Miramar Latest

On Monday April 28 county planners Anne Almy and Michelle Gibbs held a Public Hearing on the Draft Subsequent EIR for the Miramar project. Ten Montecito residents spoke at the hearing, allowing the planners to hear their concerns.

Most of the speakers brought up water usage and the shared use of an aquifer with the Miramar property. Twelve residences currently share and care for the well, and part of the Miramar project is to build another well in the same aquifer. “We are extremely interested in a guarantee from the Caruso people that our water well is not going to get contaminated, and if it is that there’s a way to pay us for that at the onset,” said an officer of the Miramar Addition and Improvement Company, which oversees the well across from the project site. He noted that “Montecito Water District has told us that if our water well is contaminated it’s going to cost us twelve residences about three-hundred-thousand dollars, so you can see we’re pretty concerned about it.” Robin Frances added that she is “also part of that well, the Miramar Addition private well, and I’m concerned that their huge usage would exhaust not only our well but many of the other wells that have been in existence almost eighty or ninety years.”

Neighbor Peter Melnick opined that, “Without a crystal ball, nobody can predict adequately whether the proposed new well that the Caruso project would like to sink will ultimately produce irreparable harm or not. It doesn’t seem that the studies have been thorough enough yet.” He warned that “if that harm should occur, the harm to our neighborhood will be vast.” Melnick also pointed out the harm Montecito Water District would incur in terms of usage if the twelve residences were forced to use MWD water. “I would ask that the usage of this new well be limited to the historic precedence of the prior Miramar Hotel,” he suggested. Additionally, he asked that “[Caruso] agree to provide us some kind of indemnification or insurance so that if it turns out that he should be wrong [about the impact of the proposed well] he has shouldered the burden for what he has created.”

Other subjects broached at the hearing included the size, bulk and scale of the project, the fit with the Montecito Community Plan, and environmental impacts. Nearby Miramar neighbor Britt Beauvoix presented planners with maps of both the Schrager and Caruso plans, stating that they “absolutely do not resemble each other.” She claimed, “The proposed Caruso plan is an addendum to the approved Schrager project. It has significant changes and substantial environmental impacts that have not been adequately addressed or mitigated in accordance with the current required laws and guidelines governing the environmental process.” Beauvoix cited loss of aesthetic and visual resources, size, bulk and scale issues, traffic, parking and circulation impacts, fire protection and emergency response issues, noise and air quality, and geological, water and cultural resource impacts. “The Miramar was mandated as a cottage-style hotel, why can’t we keep it that way?” she asked.

Other speakers included architect Tom Bollay, concerned with adherence to the Montecito Plan and size, bulk and scale, Linda Offner who voiced her concern over the proposed well, and novelist Jean Harfenist who spoke about Oak Creek flooding issues.

Matt Middlebrook of Caruso Affiliates spoke to us after the hearing about some of the items that were brought up. Regarding the proposed well, Middlebrook said, “Our engineers have found that there is more than enough water in the aquifer to serve all the wells.” However, he added, “We’ve agreed that when we go to drill the well, that we will tell the county thirty days in advance so they can notify all these folks, so when we test our well and begin to pump our well, they can test their wells and see if the water drops. If we can’t do a save yield out of our well then we’ll go back to Montecito Water District. We have mutual concerns. If their water becomes brackish, then our water becomes brackish!” He also said the well would mainly be used for landscaping; other water usage would come from MWD.

Responding to comments regarding increased freeway noise, Middlebrook explained they have studied the sound and “it is not an issue.” He said fire access is not an issue either, because the private road running through the property is used as a fire lane. “We have more than enough parking, public beach access is greatly improved, so I think there is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “We do the best we can; we’ve worked very hard to analyze these things as carefully as we could. We’re confident that they are not issues,” he added.

There is sure to be even more public comment on the project on Monday May 5 during the Montecito Association’s Land Use meeting. “We’re inviting people to give final public input about the project,” said Bill Palladini, President of the Association. The comments will be used to assist the Land Use Committee in making a final recommendation to the Board. Chairman Ted Tedesco will run the meeting, which will be the last opportunity for the community to voice their concern to the Montecito Association.

Palladini noted that the time of the meeting has been changed from 9 am to 4 pm to accommodate more people. “We are bending over backward to make sure we have provided an open and fair process for the community,” he said. The meeting is at the Community Hall, but may be moved to the nearby church depending on how large the turnout is.

The Land Use committee will present its findings to the Association’s board of directors on Tuesday May 13 at the MA monthly meeting. Then the board will send its recommendation to the MPC. “It’s up to the MPC to formulate a position,” Palladini said, “Our role is advisory.”

Montecito Evacuation Drill

“The drill was successful on many levels,” said Geri Ventura of the Montecito Fire Protection District when asked about the Fire Evacuation Drill held on April 26. She explained that several objectives of the drill were met, with the help of multiple agencies and the Montecito residents who participated in the drill.

“Our original objectives included testing our alerting systems, evaluating the effectiveness of notification methods and safely implementing our evacuation plan,” Ventura said. Apparently some residents did not receive the reverse 9-1-1 phone call message on the day of the drill, which is something, Ventura revealed, the Sheriff’s Department and Verizon are looking into.

The lesson learned, Ms Ventura said, is that residents should not rely on just one method of notification in an emergency. Evacuation information in a true emergency will be available on the MFPD website and a new informational radio station (1680 AM). If time allows, public safety vehicles will drive up and down streets with a PA system, personnel will go door to door to inform residents, and helicopters will be called in when available. Ventura said there were no injuries or incidents during the drill; the MFPD evacuation plan was safely implemented.

Another drill objective was to train and educate the public to safely evacuate in an emergency. “While not every resident in the designated evacuation zone actually evacuated, we distributed preparedness information to over eleven hundred residents by going door to door with packets that included brochures on what to do with your pets, things to consider if you have invalids or handicapped family members in your household, and things to include in your evacuation kits. We also included information on ways to make your home more fire safe,” Ventura told us.

Multi-agency coordination was also an objective of the carefully planned drill. Lead agencies included Montecito Fire Protection District, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol. More than 25 other agencies participated in the event including the American Red Cross, MERRAG, United States Forest Service, Family Service Agency and Westmont College. “We worked closely to establish positive working relationships with all agencies that would be involved in a real evacuation or other similar emergency in our community,” Ventura said, “By developing these contacts and relationships in a drill scenario, it will help to make the operations of a real emergency go smoother because we have developed and networked with all the players.” A report of lessons learned in the drill will be put together by the MFPD in the coming weeks.

Coast Village “Town Hall Meeting” Set

On Thursday May 8, the Coast Village Business Association will hold the first of at least two “town hall meetings” to discuss the future of Coast Village Road. Business owners, land owners, and residents of both CVR and Montecito are invited to attend the event to be held at Montecito Country Club.

The purpose of the meeting is to focus on the vision plan being devised for Coast Village Road, according to Danny Copus, President of the CVBA. “We want to make sure the vision plan properly reflects the concerns of the community,” he told us. County officials, City Council members, City officials and representatives from the utility companies serving CVR have been invited and are expected to attend.

Topics Copus expects to be discussed include building heights, environmental impacts of new development, traffic issues, and public vistas. New development and the future of CVR will also be addressed. Copus explained that attendees will be placed in small groups to discuss opinions and gather information; the most significant issues will be addressed to the entire group. CVBA will then gather the information to address the major concerns at a following public meeting, tentatively scheduled for May 28.

Copus said he believes residents are aware of what the future might hold for CVR, and it is “in the forefront of their minds.” With several proposed projects in the pipeline, he hopes residents will come out to share their opinions and ideas and have their concerns answered by city officials. “Everyone is invited,” he said.

The CVBA Town Hall meeting will take place Thursday May 8 at the Montecito Country Club from 6-9 pm. Doors will open at 5:30. For more information, contact CVBA Secretary Jan Atkins at jhotelbrkr@cox.net

Welcome Aboard

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