Hillside Lots and the Barry Siegel Bikeway

There are some 50 undeveloped hillside lots in Montecito and any construction and/or development on those parcels will impact the Montecito skyline. Because of that, the October 9 Montecito Association board meeting included a discussion of whether and when to hold a community workshop to give residents the opportunity to participate in talks concerning the subject.

The workshop would bring together representatives from the Montecito Planning Commission, the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, residents, and Montecito Association directors. M.A. President Bill Palladini hopes to hold the workshop in November.

During the meeting, the board appointed Monica Brock Petersen as its newest member. Petersen is an attorney, a certified mediator, and has been a resident of Montecito for four years. Ted Simmons introduced her as an “extremely qualified” candidate and there seemed to be no disagreement among board members or the public.

Resident Jon Warner brought up what he sees as the problem of hovering helicopters at celebrity events in Montecito. According to Warner, it may be possible to obtain an “anti-hovering” ordinance. Vice President Diane Pannkuk suggested the idea is “worth investigating” and appointed Warner and Palladini to form a study group to research the issue. On the subject of large celebrity events, the association also acted to ratify a letter to Supervisor Carbajal regarding large parties in the community.

The Beautification project is up and running! Mindy Denson reported that this year’s event will be more family oriented than usual, thanks to promised participation from the YMCA and Montecito Union School. Denson also informed the board that Maria Shriver, wife of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady of California was expected to attend the Beautification Day event honoring Montecito’s firemen, Fire Chief Kevin Wallace, and MERRAG (Montecito Emergency Recovery & Response Action Group), but had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict.

Shriver has committed, however, to attend a disaster preparedness event, scheduled for sometime this spring. Donations to fund the Beautification project are still being accepted (call 805-969-2026 for more info on that), and the Beautification Committee continues to seek nominations. Simple items such as mailboxes, gates, and even Halloween decorations can be submitted for consideration. Beautification Day is Saturday, November 3, beginning at 9 am.

Bob Roebuck, General Manager of the Montecito Water District, announced his retirement at the meeting. He introduced his successor, Tom Mosby, who currently holds the position of Engineering Manager. The pair asked for and were granted a spot on the agenda next month in order to hold a presentation based on water supply and demand.

Additionally, board members announced their formal decision to honor the late Barry Siegel by naming the Ortega Hill bike path after him. Pannkuk cited Siegel’s interest in “alternate means of transportation” in choosing the memorial project. The money for the project will come from private donations rather than the Montecito Foundation. “I don’t feel comfortable using Foundation monies in this way,” Pannkuk said.

Other notable topics at the meeting included discussion of tree removal permits, noise ordinances, low crime rates, and a reminder that fire season is at its peak. The next meeting will be held Tuesday, November 13, beginning at 4 pm.

Crane School Construction Nears Completion

by Julia Rodgers

Back in 1928, when Crane Country Day School was founded and its first-, second-, and third-grade classrooms were built, a classroom measuring 550 square feet seemed plenty big enough for 20 small children and a teacher.

But by today’s standards, those same-sized classrooms are small and crowded, and can no longer accommodate Crane’s philosophy of experiential, or active, learning. So last June, bulldozers demolished the almost 80-year-old classrooms. Since then, new classrooms more than twice the size of the old ones have risen in their place, in addition to three offices for administrators and faculty, which should be completed by the end of this month.

“In the hands of our teachers, it really will be transformational what will happen in the new classrooms,” said Crane Head of School Joel Weiss. “The space was so small before,” Weiss continues, “that the whole classroom was dominated by the desks. Now, the teachers will have so much more discretionary space.”

Each new classroom will have 990 square feet, plus a covered deck, and all will have new furniture, including desks made with recycled materials. Even though the classrooms are increasing in size, the class size, limited to 20 children, will remain the same.

“I haven’t had enough room to do the type of teaching I like to do,” explained second-grade teacher Karen Ohrn. “We are so excited for the bigger space. The kids will be able to interact in groups,” she adds, “in a hands-on way, and be so creative.”

The $1.3 million project, currently on time and on budget, also includes building three small offices, one for the head of the lower school, one for the lower school Spanish teacher (whose previous office was a closet), and one for the lower school’s new math specialist.

The firm Giffin & Crane is building the new classrooms; one of the principals of the firm, Geoff Crane, is the grandson of the founder of the school. “Giffin and Crane worked tirelessly to match the architectural details of the school,” said Weiss. “Even though these are modern spaces, it’s a seamless transition.”

Administrators hope the new construction will be completed by the end of this month, so the school can give tours to visitors attending the upcoming Crane Country Fair on Sunday, October 28. During the construction, first-, second-, and third-grade classes are being held in a temporary trailer placed on the old tennis court.

With the completion of this project, Crane will have used all the available square footage allowed under its Conditional Use Permit (CUP), last updated in 1961. The k-8 school will now spend two to four years revising its master plan for any future expansion. “We’ve ended a chapter of building at Crane,” said Weiss. “The campus has never looked better!”