Montecito Association Endorses Miramar Project

With Rick Caruso and team in attendance, the Montecito Association publicly endorsed the closely watched Miramar project on Thursday, July 10. The three-hour ad hoc meeting was held to hear the land use committee’s recommendation, which was formulated the previous day after careful study of the county’s staff report. “We have endorsed the Miramar project as defined by the county staff report, including the 82 conditions of approval,” MA president Bill Palladini told us.

“Don’t hesitate to challenge assumptions; ask good questions, and make sure you are satisfied with the answers; this is the last shot we are going to get at this project,” Palladini said to the board at the start of the meeting. He told us he was highly impressed with the performance of the board, and with their knowledge and understanding of the project. Land use chairman Ted Tedesco presented the committee’s findings, and while there were areas of concern, no major changes were suggested. By the end of the evening, the board voted on ten aspects of the project.

Three major modifications discussed and voted on by the board included height, setbacks, and parking; all were approved. However, Palladini noted, concerns and comments about each were included in a letter sent to the Montecito Planning Commission. The board unanimously voted that a full EIR is unnecessary, an issue that has haunted the Caruso team from the get go.

One issue board members were unable to agree on was the usage of the beach club. As it stands, Caruso is permitted to have 140 members. He is asking for a modification to raise that number to 300. The board took three votes in an attempt to come up with a compromise regarding the number of members that should be allowed. “All three votes were tied; we were unable to agree on a recommendation,” Palladini said. The mass, bulk, and scale of the spa building was voted on as well; with an 11-1 vote, the board decided to include their visual impact concerns in the letter to the MPC.

At a monthly board meeting back in April, Caruso addressed the board and said, “I would hate to leave the impression that the recommendation goes forward to approve the project subject to the 27 different things we think need to be changed. At that point I’d rather have a recommendation that says ‘we do not support the project.’” Palladini explained that although concerns and comments are included in the endorsement, it is not a list of significant changes. “We are not asking for any significant major changes,” he said.

As far as public comment, Palladini said hearing more would be counterproductive. “After eighteen months of countless and noticed board meetings and the big public meeting we had on May 5, we felt that we had really given the community an opportunity to speak out,” he said. The board endorsed the overall project with a 10-0 vote, with Palladini abstaining.

The recommendation from the board will be read at the MPC hearing on Wednesday, July 16.

Union 76 Project Appeal Heard by City Council

The Santa Barbara City Council has denied the appeal of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission’s approval of the mixed-use project slated for 1298 Coast Village Road. This after hearing from several appellants including Montecito Inn co-owner Danny Copus, Sandy and John Wallace, who own property adjacent to 1298 CVR, and advocate group Save Coast Village Road. Project representatives Jeff Gorrell and Scott Schell also spoke. The council heard from three members of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission: Addison Thompson, John Jostes, and Chairman George Myers, and recorded a near record 107 opinions from the public.

In a surprising move, Chairman Myers changed his opinion on the project; he had been the dissenting vote of 3-1 at the Planning Commission hearing back in March. “Had [the project] been represented to the March hearing as it is today, I could have easily supported it, and therefore approve the project. I recommend you deny the appeals,” he said, referring to the revised plans which omitted the emergency staircase modification which was the sole modification to be denied by the commission. He also suggested that the developer and architect went too far in trying to please the neighbors and local organizations by lowering the height of the building. “When considering the plate heights and the residential units of this project, I believe the human experience would have appreciated a little more breathing room,” he said. Chairmen Thompson and Jostes explained that the three modifications that were approved were both necessary and appropriate.

Copus brought up the concern of neighborhood compatibility. He cited the Montecito Association’s decision to not support the plan, as well as the dozens of Montecito residents who say they are against the project. He reminded the commission of the two town hall meetings held in May that rendered findings from the public that three-story buildings are too high for the road.

Mr. Wallace, who claimed he “was the person most affected by the project,” brought up the concern of a buffer between his property and the mixed-use building. He cited that the buffer the developer is proposing is a roadway, and is the only entrance and exit to the building. “I don’t think there is a more intense use of land than a roadway!” he said.

Other close neighbors, including Jim Fabio, cited the massive scale of the building as the reason they are opposed. “We feel that the project is out of scale with our neighborhood and we plan to live here for the rest of our lives; we would appreciate if something of this size and scale was not out our back window for the rest of our lives,” he said. Jim Westby voiced concern over the rezone necessary for the project. “To rezone property that borders a residential area needs to be considered very, very carefully; I’m opposed to that,” he said. He also opposed two modifications of the project, including the rear setback and the open space modification. Kathleen Lorraine stated, “It’s just too big and too tall.” Phoebe Alexiades discussed canyonization and the importance of not having two tall buildings across from each other, especially on a corner.

The majority of the public spoke in support of the project, however. David Pintard pointed out the desirability of underground parking and Lee Artman stated, “This is going to be a wonderful improvement!” Former teacher Molly Rosecrance opined, “I speak in favor of the project not just for its gateway beauty, but for the timely economic boost our community needs; this project will provide jobs and property taxes from which we will all benefit!”

Some members of the opposition accused developer John Price of hosting a recent cocktail party at the Montecito County Club to garner support. Santa Barbara resident Kathy Odell responded: “My support was definitely not gained by a cocktail and a pig in a blanket, and I don’t think that anyone else’s who supports this project was either.” Skye McGinnis stated, “As a lifelong resident of Santa Barbara, I’ll be glad to see that gas station gone, and as an environmentalist I’ll be glad to see that tank gone!” Other supporters who spoke included Village Properties co-owner Ed Edick, Rob Vance, Art Gaspar and Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman.

Council member Roger Horton stated that he too would like to see the project less bulky. He suggested the designer work with ABR to design a project less intrusive. "This is Montecito’s neighborhood; it’s where you shop, it’s where you bank, it’s where you eat, and your voices need to be taken into consideration and to heart,” said member Iya Falcone, who made it clear that a three-story building is “not okay” with her. Council member Grant House said a big concern of his is the height and bulk of the building. Council member Dale Francisco voiced concern over traffic, saying, “We need something behind the ‘number of trips’ calculations to know what the real impact will be.” Council member Helene Schneider said her concern lies with the privacy of the property to the north and the requested setback modification. Council member Das Williams said the project should be sent to ABR for help with the final design. Mayor Marty Blum said she too is “struggling with the third story.”

The council unanimously agreed to grant the rezone. In a long-winded motion, House motioned to deny the appeal, with the condition that the project would go back to ABR to change several aspects. Neighborhood compatibility is to be looked at, as well as the tower height. Another condition was to not approve the second floor setback from the north side of the property. In the end, by a vote of 4-3, the City Council denied the appeal.