(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)

Thank you, Mr. Warner

Thank you so much for the informative article on the Coral Casino and the interview with Ty Warner. Mr. Warner has brought elegance to what was an embarrassment. His hands-on approach with all his properties is above the norm. The Ranch and The Biltmore are extraordinarily decorated with antiques and art that Ty picked out. His attention to detail and the desire for perfection are commendable. And those ceramic pigs! Personal touches like those make the properties so very special.

We owe Mr. Warner a monumental debt of gratitude for his vision and dedication to perfection. His desire to bring his properties to the highest possible standards is exemplary. We are blessed to have Ty Warner in our community.

Catherine Baker-Hall

Montecito

Bias Management Therapy

Oh my gosh, who would have guessed that a simple commentary from Mr. Connerly would become the stalking horse for community racism. It doesn't take the head cashier at Wal-Mart to figure this one out. Gee, before the old geezers start puffing up with "rebuttals" maybe a little 'Bias Management Therapy' would be in order.

In the meantime, I happen to work for a white-owned business and while my boss is quite open-minded I'd rather not tempt fate so sign me,

John Macker

Montecito

(Editor’s note: Mr. Bostick actually did send us a “letter” of rebuttal, but it was just too insulting and demeaning towards Mr. Connerly to print. – T.L.B.)

Olive Mill Lane Solution

In May, Montecito Journal published our letter and accompanying photographs in which we presented the devastating consequences of a homeowner’s decision to relocate a utility pole in anticipation of expanding his residence and outdoor amenities (Saving Our Trees, May 17, 2007). With scant regard for the potential community impact, the homeowner removed a stand of mature, skyline cypress trees that were an enduring asset to an entire neighborhood. In place of the beloved trees, the neighborhood now sees an ugly 45’ tall pole and heavy wires that, in their prior location, were obscured by vegetation.

The homeowners had been advised by County planning staff and the then-president of the Montecito Association that he did not need a permit to remove the trees because cypress trees are not a protected species, and Southern California Edison (SCE) determined that he could not underground utilities in his backyard because SCE lacks access to the area and the undergrounding would destabilize tree roots. Armed with this information, the homeowner concluded that he was acting properly and reasonably in removing the trees from his yard.

The neighbors challenged the homeowner’s proposed development project throughout the County’s permit review process. However, to our great frustration, in numerous MBAR hearings and a Montecito Planning Commission hearing that resulted in approval of the controversial project, the County maintained consistently that because it has no permit requirements for the removal of cypress trees, and because it does not consider pre-application site work as part of a project’s total impact, it could not require the homeowner to mitigate the damage done to the neighborhood.

While we would not go as far to say, “All’s well that ends well,” we do want to report that there has been an ending to this controversy that bodes well for positive change – both in the neighborhood and in the community. We are pleased to report that, with the assistance of First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and SCE, the immediately adjacent property owners have agreed to cooperate in an investigation of the feasibility of undergrounding utilities along Olive Mill Lane. This project will serve to remove the particular pole and wires that have been the subject of controversy. Depending upon the scope of the project and the willingness of other property owners to participate, it could result in the removal of all the existing poles and wires along Olive Mill Lane. Ironically, this solution probably was available as an alternative at the time SCE advised the homeowner that backyard undergrounding was not feasible, but of course undergrounding in the street would not have been a feasible undertaking for any single property owner.

We have also given careful consideration to the types of changes in County ordinances and procedures that would prevent a similar situation from recurring. We see three problems that need to be addressed:

Problem 1: While policies stated in the Montecito Community Plan and the Development Standards of the County Land Use mandate the preservation of specimen and a tree removal permit for such trees, there is no forum for review unless the tree removal is proposed as part of a larger development project.

Proposed Solution: We propose an amendment to County ordinances that would require a permit for removal of any and all trees that are identified for protection under the Montecito Community Plan and Development Standards of the County Land Use and Development Code.

Problem 2: Because there is no current provision for consideration of impacts associated with pre-application site work, including tree removal, during the review of planning permit applications, developers have an incentive to undertake as much work as possible before filing any application for review, making the policies intended to protect important trees virtually unenforceable.

Proposed Solution: We propose a “look back” amendment to County ordinances that would define every development project to include all site work, including tree removal, undertaken in the calendar year preceding the date of a permit application, thereby expanding the review of project impacts to include these pre-application activities.

Problem 3: Because there is no process by which the impacts of proposed utility relocation are reviewed by the County, with neighborhood involvement, before a SCE project commences, opportunities for consideration of alternatives for less detrimental installations do not exist.

Proposed Solution: We suggest the County develop and propose to SCE a collaborative process in which SCE will provide notice to the County of pending utility projects and the County will take responsibility for notifying neighbors who may be impacted by the project so that they may review and comment on plans.

Supervisor Carbajal has asked the County’s Oversight Committee-Process Improvement Team to undertake further study of these proposals, and we will be following the Committee’s discussion with interest.

We believe the preservation of our heritage trees is a matter of broad community concern, and we hope you will join us in letting Supervisor Carbajal know you support his and our effort to achieve protection for Montecito’s trees through appropriate amendments to County ordinances.

Sincerely,

Neighbors for Heritage Trees

Montecito