Getting Ready For Big Changes

Over the last 50 years, Montecito, for the most part, from its meandering roads to its quiet beaches, has protected itself from most of the growth and popularity the rest of California has experienced. But in the next three to five years, Montecito is going to change significantly, and whether for better or worse, those of us who’ve lived here for a long time should be prepared for those changes.

Coast Village Complex: A proposed three-story building will most likely occupy the land where Coast Village Road 76 station presently occupies. The project would be a mix of residential and commercial office space. At a proposed height of 35 feet with a tower reaching nearly 41 feet, it is likely to alter the dynamic on Coast Village Road and attract more commuters to the area. Presumably, it won’t set a precedent and cause Coast Village to gain third-story buildings all the way to Vons.

Coast Village Road Roundabout/Southbound 101: The removal of the 101 southbound entrance at Hot Springs and the addition of a two-lane roundabout at the intersection of Hot Springs and Coast Village roads will take place beginning early 2008. Closing the 101 southbound entrance at Hot Springs will, we believe, greatly – and negatively – impact Coast Village Road. We have been assured Montecito residents that additional signage will be added at Garden and Milpas along Cabrillo Boulevard to steer beach goers heading south away from Montecito surface roads. But, we fear Coast Village Road will become the new freeway alternative entry point for many vehicles searching for a seaside route south. The Hot Springs-Coast Village roundabout, on the other hand, will ensure that making a left turn from Coast Village Circle onto Coast Village Road will become a near impossibility.

Miramar Hotel: New plans have yet to be submitted, but those plans, we believe, will be ready before summer. A renovated and revived Miramar hotel & resort will not only erase what is now an unsightly blight, but with its restaurants, convention center, bar, and beach & tennis club will also bring more buzz – and traffic – to the area. Hoped-for construction is set to begin in 2008.

Montecito Country Club: Extensive renovations are in store during the next five years. Hotelier Ty Warner is attempting to bring world-class status to it by hiring Jack Nicklaus to re-design the golf course. Planned changes would add some 500 yards to the golf course, along with an interior upgrade of the clubhouse.

Westmont College: Assuming a lawsuit doesn’t halt construction, the newly approved Master Plan will add an additional 300,000 square feet to the campus. Still, 2,000 ADTs (average daily trips) below its allotment under the Montecito Community Plan, Westmont will be allowed a total of 3,500 ADTs to Cold Spring Road.

Channel Drive Seawall & Steps: A positive addition to our coastline that will replace the worn and decrepit wall on the beach side of the Biltmore on Channel Drive. After being battered by storms, the steps at Butterfly beach crumbled, closing down a very popular public access point adjacent to the Biltmore. The new wall, complete with the “controversial” brick planters, should be finished by late 2008.

Coral Casino Remodel: By the end of this summer, Coral Casino members will have their club back. With the addition of a second-story restaurant by December, and the attention to detail Mr. Warner puts in all his projects, Coral Casino should have a whole new feel.

101 freeway expansion: In the face of the inevitable widening of the 101, Montecito must continue the fight to protect its canopy of trees that welcomes visitors and residents as they round Fernald Point. It would be a huge loss to the entire area if Caltrans were allowed to turn this stretch of 101 into another cement-lined freeway. Projected construction time: upwards of 10 years!

Former Shell Station on Coast Village Road: The intersection of Hot Springs Road and Old Coast Highway remains a fenced-in empty lot, although a smidgen of activity has been observed recently. That very visible location is due for some sort of construction over the next three to five years. We would prefer something public like a park or fountain, but Vons Shopping Center’s owners probably have something else in mind.

The above is a short list of upcoming projects. We realize nothing stays the same, but allow us to wax nostalgic for an era – 10 years ago? – when change seemed neither so pressing nor so imminent.