Archive » July 17, 2008
Letters to the Editor
By Community Letters
Not So Blue at the Mosque
I thought you might get a kick out of my wife and I reading Montecito Journal in front of the Blue Mosque. The particular issue we took with us was the recent one with the John Burk – a friend of ours – article and cover shot of him and his group in front of the mosque, saying "We Love Turkey" (MJ # 14/22). We just returned from a great cruise through the eastern Mediterranean, and Istanbul was a true favorite.
Turkey is the only country that spans two continents. The European side is the old historic town and across the Bosporus Straits, a mile away, one will find the new part of town in Asia Minor, which mostly is residential. I had a preconceived idea that Turkey was going to be hugely impoverished, something like New Delhi, but real-estate values along the Bosporus are second only to Lake Como, Italy, in all of Europe. A real surprise also was finding out their gas is the costliest in Europe (maybe the world), despite the fact that they're the nearest country to the Middle East. They're paying $3 U.S. equivalent per liter. That's close to $12 a gallon. Throughout Italy and Greece we never saw any station with gas below $8. You can be sure that all the cars over there are really tiny and it's really expensive to take a taxi, etc. to go anywhere. So glad we were able to get there; I do plan someday to go back and spend a week or so.
My wife, Diana, and I are both Montecito-born and have lived here and in the area for most of our lives; she, all of hers.
Make It A Park
Two or three times last week, my four grandchildren, ages 9-4, walked to the Upper Village for “munchies.” Having purchased various and sundry sandwiches, drinks and cookies, we were drawn to the small park on the corner of East Valley and San Ysidro, lots of grass, a few benches, a tiny water fountain, surrounding trees for shade and a precious ambiance.
While sitting and watching the children who managed to get thoroughly drenched and loved every minute of it, I thought of the much disputed corner of Olive Mill and Coast Village Road and what a lovely beacon to visitors (right off the 101) and residents alike a similar park would be in that location.
Of course, the owner wants the most for his money but would it not be possible to buy the corner from the owner with a concerted effort from the community or a large donor? In fact, if anyone wanted to “buy out” the corner, perhaps the new park could be named after them. It would be a fitting tribute to a resident or residents who cared enough to save us from what is going on downtown in Santa Barbara and is spreading every day towards Montecito.
(Ed. note: Good idea; the only problem with it is the park would very likely become a hangout for transients, particularly those exhausted from a long day of panhandling at the other end of Coast Village Road - J.B.)
Get the Grammer Right!
In a recent letter to the editor, the writer used the following phrase: "convinced my wife and I." He should have said, "convinced my wife and me." Perhaps such people should brush up their grammer (sic) before signing their names to letters to the editor.
(Editor's note: We couldn't agree with you moer! - J.B.)
Down With Measure A
The proposed countywide 30-year half-a-percent tax (Measure A) will generate over one billion dollars. Per the proposed expenditure plan, only $213 million of that is to be spent on regional highway projects.
Twenty-five million dollars is to be spent on commuter rail for the southern portion of the county, even though SBCAG's feasibility study that was released two weeks ago determined that standalone commuter rail was not feasible.
During the next 30 years, new regional transportation needs are likely to become clear. Measure A reserves no money for future needs (which may lead to proposals for more tax increases in the near future).
Sixty percent of the countywide tax is to be distributed to local governments for local streets and sidewalks. We object because local amenities should be funded with local tax revenues to ensure greater fiscal responsibility.
The thirty-year life of the proposed Measure A is too long given the uncertain future makeup of SBCAG. The current transportation tax (Measure D) failed to live up to its promises and too much money has been spent on bureaucracy.
A better alternative is a half-a-percent tax for ten years, which would generate over $330 million and would more than cover the $213 million of regional highway projects. Cities and the county should do more to encourage economic vitality (including drilling for oil and gas where technology allows extraction without harming the environment), which would in turn provide more revenue for local transportation projects. A ten-year tax could be renewed if voters are satisfied with how the money is being spent.
(Ed. note: We're with you on this, except we wouldn’t go so far as to approve even a ten-year extension; let it die and allow local government to begin to rein in spending and taxation – J.B.)
Incorporated and Semi-Rural Possible
Much of what I’ve read and heard regarding incorporation of Montecito has presented the specter of an expensive establishment. Talk and view graphs of a city, with a city hall filled with staff, are daunting. It need not be that way. Before we moved to Montecito a dozen or so years ago, I was a planning commissioner in the Town of Portola Valley, a high-property-value small town not unlike Montecito, located in the hills behind Stanford. We also had lived in Atherton, and I was pretty familiar with Woodside. All towns – not cities – each with the primary goal of retaining its rural character.
The Town of Portola Valley was run mostly by volunteers. A number of residents had expertise in matters relevant to managing the town, and could devote the time needed. I suspect Montecito may have similar residential expertise available to it. Portola Valley had an attorney and a professional planner on retainer who attended council and planning commission meetings, and provided advice otherwise as needed. If I recall correctly, the town employed only a planning coordinator who received and managed various applications and building plans, an administrative assistant to the mayor, an office rotated among the council, and a couple of clerks.
I was on a special commission to study whether we should hire a town manager. We concluded that we should not, that there were adequate volunteers, and that a manager we might hire would be unlikely to own property in town and might not share the goals of the community.
Whether Montecito should incorporate or not ought to be a rational decision by the community, based on facts and goals, not misinformation. A too easily dismissed consideration is that incorporation would set in statute the rights of the town as an entity. Although Montecito may now enjoy a beneficent County circumstance, that could change at whims external to the town. Demographics are not likely to be in our interest if North County develops at the rate its proponents would have. A board of supervisors dominated by pro-growth interests might be much less interested in protecting Montecito.
Finally, advice from senior County staff, though of value, needs to be weighed carefully with the view that incorporation of Montecito may not be in the interest of the County nor its staff insofar as it reduces County budget.
(Ed. note: Thank you for a thought-out, rational, and clear-eyed look at the pros and cons of the idea of incorporation! One of the reasons, we believe, this issue has become so contentious, is the misnomer of "cityhood" being used as synonymous with incorporation. The idea of a city conjures images of sidewalks, streetlights, urbanism, congestion, etcetera. Proponents of studying the issue would be well advised to consider calling their incorporated entity "The Village of Montecito." No one wants a "city," but we all want to preserve our village. Let's call the effort what it is: incorporation of the Village of Montecito. Surely, opinions will modify or at least soften in the face of such an effort, nay? - J.B.)
More Retail, More Parking
Caruso Affiliated spokesman Matt Middlebrook's comparison of the Caruso and Schrager Plans did not address retail space or parking. I assume the Caruso plan has more of both. Could this be a retail destination project hidden inside a hotel? Larry Lambert
(Ed. note: The Caruso plan does offer more parking spaces than the Schrager plan did; as for retail, yes, there is probably more retail space than the old Miramar ever had, but it is still miniscule - J.B.)
Only the MPC Can Make It Happen
Ladies & Gentlemen of the Montecito Planning Commission:
On July 16 you will have the opportunity to serve your community as never before: you have the power to resurrect and correct an entirely unacceptable, long-deplorable situation on the ruined grounds of that pillaged village, our ravaged old Miramar Hotel.
With that power entrusted to each of you, the opportunity to enrich Montecito's stately history, while bringing certain considerable increases of income to us all, is yours to grant.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, your failure to give the green light to the Caruso Miramar Hotel will result in continued increases of the rat population, further deterioration of the entire property and surrounding neighborhoods, and will only perpetuate our continued suspicion that you may very possibly be in collusion with certain malcontents who appear to believe they were placed upon this earth by Almighty God Himself to protect and nurture the vermin infestation located on the premises, and bully into selling any owner uninformed or not at time of purchase of the bilious baggage accompanying ownership of the old and entirely decayed ruins of the so used and useless Miramar.
1) On the one hand you can cast your affirmative vote to let the man who bought the property enormously improve his property now with an exquisite new hostelry, - or -
2) You can leave the stinking mess the way it is, lose another (and in my personal opinion most capable) Owner-Architect-Developer, sit there on your cushy Commission seats, and plan how you're going to screw over the next naive person who gets suckered into buying the Horror Hotel parcel that comes complete with nightmare negotiations with a Planning Commission, County Supervisor, and handful of wannabe soil & sound experts, rat lovers all, who have nothing better to do with their life than nitpick into oblivion the unsuspecting entrepreneur who has any pipe dream whatsoever of buying then beautifying the Miramar Memorial Cemetery and Rodentia Obscura.
I know how I would vote on Wednesday July 16; I can only hope and pray you will let the majority prevail and have the good sense and moral fiber to do what is right for Montecito and approve the Caruso group's final plan so they can start their engines, clean up that disgusting rat farm, break ground, and create for us their beautiful brand-new Miramar Hotel.
Only you can make it happen.
The Miramar Wellness Resort
In the event the current Miramar project (plan C in the saga of this site) goes the way of its predecessors, I have a suggestion for Plan D. First, I would like to address those concerned that if the current developer is not successful, the site will remain a rat- and mold-infested eyesore. As a lawyer I can assure you there are a plethora of laws and rules, including public and private nuisance laws as well as health, safety, and fire regulations, that can be invoked to cause a landowner to remove a nuisance-health-fire risk, and to thereafter maintain an empty plot suitably landscaped so as not to be a fire hazard.
However, I suggest that either the current or future owner consider turning the site into a "Wellness Resort" that teaches guests how to eat properly, how to detoxify their bodies, and how to turn their environment into a healthy one. The ultimate goal would be the prevention and, where possible, the reversal of illness. The retreat could be built like a resort, but very much smaller than the one presently envisioned. It would still be financially viable because higher rates can be charged for the wellness programs. The advantages are many. Having a world-class wellness center in our community would be of great benefit to the local (and aging) population, whereas we certainly do not benefit from having another vacation resort in our midst. It may even have a ripple effect. If fewer people are ill, perhaps we do not need to turn the St. Francis site into a healthcare worker habitat. Perhaps it too could be turned into a wellness center! Wouldn't it be great to invest in wellness instead of illness maintenance? As a scientist, medical researcher, and author of a soon-to-be published book on illness prevention, I have a very deep and personal interest in health, and would be pleased to donate my time in furtherance of developing a Wellness Resort.
Roy Mankovitz, BS, JD, CNC
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