MBAR Gives Green Light to Westmont

On Monday June 16 the Montecito Board of Architectural Review granted preliminary approval for Phase I of the Westmont College Master Plan. The hearing focused largely on the tower of the proposed chapel, which, at the request of county planner Alex Tuttle, was lowered to 49 feet.

In addition to the chapel, the first part of the project will add a new art center, science building, observatory and residence hall while reconfiguring the campus road and athletic fields. Westmont spokesman Scott Craig tells us college officials will now work with the planning department, get final approval from MBAR, and then pull permits from the building department before construction begins in early October. The college, however, still faces a challenge from opponents at the State Court of Appeals.

MBAR also revisited plans from Ken Radtkey of Blackbird Associates to demolish a section of Porter Hall, creating a pedestrian-friendly academic corridor. He provided drawings of a track storage shed that will hold equipment for track meets on the new synthetic surface.

Montecito Association Governance Forum

Over 100 residents attended the first of three forums hosted by Montecito Association to address pros and cons of self governance. The meeting, held June 16, featured two “expert” speakers who discussed the process of incorporation; the last half of the meeting was set aside for audience questions and comments. MA President Bill Palladini began the town-hall style meeting by stressing that the association has not taken a position on the subject. “The association’s goal is to provide information to the community; we’re here to learn just like everybody else,” he said.

Bob Braitman, Executive Officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), discussed different governmental options for Montecito, and explained the process necessary to incorporate. First a petition is required by 25% of registered voters in Montecito. An application needs to be filed with LAFCO, and a comprehensive fiscal analysis and revenue neutrality agreement would be drawn up. LAFCO would then review and approve the application, and it would be placed on the ballot. If Montecito were to incorporate, it would be the 501st city in California he said.

David Mullinax from the League of California Cities explained that the main reason a city chooses to incorporate is to gain more control of its affairs. Lost tax revenue, lack of government representation, and want for local elected officials to represent the city are all reasons for an unincorporated area to incorporate. Braitman added that other reasons include local control of land use, a higher level of service, and the desire of some community members to be on a city council. Incorporation would provide a directly elected city council and the city would be responsible for providing services including land use planning and regulation, law enforcement, and be responsible for maintaining public parks and streets. Mullinax pointed out that becoming a city has its downsides: the new city must deal with state mandates such as low-income housing the county would otherwise deal with. “Some of the issues why many cities incorporate simply do not exist in Montecito,” he said, “It’s usually a vehicle for change.” One member of the audience brought up the fact that Montecito already has its own planning commission and architectural review board.

Several members of the audience asked where the issue of cityhood is coming from. Braitman hinted that one possible reason could be the Miramar Hotel project. If incorporation were to occur before the hotel is built, the new city of Montecito would retain a greater amount of tax revenue. “The time to do it is now,” he said. One audience member joked that Braitman had not been following the Miramar saga; there is no hurry, he said.

Political implications, building a local middle school and high school, and acquisition of Coast Village Road were just a few of the issues brought up. Resident Bill Hogan asked about schools, and the experts told him that while the school districts are a separate entity, the newly formed Montecito City Council could become an advocate for adding secondary schools.

CVBA member Tom Bollay was told that most likely Coast Village Road would remain in Santa Barbara City if Montecito were to incorporate. However, it could possibly be annexed if both city councils were to agree.

At the end of the meeting, moderated by Michael Cooney, a handful of residents stayed to comment. Most stated their contentment with the current situation. Dan Eidelson shared his happiness with services presently offered in Montecito. Harry Hovey voiced concern over zoning changes and the possibility of high-rise buildings in order to increase the new city’s tax base. Resident Judy Ishkanian worried that instead of gaining more control, residents would lose their say in their community. “After hearing all this, I see Montecito falling into the jaws of an animal, and being crushed,” she said.

Next Monday, June 23, the second meeting will begin at El Montecito Presbyterian Church at 7 pm. The topics will include economics and finance; SB County Auditor Bob Geis and Goleta City Manager Daniel Singer will be on hand to share their expertise.

Montecito Water Board

At its June 17 Board meeting, the Montecito Water District Board discussed preparing for a water shortage emergency by drafting a public notice to be published in local newspapers. Although an emergency has not been declared, the board agreed it would be best for the notice, which must be released two weeks before a public hearing, to be ready in case the water situation in Montecito deteriorates.

MWD General Manager Tom Mosby reported to the board that he is “aggressively looking for water” through supplemental sources. When asked by Director Jan Abel if he thought a water shortage emergency would need to be declared, Mosby answered that he would have a position by August 1. He based this on whether or not he is able to obtain water from other sources.

Mosby will be presenting a proposed rate increase on Thursday, June 19 at a public meeting at MUS. Board members pored over the power point presentation to be shown to the public and Director Sam Frye gave a few suggestions. “We need to stress to all of our customers just how much control they have over their water bill,” he said. “If we can get our customers’ usage down, we may not have to declare a water shortage emergency; that’s our whole purpose here.”

The proposed rate structure, which was also presented at the recent MA meeting, is a block rate, which means the price per unit increases as water use increases. The board is considering adding a fourth tier to the block-rate structure that would affect customers using extremely high amounts of water. This idea was brought up in order to offset the high cost of procuring alternate water sources.

Abel brought up an idea to partner with MA’s beautification effort. She explained that giving awards to water-efficient landscaping would encourage customers to use less water. Frye asked Mosby to give the public some easy ideas on how to conserve water. “I think they would be utterly stunned by how much water they could save and still have the yard look good,” he said.

To have comments heard and questions answered, you are invited to attend the public meeting on June 19, beginning at 6:30 pm in the auditorium at Montecito Union School.

Correction: In last week’s Village Beat we quoted Mosby as saying the Miramar hotel was going to be allowed expansion of use. The district is NOT allowing an expansion of use since they will not be upgrading district service to the property (i.e. more and larger water meters). The Miramar currently has 5 water meters and it will have the same level of service the property had in the past when in full use.

Hahn Hall Debut

The Music Academy of the West unveiled its newly renovated principal recital facility: Hahn Hall. The Hall, named after donors Carla and Stephen Hahn, took 10 months and $15.5 million to complete. John Burgee, who according to board members, played an integral role in the renovation effort, gave us an exclusive first look at the facility, part of a multi-phase effort to upgrade the campus.

Burgee, a retired architect, served as Academy board chairman in 2005 and 2006 and chairman of the board’s Renaissance Plan Architecture Committee from 2003 to 2005. Burgee remains on the Academy board, and has been overseeing the project. “I’ve given a lot of assistance,” he said modestly as he explained amenities the new hall features.

Improved patron access, a new façade, spacious and comfortable seating for 350, and significantly improved wheelchair access are just a few of the upgrades. The Hall is equipped with state-of-the-art digital presentation technologies, and perhaps most important, significantly enhanced acoustics. “Every single detail in here has been checked for acoustics. That’s the reason to build a sound hall,” Burgee exclaimed, “to hear it!” Renowned acoustician company McKay Conant Brook, which recently worked on the Granada Theater, consulted on the project that includes waved walls and intricate ceilings. The design is even able to drown out the nearby train, Burgee noted.

Other amenities include new light and sound booths to improve audio-visual capabilities, two new studios, a renovated bathroom, a new dressing room, and structural, electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning upgrades. The area surrounding the former rehearsal hall has also been transformed. The nearby parking lots have been expanded, paved and landscaped, new exterior lighting and campus-wide signage has been added, and pedestrian access from the lower parking lot to campus facilities has been improved. The renovated building, related facilities, and site improvements will provide for an enhanced experience overall for Academy faculty, students, and patrons, as well as area arts organizations expected to use the venue, according to Music Academy President NancyBell Coe. A sunken terrace garden was built near the hall to honor donors. The hall was designed by Phillips Metsch Sweeney Moore Architects and built by Frank Schipper Construction Company. “These contractors have done an incredibly good, top-notch job,” Burgee said.

Although Burgee has earned numerous honors including the Reynolds Prize in Architecture and the Orlando T. Maione Award for distinguished contributions to the School of Architecture at Notre Dame, and worked on countless architectural projects including the IDS Center in Minneapolis, the Pennzoil Place in Houston, the AT&T World Headquarters in New York, and fourteen other performing arts bases, he is proud of this latest achievement. “Your latest job is always your favorite,” he said.

A grand opening gala will be held Saturday, June 21, with a preview party honoring those who worked on the renovation to be held the day before. For more information about Hahn Hall, visit www.musicacademy.org

Freeway Widening Kicks Off

On Wednesday June 11 residents from Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara, as well as community leaders and representatives from several organizations gathered at the municipal tennis courts to officially “break ground” on the Highway 101 Operational Improvements between Milpas and Hot Springs Road. Speakers included First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara City Mayor Marty Blum, Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, Executive Director of SBCAG Jim Kemp, and Caltrans Director Will Kempton. “This is a project that is really going to address some of the key problems that exist on the highway 101 corridor, and it’s really a huge step forward in relieving the traffic congestion on 101,” Kemp said.

The $53 million project is funded through Proposition 1B and Measure D, and is expected to take four years to complete. It includes the reconstruction of two major interchanges, six new or improved bridges, freeway widening, better pedestrian access and improvements to local streets. Carbajal thanked Caltrans and SBCAG, saying, “It’s great when we are able to sponsor these partnerships and make our dollars go a lot further in collaboration.”

Construction of the highly anticipated Montecito roundabout will take place in the first year of the project. Although not publicly announced, Colin Jones, a representative from Caltrans, told us construction will start on July 7, the Monday following the holiday weekend. At the Montecito Association board meeting in May, project spokesperson Kirsten Ayars said that Caltrans had estimated an average 10-15 minute delay for travelers driving through any part of the construction area. Although there is expected to be no signed detours during roundabout construction, Jones said the best bet is “to have a plan B.” He added, “Know the side streets; taking an alternate route is up to the driver.”

For more information visit www.sbroads.com

Torch Run on CVR

Last Wednesday local police officers jogged their way down Coast Village Road as part of a fundraising effort benefiting the Special Olympics. This year the all-day event began with the CHP in Goleta, followed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Barbara, and City Police through Montecito. Local Special Olympic athletes and their families also joined in the run.

The 2008 Southern California Law Enforcement Torch Run will eventually involve more than 3500 officers who will run over 1,500 miles and through more than 200 communities. The officers, representing law-enforcement agencies on the local, state, county, federal and military level, collect donations for their participation from local business, friends and community members. They also help raise money for the Special Olympics through Tip-a-Cop dinners, 5K/10K runs, raffles, bike rides, Adopt-a-Cop programs, golf tournaments and other special events. These funds are directed into program support and development, expenses for athlete participation in local, regional, state and international competitions as well as training workshops and conferences.

For more information visit www.sosc.org