The Grand Old New Village Fourth

It’s that time of year again: the old fashioned, “Mayberry-esque” Fourth of July celebration fondly known as Village Fourth. Dianne Pannkuk, who has organized the event every year of its existence, tells us “she’s got it down to a science.”

MFPD will kick off the 13th Annual event with its much-anticipated pancake breakfast at the fire station on San Ysidro from 7:30 to 10:30 am. Shortly after, a parade featuring over 35 entries will make its way down San Ysidro Road to Santa Rosa Lane; over 2,000 parade watchers are expected. A BBQ with all the fixins will be held at Lower Manning Park immediately afterwards, where guests can eat and watch the hotly contested battle for the Montecito Cup: a trio of games played by dueling Montecito area schools. Tug of war, sack races, and Pannkuk’s personal favorite, the pie-eating contest are all on the agenda. Young ones will be delighted with face painting, bounce houses and a fishing booth, all the while waving American flags.

This year’s Grand Marshal, Bob Meghreblian, is the former chairman of the Montecito Planning Commission (its very first) and a former Montecito Association President. He will join in the festivities by riding on the Fire Department’s WWII-era jeep. “It’s very homespun,” describes Pannkuk about the day, “It’s about the community interacting with each other.”

This year’s tee shirt contest winner is Julianna Bordas from Montecito Union School; her picture of a traditional “Uncle Sam” cap is adorned on tee shirts provided by The Walking Company and sold at the Village Green and Vons Shopping Center until the fourth. She is second in her family to win the contest; her older sister, Nicole, won last year’s contest.

As always, the Montecito Association-sponsored Village Fourth takes a village to pull off: Montecito Boy Scouts man the sno-cone stand, Friendship Center volunteers make cotton candy, volunteers from Our Lady of Mount Carmel are in charge of beer and wine, and Rotary Club members man the cashier stand. However, Pannkuk is still looking for many more volunteers to lend a hand; most help is needed from 8 am-10:30 am during set up. “It’s a labor of love,” she said.

To help, call Pannkuk at 969-9005.

Governance Forum Part II: Economics and Finance

“Incorporation means higher expectations,” said Goleta’s City Manager Dan Singer at the second of three governance forums hosted by the Montecito Association. He equated the process of incorporation to that of raising a child in diapers: the payoff doesn’t come for many years to come.

The meeting, held at El Montecito Presbyterian Church on June 23, focused on economics and finance. In addition to Singer, Santa Barbara County auditor Bob Geis and Economics and Planning Systems principal Richard Berkson shared their expertise on the subjects.

Geis began by explaining “The Big Five,” a list of revenue generators for a new city. They include property taxes, transient occupancy taxes, sales taxes, utility user taxes and redevelopment agency taxes. Geis presented statistics that show Montecito property taxes represent 12% of the $577 million collected county-wide, nearly five times the 2.38% percentage of population Montecito accounts for. In transient occupancy taxes (TOT), which are generated by tourism, the Biltmore, San Ysidro Ranch, and Westmont accounted for 51% of what the County collected this year. Geis added that the Miramar, if built, would generate at least $1 million in TOT. Because Coast Village Road, the most commercial corridor in Montecito, lies in Santa Barbara City, Montecito would generate significantly less sales tax than other cities in the County. No utility user tax is levied in Montecito, according to Geis. In the case of incorporation, he explained, a utility tax could be approved to achieve things such as undergrounding utilities or road maintenance.

During his presentation, Singer shared advice to Montecito residents on founding a new city. “I think a community needs to really focus on having a diverse and healthy tax base,” he said, “Healthy in that you feel the amount of revenues being generated in the defined community can sustain the expectations of cityhood, but also diverse in that you don’t rely on a single primary source of income.” He warned that relying solely on tourism or property taxes can backfire if circumstances such as a hotel renovation or a natural disaster occur. Singer also explained that once incorporated, residents of a new city generally expect more services from the city than previously expected from the county. “You are going to start experiencing demands for services and service levels that didn’t exist before, because the expectations are somewhat different,” he said.

Berkson discussed the extraordinary costs a new city faces stemming from issues such as road maintenance, public safety, general plan maintenance, and environmental issues. However, these costs can garner a revenue bump from the state. He said that Montecito would most likely contract out services such as law enforcement due to the high cost of starting a new police department. He finished by pointing out that ultimately it is the grassroots effort and support of the community that makes a new city successful.

The audience, which was significantly smaller than the week prior, had many questions for the speakers. Bob Braitman, who was guest speaker at the first governance forum, asked, “How long would it take to do a study on incorporation and a fiscal impact analysis?” Berkson answered that studies are almost always paid for by the proponents of cityhood, and the initial analysis could take three to six months, but longer if complications occur.

Resident John Watson opined, "it seems that most of what I would consider to be true planning would require the capacity for some unit to be able to raise taxes and to expend it for something such as building a community center, improving parks, things of that nature.” He asked if there is a structure in place that would allow taxes to be raised in Montecito and only used in Montecito. One of the speakers said advisory committees could be formed to advise the Board of Supervisors for use of such funds, or a special district could be formed. Moderator Michael Cooney added that Santa Barbara County was sensitive to the fact that the Montecito community should have more influence on its land use; the Montecito Planning Commission and Montecito Board of Architectural Review were formed to help achieve this. However, appeals to the decisions by these boards can be taken to the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors.

Resident David Strauss asked Singer about how residents in the relatively recent Goleta incorporation feel now about self-governance. Singer answered that a recent poll has shown that the community is satisfied with most of the services they are receiving, with the exception of the building process. “It takes a few years to get past the honeymoon phase,” Singer said.

The final governance forum is scheduled for Monday, June 30th from 7-9 pm. The subject will be land use and development issues and will feature Joan Wells, former Planning Commissioner and MA Board member, and John McGinnes, Director Office of Long-range Planning for the county.

MWD Public Meeting

On Thursday June 19 Montecito Water District held a public information meeting to present its proposed new rate structure to the public. The structure, if passed will increase rates for most water customers, and is the district’s response to what it says is an increasing problem: lack of water supply in Montecito.

“It goes back to economics 101, supply vs. demand,” explained MWD President Dick Shaikewitz. He went on to say that the problem is not so much indoor usage such as personal hygiene and clothes washing, but with outdoor landscaping. “About 80% of the water [Montecito uses goes into] landscaping,” he said. Due to record usage in the last few months, MWD General Manager Tom Mosby explained the district will not be able to keep up with demand unless supplemental water sources, which are expensive, are acquired. In his presentation Mosby explained that the amount of water the District is legally allocated from Lake Cachuma and Jameson Lake is limited, and the allocation goes down when the level of the lakes goes down. Even though at this point MWD is taking its full allocation, it is still not enough water to service the community because the water acquired from the State is limited. This year the State Water Project allowed the district to have just 35% of what it is entitled, and next year that amount is expected to drop to 10%.

The first step in the rate increases is to bring most customers up to the current “cost of service” price, which the district has determined to be $3.90 per unit (about 750 gallons). To demonstrate just how much water that is, the board had fourteen metal barrels brought in to give the audience a visual. They also showed a two liter bottle of drinking water, which cost $4, to demonstrate just how little the proposed rate for a unit of water is compared to store-bought water.

The proposed rate increase for single-family residential customers is a four-block structure. Meaning for the first 0-20 units of water homeowners use per month, they will be charged the cost of service per unit ($3.90). The cost per unit after 20 increases: 21-60 units will cost $4.15, 61-120 units will cost $4.90, and anything over 120 units will cost $5.90. Mosby explained that if people get back to their water usage prior to the ’06-’07 water year, the cost of their water will only go up an average of 5%-8%. If customers cut back on their usage, the bills for the majority of customers will not increase significantly. However, there are 211 customers in the district that are using 30% of the water! That is why the higher blocks are picking up the higher costs, Mosby said.

Multi-family residential customers will follow a three-block structure if the plan is adopted. Because there is less landscaping per unit, there are fewer units in each block. 0-9 units will cost $3.90 per unit, 10-30 units will be $4.15 per unit, and $4.90 per unit for anything over 31 units. This is not welcome news to residents of Riven Rock, who are unhappy about being considered a multi-family structure according to Riven Rock resident Joan Wells. “We are happy to pay our fair share, but we believe we should be treated as single-family residences and not apartments,” she said.

Mosby said that the numbers in the proposed rate increase could very well change based on rainfall or lack thereof and the ability to find other water sources for Montecito. After the presentation, about twenty members of the audience faced the board to share their opinions and ideas. Steve Crossland suggested allowing local golf courses to build their own wells to use groundwater to water the lawns, instead of using potable district water. Forty-year resident Molly Rosecrance told the Board, “I’m very concerned about those who are using way beyond what we want to see and what is right. I’m guessing they really don’t mind paying more and more and more because they have it. They can pay it!” Others in the audience including resident John Denver agreed, suggesting that the price per unit increase significantly in the highest block to discourage excessive use. One 30-year resident suggested the board impose even higher rates. “I don’t feel sorry for anyone whining about having to pay for water. I think it is wonderful what you are doing, and I think you should be more severe than you are already being,” he said.

After the meeting Mosby told us he would have loved to see more people at the meeting. “We need to reach the ones who need the education,” he said.

A second informational public meeting is scheduled for July 10 at 6:30 at El Montecito Presbyterian Church.

Montecito Artist Chloe Blohm

Montecito jeweler Art Gaspar of A. H. Gaspar on Coast Village Road is a member of Jewelers for Children (JFC), a national organization that has been granting children’s wishes for years. This year JFC has joined with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant a local artist, Chloe Blohm, her first art show. Blohm’s first art opening was at Churchill Jewelers in Santa Barbara on June 10.

A large welcoming banner was placed on a Montecito Fire truck over the US 101 overpass at San Ysidro Road, greeting Blohm as she arrived for the event. Montecito Fire Department Captain Dru Holthe, Engineer Richard Lauritson, Firefighter Scott Chapman, Paramedics Alex Broumand and Mike Elliott, and Mechanic John Badarracco participated in the effort. The banner greeting was coordinated by CHP Officer Don Clotworthy.

MUS enrichment program teacher Rebecca Brand, a French Impressionist oil painter, asked to critique Blohm’s work, noted that, “Chloe is a prolific artist. She completes pieces in just a few hours, has an eye for art and is impressive in her abilities. Her choice of subjects leans towards figure drawing with many pieces that include emotional symbolism. Chloe hung a signature piece, prominently displayed in her opening, which is a self-portrait she drew from using a mirror. This technique of the masters is very difficult and Chloe has done a superb job,” Rebecca concluded.

Sixteen-year-old Blohm is a self-taught artist, with the exception of some training at San Marcos High and coaching from friends who paint. Blohm is interested in pursuing her art career with the Art Institute in June 2009 and studying all aspects of the subject. Blohm’s exhibit will continue at Churchill Jewelers, 1015 State Street (805-962-5815), through the end of June.