Truth About the Miramar

My family and I live and own property near the Miramar Hotel project site. Like many other longtime Montecito residents, we were sorry to see the old Miramar close and have grown weary of seeing the blighted site. We long for construction of a new hotel, built in conformity with the Montecito Community Plan. In fact, we expect nothing less. That is why the residents of Montecito demanded that a Community Plan be adopted and enforced – to protect and preserve our unique community character.

What I discovered recently was that when Rick Caruso purchased the Miramar property in early 2007, he soon began meeting with community leaders to discuss his plans for the property. He spent a year and a half advertising, giving parties, and discussing his intentions for the property, letting everyone know that he fully understood our Community Plan and intended to build the cottage-style hotel we all expected. But once the parties were over, the project morphed into a much larger project with none of the semi-rural charm we had imagined.

When I wanted to see the plans, actual information about the project was hard to come by, with many of the required working drawings being submitted late. Parking and traffic impacts were inadequately analyzed and flood control was similarly ignored. As it turned out, the bulk and size of the project was completely out of character for the community. Despite the long list of significant impacts, including severe water allocation issues, an EIR was never done.

Once I discovered how little my neighbors and I actually knew about Caruso’s plans, that many of us still assumed he was building a slightly modified version of the Schrager Plan, and how an “aura of impropriety” was beginning to accumulate around the County approval process, I felt it was time to get involved.

I decided to start a group email and a website, both titled “TruthAboutMiramar” to share information quickly and easily about current information, new findings, and relevant names and addresses of County governing bodies. The average citizen in Montecito is wholeheartedly in support of a hotel, but needs assistance in cutting through the maze of misinformation, propaganda, and half-truths being put forth by Caruso’s powerful PR team.

I knew that since we were at the crucial point where this project was about to be approved (having received an endorsement from the otherwise-tough Montecito Association) we needed to start having town meetings to discuss our concerns face-to-face. What I did not expect was the groundswell of interest in our grassroots organization. Starting with a core group of locals who had been vigilantly tracking the hotel’s process since Caruso bought the property, there are now hundreds of local citizens involved, as well as the Citizen’s Planning Association, showing up at meetings to insist on an impartial review of the most significant project in Montecito’s history.

Stacy Pulice

Montecito

Single-Minded Institutions

I am really troubled and frustrated at the “single-minded” approach that the local newspapers are taking when it relates to the project involving the Miramar proposal. I have been under the impression that even though newspapers may have a preference, they usually will print in “letters to the editor” opposing viewpoints. This gives the readers more balanced conclusions.

On August 8th “Voices” by Travis Armstrong (SB News-Press) stated “The developer’s pied pipers in the media—such as the Montecito Journal, which has become a cheerleader for bad development under Tim Buckley’s watch—bought the line.” Travis also trashes the Montecito Association, its Land Use Committee and County Planners. Also stated, “I hope the Caruso folks will just pack up and go back to L.A.” Statements like these are not the Santa Barbara congeniality that I cherish. Various articles in the Santa Barbara Independent also have been negative on the Miramar Project. The News-Press and the Independent have never had a reporter at any Land Use or Board meetings and yet they freely state so called facts they receive secondhand. Much of the information given to these newspapers is provided by disgruntled egotists that are no longer the power structure in Montecito. Neither the News-Press nor the Independent have ever printed anything positive about the Miramar Project in either “Editorial” or “Voices” or “Letters to the Editor” In my opinion, this is single-minded reporting.

The Montecito Journal has been a proponent of the Miramar Project. There have been many issues that I totally disagree with Tim Buckley’s editorials. I must admit that Tim has always had an open mind in printing opposition viewpoints in either the Editorial or “Letters to the Editor.” This, in my opinion, is unbiased reporting. If the readers have seen the pros and cons of a project it is easier to come to logical conclusions.

Please, let us treat the Caruso Group, the Montecito Association, and County Planners with respect. The Miramar Project is intertwined with some very difficult situations and decisions. We must all work together to expedite the process. The Schrager Plan was not economically feasible. Why keep going there? We must bear in mind that the Miramar will not be a reality under any circumstances if it is not economically feasible which would also mean that financing would not be available, especially with the current downturn of the economy.

I predict that if Caruso walks from the project, it will be another five to ten years of mold and blight with health and safety hazards.

Harry Hovey

Montecito

(Publisher's Note: We appreciate your astute observations, although take issue with your opinion that we have been “a proponent of the Miramar Project,” since we’ve never stated an editorial position. We do believe, however, that Mr. Caruso has the right to build a hotel there! Side Note: We were not able to verify whether or not the News-Press or the Independent has ever attended any of the meetings stated above. ~TLB)

Project Should go Forward

I do not have a vested interest in Rick Caruso's Miramar Project to go forward, but I do have a strong community interest in seeing that terrible eyesore removed and replaced by an attractive project that would add significant tax revenue to the county and bring new employment opportunities to the area.

For about a decade this community has had to put up with the abandoned remains of an unattractive group of buildings while two major developers have watched their plans for the space be rejected or altered until it was no longer attractive to attempt to improve the property.

When Caruso came along, may of us couldn't believe our good fortune to have such a respected and well financed developer buy the property and present a plan for a world class facility on that space. It seemed to me that the man has bent over backward to communicate with a broad group of citizens and authority groups, and has altered his plans to include answers to most of the concerns.

What worries me now is that if we allow a small group of dissenters and Travis Armstrong to either scuttle the project or render it uneconomical, we will be living with that eyesore for another decade or longer.

I am convinced that if it were possible to have the community vote on that project, it would receive over 90% approval from Montecito residents. Hopefully those voices will be heard when this project is considered again.

Richard J. Pearson

Montecito

(Publisher's Note: We too have wondered what the vote would be if the project were left up to Montecito residents. Perhaps Caruso should consider conducting a poll. ~TLB)

MPC Deserves Our Thanks

I would like to thank the Montecito Planning Commission for acting with a deep sense of responsibility and with courage at the recent Miramar Hotel hearing. In a twelve-hour hearing, they reviewed a document that seems to have been filled with errors and that lacked critical information about public safety, environmental, traffic and other issues. It bore, as someone said, an air of impropriety.

The community heard comments from many residents who are part of a rapidly growing group that is united in its desire to see a new Miramar Hotel built. The same group is determined to see that the legal process is followed. It seems clear that the county should have insisted on a full EIR the first time they saw that what was being proposed had nothing in common with the approved Schrager plan. But they did not. The Montecito Association should have rejected the project because it had no EIR and violated the very letter of the Montecito Community Plan, but they did not. The county staff should have been given sufficient time to conduct a thorough examination of the proposal, but they were not. The staff should then have recommended against the current proposal. But they did not.

On August 6th, the Montecito Planning Commission held their ground.

Thank you.

Jean Harfenist

Montecito

Montecito Water Rates

Had enough water rate increases with no solutions?

There is no way that the new rate structure plan, which the board is almost certain to pass, will do anything to resolve either our near- or long-term water problems.

This plan does little to change the habits of the 5% of customers who use 30% of the water. It does nothing to encourage the 40% of customers in block #1 to do anything further to conserve water.

It does nothing to encourage conservation from hotels, restaurants, golf courses, commercial businesses or agricultural users.

The only ones who will be financially punished to conserve by this plan are the hard-working 40% single-family homeowners, many of whom are already doing as much as they possibly can .

Clearly the numbers do not work. Forty percent of the single-family homes cannot cut back their water usage enough to make even a dent in what is needed to keep Montecito a vibrant and growing community. The answer clearly is to increase supply and create a rate structure that forces everyone to do their fair share.

Please plan to attend (and ask your neighbors to attend) the public meeting, which is to be held on August 19 at 2 pm at the Montecito Fire District, 595 San Ysidro Road.

David Strauss

Montecito Resident and candidate for Montecito Water District Board

(Publisher's Note: The upcoming water board hearing will hopefully answer many of the concerns regarding the recent water issues raised by the county regarding the Miramar ~ TLB)