Dear Montecito Planning Commission

Many residents marvel at the lack of ease with which people in cars move through Montecito on the Interstate 101. We also know the severe public outcry against the widening and modernizing of the freeway that has taken place over the last few decades. The “Freeway Revolt” has left us with a polarized status without a viable way to deal with the growth of our community and the dramatic traffic congestion due to the general population gains we have experienced. This segment of the 101 was designed some sixty years ago, long before we were forced to consider the impact of the mega-hotel retail complex proposed by the Caruso Group.

We, the community, have chosen to postpone any real solution to this growing infrastructure crisis, because this three-mile segment of the 101 Freeway lies right in the heart of Montecito. This stretch of antiqued, 1950’s freeway extends southward from the Olive Mill Road overpass to Sheffield Drive, right where Caruso’s hotel is proposed, with its large, twenty-first-century proportions and appetite for traffic flow. The two-lane narrow overpass at San Ysidro Road cannot presently handle the peak traffic coming from the southbound off-ramp. There are multi-car lineups at this crucial juncture into Montecito with regularity.

Likewise, the northbound exit ramp at San Ysidro Road will not be able to sustain flow with the prospect of a large new number of patrons and employees going to the hotel. Past Caruso projects such as the Grove now attracts 18 million people each year (about 3 million more then Disneyland). At a minimum, this is a situation that is untenable and cannot exist in harmony with a community that has worked for over a century to maintain its bucolic, semi-rural atmosphere.

Another remnant of the old freeway design is the stub-like on-ramp at the end of the hotel property that feeds onto the southbound 101 Freeway. This has been a problem for years, for it offers no ease of entry. Adding to the magnitude of traffic flow from the mega-hotel to this already inadequate on-ramp would be exacerbating a problem that already exists to the point that the backup would make South Jameson a consistent traffic nightmare.

Moreover, the consequences of this old 1950’s design, and the choice not to modernize the 101 freeways leaves the residences of Santa Barbara and Montecito with little or no options but to dramatically witness increases in traffic congestion on its narrow surface streets (North and South Jameson) if this mega-hotel is built.

The perceived disruption of community life, degradation of space, the endless construction phases, with its environmental shock were only the initial reasons why the choice to postpone any modification of the 101 freeway in Montecito has been upheld. Another more important and current issue is that, due to the extended postponements (twenty years), the cost of construction, the scarcity of highway trust-fund capital, and the new priority of state spending now threaten to delay this project indefinitely.

Even if the citizenry was sufficiently disposed to go forward with the modernization of this three-mile segment, the timeliness of funding may be five to ten years outward with construction phases probably at a minimum of three years.

Another infrastructure dilemma for the mega hotel project is unless the magnifying traffic noise impact is addressed as a consequence of the proposed 40- to 50-foot façade of the hotel (which is now planned at the nearest point to the freeway, to alleviate the hotel’s interior space freeway noise), would be problematic. Recent highway noise prediction models, coupled with tire and pavement research, has informed land use planners that noise analysis is not a myth but an environmental science. The freeway noise abatement criteria for the Miramar mega hotel would undoubtedly recommend an assessment that would suggest a parallel sound wall would be required the entire length of the Miramar property on the North Jameson side of the freeway. The likelihood that the present plan for the Caruso project would be feasible without the mitigation of its contribution to noise source would seem unlikely.

It is obvious that without the inclusion of CalTrans, and the approval of the local electorate for a plan with a timetable for freeway upgrading, that a modern, mega-complex is a foolish idea.

There are many other issues, i.e. water allocation, parking, grading and drainage, but most important, there is the unspoken issue of the integration of a greatly oversized building complex within a community that to date has fiercely protected it’s understated and semi-rural atmosphere.

Sincerely,

William R. Pulice

Montecito

(Ed. note: The county has been announced that the staff report will not be ready for the June 10 MPC meeting, so that development and other circumstances make it very likely that a new improved Miramar won’t become a reality for at least another five years, if ever. – TLB)

Not Just Betty’s Bucket Brigade

Many thanks for the great and generous article in last week’s issue about the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade's purchase of the “brush” truck for the county. However, I must tell you that it was not “Betty's Brigade” by any means. Sandi Nicholson and I were co-partners in this endeavor. During and after the Zaca Fire, we talked of doing something significant to involve the community. It was Sandi who expressed her dream of buying a fire truck. Not only was Sandi involved in every detail of our endeavor but was at the same time off to Africa on an important humanitarian mission and doing other charitable work here and in Houston, Texas. Nonetheless, she was vital to the Bucket Brigade's incredible success. It was basically a girl friend thing! We enjoyed doing it together. And of course the party on the Tamsen yacht was great too.

Direct Relief played a major role by partnering with us. Wana Dowell and City Fire Captain Franc Chacon gave us a generous amount of assistance and support as well... it was a great team.

The Montecito Journal plays a major role in promoting and recognizing the good works of the non-profits and charitable organizations in Santa Barbara. Without the kind of support you provide it would be difficult to get their message out to the community. I don't know if you realize how important that is, but it makes a great difference and you do it very, very well.

Thank you again for your very nice article.

Yours truly,

Betty Stevens

Santa Barbara

(Ed. note: We always worry that we inadvertently fail to acknowledge the efforts of a person vital to a successful event and are pleased when someone involved in that effort comes forward with a letter such as this. So, thank you, Betty, and our apologies and thanks too to Sandi Nicholson. – J.B.)