline [we can dream, can’t we?], that would obviate the need for ever more service and municipal workers, management, police officers, etc. If that happened, perhaps our roads would become less congested without going through the dreaded widening of 101. – TLB)

Saving Our Trees

Recently the Montecito Community Plan lost a few more teeth, and the community permanently lost a few more of its skyline heritage trees. In their place, a new 45' tall power pole and relocated power lines bear mute testimony to the inadequacy of current County rules and their interpretation. While an entire neighborhood came forward seeking protection, the Montecito Planning Commission refused (on March 21) to take action, instead signaling to our community that the beauty and gentile way of life we all enjoy is under assault.

Newcomers [and longtime residents] are free to cut down beautiful heritage trees and relocate a power pole to make room for new construction, as long as they do it before they apply for a development permit. We were shocked and disappointed when our community representatives refused to exercise any discretion to protect the natural landscape that makes Montecito the place we all enjoy. Instead they relied on the view of Planning Staff that if an applicant undertakes site work before applying for a permit, the County must treat the site as if it had been bare all along. We think it is important for the entire community to know of this travesty before it happens to the next neighborhood.

Here is what happened. A family moved to our neighborhood in 2005, ostensibly because the new owners appreciate the community’s lovely semi-rural character. They then immediately cut down a towering grove of majestic cypress trees that have been a focal point and neighborhood backdrop for more than 60 years. Why? Because they had paid top dollar for the half-acre lot and modest home and wanted to clear and be able to use as much of the property as possible. The trees were in the way of the proposed relocation of a power pole from elsewhere in the yard and compromised the location of a planned pool and other backyard amenities. So the trees were chopped down and in their place the entire neighborhood now sees a taller, relocated 45' power pole with heavy lines no longer obscured by vegetation. In addition, several ancient oaks were severely pruned on his and his neighbor’s property to make room for the new lines – oaks that will never be the same because Edison requires that these clearances be maintained. Only after this new owner had rearranged his property to allow for development plans did he apply for a Coastal Development Permit.

While the Montecito Board of Architectural Review (MBAR) reduced the scale of the proposed development to be more compatible with the neighborhood, County Staff said that the MBAR could do nothing to address the pre-project devastation of the site. The badly-impacted neighbors appealed the MBAR and Planning Staff’s approval of this project, asking the Montecito Planning Commission to require mitigation for the damage done to the community, but the Commission refused after Planning Staff again advised that because the tree removal preceded the permit application, the site work could not be considered part of the project under current ordinances.

We think it is just plain wrong that a property owner can so impact the community and avoid review of the full impact of his project by piecemealing it in this manner. Right now County ordinances apparently require no permit to remove cypress trees as a protected species, but that should not be the end of the inquiry. The Montecito Community Plan mandates that specimen trees such as these “shall be preserved to the maximum extent feasible.” Changes are needed to ensure that every project is reviewed under this policy and that the project is defined to include all pre-development site work. Moreover, Edison should not be able to undertake projects like the relocation of a tall pole in a developed neighborhood without notice to a neighborhood.

The newcomer to our community claims he feared the trees when he bought his property. He says they were a threat to the home. If every property owner in Montecito felt that our majestic trees are a nuisance, there would be no tall trees at all in Montecito, and ugly power poles and power lines would instead dominate our entire skyline. There are plenty of communities closer to Los Angeles where people who are afraid of trees can live in a tree-free environment. Montecito is not one of them.

The neighbors have appealed the Montecito Planning Commission decision of the piecemealed project to the Board of Supervisors, and the appeal is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, June 19 at 9 am. We ask you to express your views on the Olive Mill Lane project to First District Supervisor, Salud Carbajal (568-2186), and other Supervisors whose contact information may be found at the County website, www.countyofsb.org. We also ask you to join us in contacting members of the Montecito Planning Commission and the Montecito Board of Architectural Review (contact information also available at the County website) to demand that the Montecito Community Plan be honored and the ordinances changed so that our heritage trees will be protected from those with callous disregard for their contribution to our community.

Sincerely,

Neighbors for Heritage Trees

(Publisher’s Note: It is always sad to see older trees removed from existing sites but at what point do we draw the line? Would a 50-year-old eucalyptus tree fall under “heritage” status? If so, they do pose certain dangers as they get larger and are susceptible to the occasional high winds; the same holds true for the remaining Monterey pines around Middle and Summit Roads; their lifespan is 50 to 70 years and pose a threat after their useful life has ended. If protected, imagine the difficulty to remove one if safety was an issue. Trees are, however, one of the many reasons why Montecito is such a desirable place. Trees and shrubs play a major role in reducing noise from the 101 freeway, so saving and protecting them is simply enlightened self-interest as well as good husbandry. As for the power lines, removing these eyesores from Montecito should be a priority. Unfortunately, unless each property owner steps forwards and undergrounds their own utility, the likelihood is those huge poles will be in our skyline for a while. – TLB)