Governance Forum Part III

On Monday June 30 the Montecito Association hosted the last of three forums to discuss the issue of cityhood for Montecito. This meeting covered the issue of land use and development, and featured Joan Wells, former Planning Commissioner and MA Board member, and John McGinnes, Director Office of Long-range Planning for the county.

“Where do we go from here?” asked president of the Montecito Association Bill Palladini hypothetically. “It’s really up to the people of Montecito to decide where this conversation will go.” He brought up the idea of having more meetings on the subject in the fall if necessary. The audience was peppered with community leaders including First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, City Council Member Iya Falcone, and Montecito Planning Commission Executive Secretary Dianne Black. The meeting started hotly, with resident Steve Crossland tearing up a handout given to audience members by resident Harry Hovey, which stated his opposition to cityhood. “I think it’s the most inappropriate document I’ve ever seen at a public meeting when we are just trying to get facts,” said Crossland. Palladini asked Hovey to respond. “The reason why I passed this out is I’ve been to the other two meetings and some of the information there, in my opinion, was slanted,” he said. He suggested having two more meetings with the proponents and opponents of cityhood to share their respective views.

Wells discussed the process she was part of when creating the community plan over fifteen years ago. “One of the main things, besides creating architectural guidelines, was to try and protect the hillsides from over-development,” she said. She also talked about the rules a new city could implement, including removing the planning commission. “Cities who incorporate, if they want to, do not have to have a planning commission; they can have the city council sit as the planning body,” she said.

A major issue that has been brought up by many members of the community regarding cityhood is that of affordable housing. McGinnes discussed the issue at length, explaining that if Montecito were to incorporate, an estimated 75-150 RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Authority) units would be allocated. 30-70 units would need to be affordable for households earning less than $53,000. “A preliminary look at the zoning here in Montecito indicates that the new city would be challenged to accommodate the RHNA requirement without any rezoned land to a density that abides by the minimum requirement of the law,” he said. He added that land would have to be rezoned at a density of 20 units per acre until the deficiency is met.

Judy Ishkanian asked McGinnes to compare the RHNA numbers required now to what will be required if Montecito incorporates. He explained that the state and SBCAG allocates about 1,000 units to the unincorporated areas. “All of the unincorporated areas can be blended together to provide for the amount of need that the state and SBCAG has assigned to them. In the case of Montecito, you may not have enough zoning right now to have that many affordable housing units, but the benefit of other unincorporated areas is that they may have current zones to provide for more affordable housing units,” he explained. However, an incorporated city of Montecito would have a specific number of units they would have to meet.

McGinnes also touched on the role of the Montecito Growth Management Ordinance (MGMO), which is set to expire December 31, 2010. “Having a growth management ordinance is a big deal,” Wells added, explaining that the ordinance allows the issuance of no more than 19 permits for new residential, market-rate units per year. Other planning issues to be considered: creation of the general plan, housing, provision of city services, and the location of city government. “Land use planning remains one of the most exciting and engaging public policy issues,” he said, noting that Montecito residents have a history of participating in deciding what their community looks like.

Audience member Sally Jordan added, “The cityhood proponents have made clear that they want to eliminate MBAR, MPC, the MA, and our community plan. They, in turn, want to redesign Montecito with new rules and new institutions. So this must mean, do you not like Montecito as it is?” She said she wants the proponents to “stand up and give us their reasons for seeking cityhood.” Her comments were met with applause.

Acqua Sabbia Bikinis

Water and sand: two common sights to behold living here in Santa Barbara. An environmentally friendly handmade bikini made free of synthetic fibers? Not so common. That’s why two local young women decided to start producing such bikinis, and created a line called Acqua Sabbia, meaning water and sand.

Former Laguna Blanca High School students Zoe Cleary & Mollie See were inspired by a bathing suit worn by Zoe’s mom, Lori, during the eighties. The simple blue and white bathing suit was made in the 1970s by Lori for her then clothing line, Malibu Media. Lori still had the pattern for the suit, and the girls decided to try and recreate it, with some modern twists. They began searching for vintage 100% cotton fabrics everywhere they went from thrift stores in New York to shops in Europe and Mexico. They found a seamstress in Mexico to make the bikinis, and they travel there often to bring her new fabrics.

The suits feature a flattering low, almost “boy-cut” bottom, and a simple string top which has straps that can be worn two ways. Zoe and Mollie also made the suits reversible; each bikini has a complementary pattern on each side. Of the over one-hundred bikinis which have been sewn so far, many are one of a kind: there was only enough fabric to make one suit. “No one else will be wearing the same bikini,” Zoe said. Mollie told us it was important for them to be “environmentally friendly” by using only 100% cotton, free from synthetic fibers. “No other bikinis are like that,” she said.

The girls are thrilled the bikinis are being sold locally at Angel on Coast Village Road, and they are currently looking to place them in other boutiques. They hope to expand on the idea of bringing back the “early ‘70s style” by eventually offering different versions and cuts of the suit. “It’s really fun for us,” Mollie said.

For more information visit www.acquasabbia.com

Get Ready for Road Construction

Over the July 4th weekend, remember to enjoy your freedom. Freedom from road construction that is, because beginning Tuesday, July 8th, the four-year-long Highway 101 Operational Improvements projects between Milpas Street and Hot Springs Road will begin.

During that first week, construction crews will begin by installing concrete “k-rail” and conducting other staging activities, according to Art Infante, Caltrans’ resident engineer. “The concrete barrier is an important first step as crews will do the majority of work behind the barrier so that two lanes in each direction will remain open throughout daytime hours. Some nighttime lane closures will occur to place the concrete barrier, but the freeway will remain open throughout,” he said. Executive Director of SBCAG Jim Kemp reminded residents of the reasons behind the project by saying, “It will relieve congestion in the Milpas bottleneck area and improve safety and local access across the freeway.” He added that motorists can receive advanced warning of upcoming closures by signing up for email updates at www.SBroads.com. A real-time web cam showing Milpas area traffic is also available on the website. 
 The Montecito roundabout at Cabrillo Blvd, Hot Springs Road, Coast Village Road and Old Coast Highway is slated to be built in the first year of construction, and project representative Kirsten Ayars assures us traffic will still be able to drive through the area. More time will be necessary however, with Caltrans estimating a 10-15 minute average delay anywhere in the construction zone.

The $53-million construction and landscaping project is funded by Proposition 1B and $13-million Measure D dollars. Additional public information is available by visiting www.SBroads.com or by calling 1-888-SB-ROADS.