Montecito Planning Commission

At the April 16 Montecito Planning Commission meeting the board approved a request by the Planning and Development Department to recommend to the Board of Supervisors an ordinance that would revise road-naming procedures. The current procedure when naming or renaming an existing road includes a review by the MPC after notice to nearby owners and tenants is given.

The proposed changes to the procedure include a “waived hearing” approach, which gives neighbors an opportunity to request a hearing, but no hearing would be held otherwise. An appeal can only take place if a request for a hearing is submitted.

Recommendations for other changes to the Montecito Land Use and Development Code were made, including a revision in the process of approving time extensions for discretionary applications including conditional use permits and development plans. Similar to the road-naming revisions, P&D staff recommended that a waived hearing approach be adopted. However, an appeal by neighbors can take place before the MPC and Board of Supervisors if a hearing is waived. Both of these issues were items discussed during a Process Improvement Workshop at the February 20 MPC meeting.

The commissioners discussed the impending Miramar hearing scheduled for June 10. Vice chair Michael Phillips brought up the idea of hearing the Miramar project one aspect at a time. He said, “I recall that on the Westmont hearing the chair at the time worked out a schedule where we were looking at differentiated aspects of [the project] and I’m not so sure how that worked out; I was wondering is that going to happen with Miramar?” Chairman Bob Bierig answered, “I would prefer not to handle it that way. The problem I found with that approach is that we ended up having multiple hearings, although we suggested it was going to be on different aspects of the project, [each hearing] ended up encompassing all the aspects of the project. It seemed like we were constantly hearing the same material; I thought it was really inefficient for us and for staff.” He also added that the Miramar is a much smaller project than the Westmont Master Plan. Secretary Dianne Black agreed, explaining that staff and the applicant, Rick Caruso, have both prepared to present the project as a whole.

“We’re hopeful you can finish in one day,” said Black regarding the length of the hearing. Bierig mused, “I’m sure we’re going to get a lot of public comment and so that’s one concern that we may chew up a lot of our time with public comment and never get to deliberation before the end of the day.” Black answered, “It really depends on the scope of issues that are raised at the hearing and the depth you feel you need to go into those issues.”

The next hearing of the MPC is scheduled for Wednesday May 21.

Fire Evacuation Drill

On Saturday April 26, Montecito Fire Protection District will be conducting a fire drill to test the reverse 9-1-1 system and evaluate evacuation plans. The drill will be conducted in the west side of the District to educate the community on wildfire preparedness and evacuation; the scenario is based on a wind-driven wildfire burning into the evacuation zone.

Although the evacuation drill is voluntary, residents involved in the drill are encouraged to participate. Geri Simmons Ventura of the Montecito Fire Protection District says the drill will give residents and emergency service providers a realistic view of the potential impacts an evacuation could have.

“We’ve been working for over five months to make sure this happens and is a good training and learning experience,” said Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Wallace at this month’s Montecito Association meeting.

There will be emergency vehicles from different agencies responding to the area including: Montecito Fire Protection District, City of Santa Barbara Fire and Police Departments, County of Santa Barbara Fire and Sheriff’s Departments, Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District, Los Padres National Forest and California Highway Patrol. Additional support vehicles from Caltrans, Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Fire Safe Council, American Red Cross and Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group (MERRAG) will also be in the area.

For security purposes, additional law enforcement and community volunteers will patrol the evacuation area, and key areas may be monitored by cameras for both security and drill evaluation. According to Lieutenant Eric Koopmans of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, residents involved in the drill are asked to keep gates to their homes and property closed for security reasons. Please use caution if you are in the area.

The drill will begin at 9 am and will last approximately one to two hours. For more information visit www.montecitofire.com

MUS Carnival

Hundreds of people turned out on April 19 for Montecito Union School’s 39th Annual Carnival. Touted as the school PTA’s biggest fundraiser, this year was no exception. According to parent volunteer Marni Rozet, the Carnival brought in roughly $110,000, although firm numbers will take some time to be calculated. Rozet tells us $75,000-$80,000 will go directly back to school programs.

Kids of all ages and their parents enjoyed the day playing traditional carnival games, rock climbing, playing on the inflated slides and jumps provided by Luna’s Jump, competing in a Wii tournament, having their faces painted and more. Santa Barbara Non-profit Community Environmental Council (CEC) hosted a table featuring tips on how to help the environment, and each classroom held a silent auction to sell projects that the students has been working on. “MUS Idol,” a take-off of “American Idol,” was a hit attraction, hosted by Make it Work’s Eric Greenspan.

Woody’s BBQ and Here’s the Scoop provided the food, in addition to the dozens of homemade treats donated by families to be sold at the bake sale. Rozet said this year the carnival was one of the most successful, and she thanked committee chairs, volunteers and parents who helped make it happen.

Montecito Water Rates

Montecito Water District General Manager Tom Mosby tells us that possible rate increases are in a “very preliminary stage.” The District is examining a new rate structure, but it is still at a staff level, meaning the Water Board has not reached a consensus regarding the increase. “It’s a huge process,” Mosby said, assuring us that the public will be informed of meetings and a hearing once they are scheduled. “A lot of things are at stake when you do something like this,” he said.

You can read more on this issue in Tom’s column, On the Waterfront, page 30.

Santa Barbara Newcomers

If you or someone you know is new to town, you are invited to check out the Santa Barbara Newcomers Club, a local non-profit dedicated to introducing people to our community. President Fred Morguelan invited us to a recent board meeting and welcoming event to explain what Santa Barbara Newcomers is all about.

“It’s one of the best newcomers associations in the country,” Morguelan told us of the 53-year-old organization. With over 500 members, it is also one of the largest. Morguelan explained that the organization consists of over 30 committees that each hold monthly or weekly social activities. Committees cover a range of activities from athletic (including bicycling, hiking, golfing) to outings (including yachting, visual arts, performing arts) to eating out (including breakfast club, girls’ night out, wine appreciation) and club socials that take place at members’ homes.

Morguelan says the mission of SB Newcomers is to help “newbies” make friends and learn about the many social, cultural, and civic opportunities in the Santa Barbara area. The committees that comprise the club are formed by members who volunteer their time to organize get-togethers and events. “The beauty of this organization is the opportunity to get involved on committees. You work with each other and learn about each other; relationships deepen,” said Ciena Rose William, who organizes at which homes certain events will be held, and who serves on the “Community Service” committee.

Dee Elias, chairwoman of the “Girls’ Night Out” committee, told us the reason that committee was created is to allow women new to the community a place to foster friendships. “When you move, you miss your old friends,” she said, “This gives you a chance for girl talk like you used to have.” Her committee organizes social functions in addition to presentations and lectures on health and various topics.

Members of SB Newcomers range in age from 21-80, with many falling into the “retiree” category. “We have a committee targeting younger members,” said Board Historian Denise Stevens. “The Young Ones” Committee, as it’s called, organizes social events like dinner and dancing at local downtown venues.

Members receive a monthly newsletter announcing and describing each event and activity, with details on how to sign up and where to meet. Past President Stu Morse explained the unique thing about Newcomers is that the membership is always changing. “The organization is constantly recreating itself to be fresh and new,” he said. At times certain committees will cease to exist, to be replaced with another committee based on the interests of members. The ebb and flow of activities is what makes the organization adaptable to the wants and needs of the membership base. Business networking is frowned upon, according to Morse. “This organization is purely for fun and social networking,” he said. “We want members to start to feel like this is home,” added Stevens.

For more information visit www.sbnewcomers.org

Carpinteria Home and Garden Tour

This Saturday, April 26, Carpinteria Beautiful hosts its 12th Annual Carpinteria Home and Garden Tour. The self-guided tour will take participants to five different properties in Carpinteria, including two beachfront homes within a gated community and a remodeled tract home.

This year’s tour also includes a local artist’s condominium that boasts bamboo floors and furniture. Upstairs, the owner’s studio, which has never been open to the public, will be available for viewing. Another home on the tour is a house put together from two original bungalows once part of Ventura’s Pierpont Inn. Event co-chair Donnie Nair described the house as, “rustic on the outside, modern and inviting on the inside.”

All the homes chosen this year are “unique in decoration and design,” according to Nair. She told us the tour gives the 15,000 or so Carpinterians a chance to display some of what attracts them to their city. “We retain the feeling of a small California beach town,” Nair said, adding, “and this gives us a chance to show off what kind of town we are.”

Nair pointed out that the event has become “an established tradition.” She started it in 1996 after retiring from selling real estate, where she noticed that most people visiting open houses were not even in the market for a new home. “People are curious to how other people live,” she said, “How they decorate, what kind of art they have, how they landscape.” She told us people laughed at the idea of a Carpinteria Home and Garden tour. This year she expects that over 500 people will attend the event, with many people traveling from southern California and beyond. “We keep ourselves a secret but then we blow it with this tour!” she exclaimed.

The event, sponsored by Carpinteria Beautiful, will run from 11 am to 5 pm. Proceeds this year will be used to buy playground equipment for the new beach park at the end of Linden Avenue. Proceeds from previous years have gone towards the tile murals in the heart of downtown, and other local causes. Carpinteria Beautiful sponsors many community beautification efforts including the Adopt-a-Spot Litter Pickup Program, graffiti cleanup, “Mutt Mitts,” creative mailbox recognition, wildflower seed distribution and the Christmas Trees at Linden Plaza during the holidays. “Our goal is to have a clean, green, beautiful community,” Nair says about the non-profit organization.

Tickets, which are $25, will still be available on the day of the event, and yes, the extremely popular lemonade and homemade cookie station will be up and running, this year at the courtyard of one of the beachside homes in Sandyland Cove. “Some people come just for the cookies and lemonade!" Nair laughed.

Tickets are being sold at Hallmark on Casitas Pass Road and The Cotton Company on Linden Avenue. They will also be available on Thursday April 24 at the Carpinteria Farmers Market.