The Miramar Moves On

Nearly two-dozen speakers spoke in support of the new Miramar project put forward and presented to the Montecito Board of Architectural Review by Caruso Affiliated on Monday, July 30. Among those that came out to hear the details of L.A. developer Rick Caruso’s plan to rebuild and rejuvenate the historic beachfront hotel included a bevy of high-profile Montecito residents, including Brad Hall, his wife, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Christopher Lloyd, Ivan Reitman, Sally Jordan, Alyce Faye Cleese, Nina Terzian, Mollie Ahlstrand, and others.

Caruso would like to begin construction in early ’08, and most Montecito residents would like to see that happen, especially those living near the crumbling remains of the old Miramar. Voices of Montecito, a 400-strong organization, sent a memo to its membership, urging attendance at this very first official public hearing that proved effective. “Given the history of this property and the treatment that some other projects have received and are receiving from various groups and agencies involved in the planning process in the city, the county and specifically in Montecito,” the e-mail read, “we believe that strong community representation would help our various officials understand that this project is to be treated with respect, urgency, and diligence, and without undue delay or frivolous conditions attached to the plan. If your schedule allows, please plan to attend...”

We spoke with Mr. Caruso, as he and his staff waited outside before making their presentation and asked if there was “anything new” or different from what we had written about last month. His answer: “No. It’s the same plan that we’re presenting today; it’s our first public hearing,” he said, and admitted that he’d “worked a long time to get here” and hoped the plans, as submitted to the county, would allow him to “keep moving forward.”

A survey of sentiment underscored the depth of support for the project. Nina Terzian, for example, said she “totally” supports Caruso. “I’m a seashell’s toss away [from the Miramar],” she said with a smile, “and I’m tired of living so close to a building where the termites walk away with little pieces of board.” She joked that the termites were apparently “building their own little hotel somewhere. They’re doing something, these termites.” On a more serious note, she added that she just wants “to see something beautiful,” and believes Rick Caruso “is the man to do it… They say the third time’s the charm,” she continued, “and we’ve met our prince charming. We’re all looking forward to his castle in the sand; we don’t want it to be another fairytale.”

Marilyn Rea, with Prudential California Realty, noted that Caruso had “knocked on more doors than Avon ever dreamed of” and has come up with “a design that is beautiful.” She said she welcomed it, and can’t wait to see it completed. “Right now,” she added, “it’s sad to drive by. I hope they’ll expedite this and push it on through and let’s get going. Lastly, I want to say,” she concluded, “Mr. Caruso, tear down those walls!”

Julia Louis Dreyfus was non-committal, explaining that she wanted to attend because, “I love Santa Barbara; that’s why I’m here, to help keep it as wonderful as it is. We live near the project and my husband (Brad Hall) was born practically next door to the project, so we have a vested interest in it.”

Alyce Faye Cleese hoped “Rick will do great things here,” and Christopher Lloyd said he just hopes “it works out.” Mindy Denson, who helped organize some of the support for the hearing (along with Nina Terzian) said that “after spending twenty-two years at the old Miramar with family, I felt I needed to come down and see what progress they’re making as far as the new Miramar goes.”

Wayne Siemens gave high marks to Caruso, wished him luck and said he “can’t wait to have our first Margarita out on the terrace of the new hotel.”

Sally Jordan, who moved here twelve years ago, “charmed by the small village atmosphere,” said that before buying, she inquired as to “what guarantee there was that this small village atmosphere would continue,” and was told the Montecito Community Plan would keep it this way.

“The defenders of the Montecito Community Plan are The Montecito Association, The Montecito Board of Architectural Review and the Montecito Planning Commission; they are our guardians at the gate,” Ms Jordan proffered. “If the new owner of the Miramar is willing to stay within the rules and regulations of the Community Plan,” she continued, “he has our undying support and our enthusiastic welcome… his obvious intent to honor the three institutions that protect the community plan will make him sail through with flags flying.”

Although we have heard County staff has been less than accommodative, insisting in a detailed letter that Caruso’s recently submitted application was woefully incomplete, there is no indication that Mr. Caruso has any intention of doing anything other than continue down the honorable path in a spirit of compromise and community input.

We too wish him luck, success, and a speedy approval process. The sad old Miramar has been a Montecito eyesore for way too long.

Preserving & Renewing La Casa de Maria Retreat Center

Last issue, we featured Alyce Faye Cleese’s determined effort to help former nuns Carol Carrig, Juliet Twomey, and Stephanie Glatt, raise some $600,000+ in order to retire the remaining principal on what had been a $2.2-million mortgage on the 26-acre La Casa de Maria in Montecito. That $600,000+ will be equaled via an anonymous $1-million matching donation; over $300,000 has already been raised and matched. Once the mortgage is retired, the La Casa de Maria capital campaign will be able to concentrate on much needed repairs to the buildings and the grounds.

Some of the things they need are: $50,000 for a new floor in the main chapel; $20,000 for a new heating system; $3,000 to repair the pipe organ; $23,000 (per room) to renovate each retreat room and its bathroom; $30,700 to install solar panels that would meet all the electric needs for all the rooms; $7,000 to install French drains and gutters around the meditation chapel; $25,000 for a half-year’s salary to a garden manager to replant the organic garden; $6,500 for a tractor and tools; $3,000 for a walk-in cooler; $3,000 to upgrade an existing shed & cellar; $2,400 for a rototiller; $1,000 per tree to restore and preserve the oaks; $1,000 per tree to plant fruit orchard.

Commemorative gifts for any of the above items qualify for tax deductions via a 501(c) 3 California non-profit corporation, and naming possibilities abound. If you’ve never walked the grounds (you can enter from San Ysidro Lane or at the end of El Bosque), please do; it will take you back in time and may even inspire you to help preserve what is surely a great Montecito heirloom. We invite you to call 805-969-5031 for information and inspiration.

Fiesta Finale’s “Una Noche de Gala”

The eighth annual Fiesta Finale takes place once again in the Sunken Gardens outside Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This event has been a favorite of ours since its inception, and it has been heartening to watch its popularity grow. Fiesta Finale is the final public event of Old Spanish Days Fiesta week, and takes place on Sunday, August 5. The first year, one could count the small number of attendees on blankets on the grass behind the courthouse; they had heard of the event through the grapevine, or perhaps had a family member performing on the makeshift stage. As the years progressed, however, the multitudes have grown; it is now, it seems, one of the most popular free outdoor events to occur during Old Spanish Days.

Before and leading up to Fiesta Finale is a fundraiser that helps pay for the event and, more importantly, helps fund the Profant Foundation scholarships given to writers and artists in pursuit of a career in the arts. The $200 per person “Una Noche de Gala” features an auction (a ride on the Goodyear airship is one of this year’s special offerings; another is an original James Paul Brown painting), a promenade in the courthouse loggia, with most attendees resplendent in their Fiesta finery, a catered and elegant dinner, and front row seats for the outdoor performances.

Those performances include Latin legend Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, the Santa Barbara debut of pianist Rudolf Budginas, Flamenco dancer Timo Nunez (now performing with Los Angeles Opera), exhibition ballroom dancing from Santa Barbara Dance Center, choreography by Francisco Martinez DanceTheatre, “Bolero” by State Street Ballet dancers, and the Cabreras break out the historic Brosik masks for a dance spectacular.

Among those joining Marie Profant in honoring local supporters of the arts via the Michelangelo Award will be Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone.

The Gala begins at 5 pm; the outdoor performances at 8 pm. If you plan to stay through to the end, be sure to bring something warm; it’s guaranteed to get downright chilly. Those coming strictly for the outdoor show should bring their own lawn chairs and/or blankets. Most tourists will have departed, and the lawn will be filled with friends and neighbors, Santa Barbarinos all. For more information and/or tickets to the gala, please call the Arlington Box Office at 805-963-4408. The Profant Foundation for the Arts is also a 501 (c) 3 organization.