Unfair and Unequal

I urge all of you who are able to attend the February 20 meeting of the Montecito Water Board to be held at 595 San Ysidro Road at 2 pm.

Let the board know that we are dissatisfied with the unfair and unequal way that water rates have been raised for the past 14 years.

During the past 14 years, the board has seen fit to raise rates for residential and other user classes 10 times; during the same period of 14 years it has not raised the rates for commercial users, not once.

This board, unlike other boards in the county, continues to favor large commercial users, i.e. hotels, restaurants, gas stations, coffee chains, etc.

What this does, in effect, is force residents to subsidize the profits of these companies, while they are free to raise prices for their services.

I think it is only fair that if we are all getting water rate increases, commercial rates should be raised also. In fact if this were being done for the last 14 years, residential rates would be lower.

Also, why does the board hold important meetings at a time when most residents are either working or have to pick up their children from school?

Yours truly,

David Strauss

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: Thank you. We will be covering this issue more closely as we approach February’s meeting, but it is worth considering that when commercial water rates go up, so will prices for products and services delivered by those commercial users. – TLB)

Basic Rules of Real Estate

From some of your recent letters it seems that various people are deficient in the basic rules of real estate. For the New Year, here are 10 suggestions that may be of some use in the future so we may avoid such querulous correspondence:

1. If the natural sound of the ocean waves bugs you then do not consider a beach house.

2. If sunshine is important, keep away from hollows, canyons or low spots.

3. If a view is a must, move away from sea level sections of town.

4. If you hate hearing the old traditional sounds of Mission or church bells, veer from such locations.

5. If traffic or engine noise is disturbing, don't buy on busy streets or near the freeway, railroad or hospital.

6. You get dizzy driving up hills, so avoid the foothills.

7. Do not assume that the empty legal lots next to a residence will always remain that way. If you want them to stay empty then buy them.

8. You hate the normal hustle and bustle of life then stay away from all business sections.

9. If bothersome to you, school or college areas where our young people are being educated should be avoided. Such long established institutions are unlikely to move to satisfy your needs.

10. If nothing in this town fulfills your requirements, there are many other places, and it may be good to leave the long-time residents here to enjoy this one.

Sincerely,

Keith Schofield

40-year Santa Barbara resident

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: Well said, sir! Many of the recent controversies and/or complaints have risen from unexpected development. – TLB)

Market Stays Strong

Mark Schneidman’s “Real Estate View” (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/2/654/) offered general statistics regarding the South Coast market, yet did not include data important to the Montecito market.

In spite of a broadly shared perception of weakening resale prices suggesting a new buyers’ market, the median sales price for Montecito residential properties in 2006 actually increased to $2.7 million – a 10.2% increase over the 2005 median sales price of $2.45 million.

Clearly Montecito sellers were not swayed by the ubiquitous “bubble” theorists. In fact, they collectively listed their homes for 5% more than they did in 2005 (’05 – $2.85 million; ’06 – $2.99 million). And according to the latest January MLS data, the Montecito median list price is a staggering $3.7 million, suggesting an extremely confident group of sellers.

If one believed these numbers simply demonstrate high-end markets like Montecito are necessarily more resilient to price erosion, than how do we explain Hope Ranch’s median sales price decline of 22.5% from $3.67 million in ‘05 to $2.8 million last year? As many of us suspect, it may well be different here.

Whether and for how long these numbers continue, of course, remains to be seen. Buyers are increasingly taking their time to sign their names. Multiple offers, once a fairly common occurrence, are now at best rare. And there is a slight increase over last year in the number of new listings and a higher inventory generally benefits the buyer. Perhaps most significant is the current 27% differential between sellers’ asking prices and what buyers are willing to pay: not an insignificant amount when applied to our median market price.

This “gap,” as my fellow realtor Gary Woods has coined it, should in a typical market close to about 5%. If indeed “typical” applies to the Montecito market, then when and from what direction this differential decreases are the events to watch. For 2006, however, Montecito sellers were the winners.

Michael Phillips

Phillips Real Estate

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: Over the past five years or so I have had the pleasure of living in different parts of the country and observing many different real estate markets. In Bozeman, Montana homes were selling for close to $1 million for an 8,000-square-foot lot near campus. Based upon those observations, I can’t help believing that Montecito is still under-valued. – TLB)

Responsible Journalism

I wrote addressing responsible journalism. This is America. You are free to think and write whatever you like. I am sorry that I have been unable to help you understand that when you exclude Fair Housing from a community you are excluding people. That is where it becomes a matter for others to determine.

Our legislators understood the powerful effect that words can have enough to draft and pass Anti-NIMBY Laws. That is also the reason why Fair Housing is protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Your claim that you are doing some kind of public benefit as a preservationist would appear a lot stronger if there were some accessible/affordable opportunities for housing in Montecito.

I imagine there are many laws that some individuals might not agree with. But you don't get to pick and choose the ones you like and disregard the others.

I write a letter and feelings are hurt. You write an editorial and it is me living in the bushes next. I told you before that I don't like the odds.

Karen Friedman

Carpinteria

(Publisher’s Note: We disagree with you ideologically but we are not entirely against Affordable Housing. We have a serious problem with the current housing policies and feel that people who truly need assistance are getting passed up by people who know how to abuse/use the system. When someone making over $120,000 can apply for subsidized housing it is ridiculous that our taxes have to subsidize their lifestyle. – TLB)