Thinking About Cityhood

The recent Monday evening meetings hosted by the Montecito Association have shed considerable light on the pros and cons of incorporation.

After two meetings (a third and final is scheduled for Monday, June 30, at El Montecito Presbyterian Church), we have a few thoughts about the subject. The main reason proponents have even suggested cityhood for Montecito is to control, or at least have more say in, local land-use planning and development. The big news in Montecito over the past decade has all been land-use based: Westmont Master Plan update, Lotusland, Val Verde, Coral Casino, the Biltmore, La Casa de Maria, Music Academy of the West, and especially, the Miramar.

The Montecito Association, in response to those often contentious issues, was instrumental in the creation of the Montecito Planning Commission, a unique institution that few, if any, unincorporated areas can boast of. And that, shy of incorporation, is as good as it gets. According to specialists, we cannot create a special district just for land-use and planning. This is a function of county governance; the Board of Supervisors has the final vote, and that’s that.

Montecito can only claim influence over the First District Supervisor, and the fate of any project rests in the hands of the other four supervisors, who won't necessarily act in the best interest of Montecito. Cityhood would change this. If appealed, a project would go to a Montecito City Council that would, presumably, act in the best interest of residents, but even that is arguable. Which leads to the question: is it worth becoming a city if all we want is to control land use?

The upcoming Montecito Association forum directs its attention to Land Use Planning and Development. Former Planning Commissioner and Montecito Association Director Joan Wells, and Director of Long-range Planning for Santa Barbara County John McGinnes will address the issue.

One of the questions yet to be answered sufficiently is probably the most significant, and that is: Even if Montecito controlled its own land-use decisions, what kind of pressure for “affordable housing” would state bureaucrats put on a new city?

If a Montecito City Council chose not to build affordable housing, what kind of sanctions would – could – the state impose, and could a city of Montecito afford to ignore the State’s “mandates”?

Conversely, how long can Montecito avoid building “affordable housing” if it remains unincorporated? If the Board of Supervisors decided to place unwanted housing in Montecito today, is there any course of action we could take to protect ourselves?

The incorporation of Montecito as a city (or village) would mean adding another layer of government and would probably require new taxes (utility tax, developmental taxes, and so on). In exchange, it would allow us the ability to control and protect our “semi-rural” ambiance in ways we cannot now. We haven’t figured out if such a trade-off would be worth it. There is no imminent danger of Montecito suddenly becoming overdeveloped, and we question whether or not continuing on the cityhood path is a wise choice, but will reserve further judgment until sitting through the last of the three meetings this Monday night.

Village Fourth Parade & Celebration Committee Still Needs Help

Village Fourth Committee Chairman Diane Pannkuk and the Montecito Association is still looking for volunteers to help set up Fourth of July festivities at Lower Manning Park. Setup begins at 8 am (on July 4) and if you are a high-school student, your help will count as community service towards graduation. Along with getting a free lunch, such assistance would be a nice way to give back to the Montecito Association for the hard work volunteers put in. If you would like to help make the Montecito Association Village Fourth Parade & Celebration a success, please contact Diane at 969-9005.

Village Pool & Supply Is Moving

Village Pool & Supply is moving out of its Coast Village Road location and heading to a new one in Santa Barbara. Present customers should not be alarmed, say Greg, Jim, and the rest of the gang; your pools will still be cleaned! The owner of the property (not the business) is selling the building.

Village Pool has been there ever since I moved here more than twenty years ago, and I’m sad to see yet another familiar face leave town. One thing is sure, however: this property with its prime location, is likely to find itself the subject of yet another “land use” controversy if and when a new owner decides to upgrade. And it, like its counterpart down the road at 1290 Coast Village Road, is in the City of Santa Barbara, not Montecito.