Conservation or Punishment

The new block rate water charges that the Montecito water board will present at a public meeting on Thursday June 19th (MUS auditorium, 6:30 pm) are not fair and not equal.

Their proposal will try to achieve water conservation by economic punishment of single-family homeowners instead of a positive plan for all.

The average single-family home uses 37 hundred cubic feet (hcf = 748.05 gallons) per month of which 17 hcf would cost $4.15 each, a rate that is virtually equal to what the #1 water user in town, The Biltmore Hotel, pays. Many homeowners who would fall into block #3 will wind up paying more than the Biltmore and other commercial users.

Their plan puts little or no pressure on customers other than single-family homeowners. What is needed for success is a plan that requires all of us to conserve equally, not just some!

The public can reject this plan, it only requires 50% of users to send a letter of rejection to the board. The public can reject this board by voting for change on November 4; three board members (a majority) are up for re-election.

Let the board know that we will not accept a plan that is not fair, and that favors a few powerful groups.

David Strauss

Montecito

(Publisher's Note: The rate hike is supposed to curb water usage because we are apparently running dangerously low on water and we can't continue using as much as we have become accustomed to using. My question to the water board would be: If what you are saying is true – that we are running out of water – will boosting water prices in Montecito actually curb usage? Montecito is considerably more affluent now than during the last drought and many people may prefer to pay through the nose to maintain lush landscapes rather than cut back, as did a handful of wealthy landowners back in the late 1980s/early ‘90s. What then? – TLB)

Miramar Still Undecided

Michael Jaffe’s frustration over the ongoing review and approval process for the proposed Miramar hotel is understandable. He badly wants the new hotel to be built, and he believes the Caruso plan in its present form to be adequate.

Less understandable is his willingness to impute the worst kinds of motives and bad behavior to those of his neighbors who feel the proposed hotel is not yet ready for prime time. There are serious issues preventing me from supporting the project right in its present form, in spite of my desire for this hotel to be built. This doesn’t make me a zealot; my concerns are valid.

The critical issues – parking, the impact of hotel traffic on the neighborhood, the likelihood of an increase in reflected freeway noise, and various water-related concerns – have all been discussed at length in this paper and elsewhere. Over the past few months the builders have waged a public relations campaign to assert that they have adequately addressed these concerns, but the facts belie this claim.

The hotel’s plans for parking are a matter of public record, and they are woefully inadequate, falling hundreds of cars short of providing for the hotel’s cars. There are essentially no plans for addressing the traffic considerations in the neighborhood and around the freeway on- and off-ramps.

Unless Mr. Jaffe lives in the Hedgerow (as I do), he can choose to ignore the question of reflected freeway noise. But for the record, Mr. Caruso’s assertion that he has conducted a serious noise study is disingenuous at best.

On the other hand, as a neighbor of the Miramar site, Mr. Jaffe should be at least somewhat suspicious of Mr. Caruso’s attempt to piggyback his building plans on an environmental impact study of the much smaller facility proposed by Ian Schrager.

There are other things about the proposed Caruso hotel that I do not particularly like – its mall-like scope, for example – but nothing that I could not live with. The only real deal-breakers are the ones that truly have the potential to ruin the neighborhood. I’m sure that most everyone who has serious concerns about the project as presently constituted would prefer to see these issues resolved through a healthy review process. If the only way to prevent Mr. Caruso from pushing past these valid concerns is through the courts, so be it. Much as I loathe the prospect of a legal battle, I would not shy away from one if it proved to be the only way to address and resolve these and other important issues.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the Schrager plan has already won the community’s approval. Doubtless Mr. Caruso could also secure a positive outcome by making some small concessions. I hope that’s what happens. As a neighbor of the Miramar, I look forward to a time when the wasteland that it has become is replaced by a beautiful hotel.

Sincerely,

Peter Melnick

Montecito

(A Note: If anything I've said suggests that I "...impute the worst kinds of motives and bad behavior to those of [my] neighbors who feel the proposed hotel is not yet ready for prime time..." I apologize. It was not my intent to do so nor do I believe it. You have every right to pursue your best interests as you see them. My guess is that we simply don't share a long-term perspective of the Miramar site and the consequences of Caruso's possible failure. I do think, however, that some of your concerns will be addressed by the MPC – perhaps not all – and I hope the community can coalesce behind the final product. What would be very unfortunate, as I said in my article, for everyone involved, would be a five-year legal process that delays the project beyond reasonable financial prospects and leaves the community with a very sour taste in its mouth, much like the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Coral Casino. Thanks for responding. ~ Michael Jaffe)