Ghost Village Road

Coast Village Business Association is once again gearing up for an evening sure to be filled with tricks and treats: Montecito’s main drag will be turned into Ghost Village Road this Halloween. Led by CVBA president and Montecito Inn owner Danny Copus, this year’s event will feature a spooky “Joker’s Fun House,” inspired by this year’s Batman-based hit movie, “The Dark Knight.”

The “Fun House” will be constructed in the basement of the Montecito Inn, and feature scary clowns and other characters. Copus himself will dress the part of the Joker, eerily played on-screen by the late Heath Ledger. The “scariness factor” of the attraction will be based on the ages of the children passing through. Further down the street, Here’s the Scoop owners Bob and Ellie Patterson will again feature a photo opportunity and costume contest, with the winners’ pictures displayed here in the Journal. The Pattersons will pass out their famous “Worms N’ Dirt” gelato, and winners of the costume contest will receive gift certificates to the store.

This year Ghost Village Road welcomes another sweet shop, formerly known as Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture. Owner Wendy Jones tells us that the popular new cupcake shop will officially unveil its new name, Whodidily Cupcakes, on Halloween. The name change comes after some legal issues with L.A.-based cupcakery Sprinkles, but Jones says they have now settled the problem. She has been busy preparing the treats she will hand out to trick-or-treaters: sprinkled covered gumballs and chocolates. The Jones family will dress as people from Whoville, the fictional town in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Like years past, Copus tells us most of the stores on Coast Village Road will be passing out candy to Halloween revelers. Handing out candy, he says, “gives people the opportunity to see stores along the road which they may have never seen before.” Ghost Village Road has historically been a safe place for young kids to trick-or-treat, and this year – as in years past – police officers will be guarding crosswalks.

Last year an estimated one-thousand visitors made their way through the Montecito Inn’s haunted mansion, and this year Copus expects even more because the holiday falls on a Friday. “This is one of the most enjoyable events the CVBA puts together; it gives Montecito a strong, positive sense of community,” he said. Ghost Village Road will be held Friday, October 31 from 3 to 6 pm.

In other CVBA news, Copus tells us that the association has been busy putting together its Vision Plan, which was submitted to Santa Barbara City planner Betty Weiss. The plan includes input from residents and business owners gathered at two CVBA-sponsored town hall meetings earlier this year. Issues include traffic and parking, size and bulk of new developments, and maintaining the “village feel” of Coast Village Road.

Halloween Fright Walk

If you anticipate that strolling down Ghost Village Road will not give you the scare you or your older children are looking for, head into Santa Barbara this weekend to experience a “Halloween Fright Walk” benefiting Santa Barbara High School’s production of Music of the Night.

The quarter-mile walk, which takes place on a long and winding driveway, will be full of creepy and disturbing scenarios and themes complete with 30 live student actors from the high school. The walk, complete with a cemetery, creepy clowns, gigantic spider-webs and skeletons hanging from trees, will take about 15-20 minutes, and is geared towards adults and children over age 6. SBHS student Michael Landecker, whose family owns the property, tells us that Fright Walk has been a tradition at his home for over 12 years.

Landecker and fellow SBHS students Kendra Costigan, Kristian Sorensen and Jana McIntyre are the directors and choreographers of Music of the Night, a student-run Broadway rendition that will run in late January. The Halloween Fright Walk will be held Friday-Sunday October 24th-26th, from 7- 10pm, at 2101 Mountain Ave in Santa Barbara. Cost is $5 for children/students and $7 for adults. For more information contact Michael Landecker at 455-5262.

MUS Candidate Forum

On Thursday October 16, over fifty parents and teachers attended a forum at Montecito Union School to hear from the three candidates who are running for two open seats on the school board. After being introduced by Superintendent Dick Douglas, the forum was moderated by Sue Burrows, past president of the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara, and current Montecito Planning Commissioner. The forum was co-sponsored by the League and the MUS PTA.

Candidates Bob Kupiec, Brett Matthews and Mary Morouse were each given the opportunity to answer questions chosen from the League of Women Voters and questions from the audience, in addition to giving background information on themselves. The candidates were tested in their knowledge of balancing school budgets and public school governance issues, and asked to give their vision for the future of MUS.

Kupiec, the sole incumbent running for the board, was appointed to the School Board in 2006. A local architect and MUS parent for the last five years, Kupiec’s vision for MUS is to increase technology, focus on healthy food service, and prepare MUS students for the outside world. He described MUS as a sort of bubble, and emphasized the need to teach students lessons about real-world situations. “It is our civic responsibility to preserve the education system,” he said. Kupiec has taught on a collegiate level at both Pratt Institute and The NY School of Interior Design and during his tenure at MUS he has worked to improve communications between the administration, faculty and parents. He said in addition to improving Language Arts and Math and Science programs, he hopes to emphasize holistic education by providing MUS children with opportunities to learn through music, visual arts, drama and dance.

Matthews, who is a father of four, told the audience that MUS was one of the main reasons his family moved to Montecito. He is founder and former Chairman/CEO of Imagitas, a marketing company. Matthews cited his extensive experience with economics as a significant reason for him to be elected, since MUS has a jaw-dropping budget of $23,000 per child, compared with California’s average of $5,800. Matthews’ vision of MUS is that the school will impose a “strong love of learning” on students. He desires that MUS have a strong, innovative and trusting culture, strong leadership, and a highly motivated group of teachers. He, along with Morouse, brought up the idea of performance-based compensation for teachers. A graduate of Dartmouth, Matthews has won numerous awards including Vice President Gore’s Reinventing Government Award and Entrepreneur of the Year.

“I am the accidental candidate,” said Morouse, who recently retired to stay home with her three young children. She said she saw that parents were becoming frustrated with communication issues at MUS, and was puzzled as to how poorly the school board meetings were run. “The best way to change things is to be part of the solution,” she said. She too cites her extensive business skills to create strategic and financial goals for the $10 million business that is MUS. Another main goal is to attract and retain the best teachers in California, and to compensate them based on performance. “I want MUS to go from great to excellent,” she said. Her vision includes well-rounded children that possess values such as kindness and understanding, and wants MUS to run at a superior level. Morouse, who attended UC Berkeley and obtained her MBA at UCLA, sees MUS as a “beacon of light” among California public schools.

The candidates discussed the issue of basic aid, the type of school funding MUS enjoys, which happens when a school district does not need financial help from the state and instead receives funds from a portion of a community’s property taxes. The basic aid status has been regularly threatened by the state recently, and all three candidates agreed that it is important to realize its basic aid status may not last. Another topic touched upon was the idea of adding a junior high school to the district; Matthews said he would vote for it if the community was for it, while Morouse and Kupiec stated more research was necessary before voting yes. When asked about the need to have both a principal and superintendent, Matthews implied that the dual positions are more of a “want” than a “need,” and that the roles may need to be looked at if the school is faced with tougher economic times. Morouse also implied that the two positions are a luxury, but she did qualify that by stating their roles need to be clearly defined. Kupiec said having one person act as both principal and superintendent would be a very difficult task, and everyone at MUS benefits from having both.

Miramar Decision Appealed

“This was not unanticipated,” says Matt Middlebrook of Caruso Affiliated, referring to two appeals of the Montecito Planning Commission’s approval of the Miramar project. The appeals, filed by Coast Law Group (on behalf of Citizens Planning Association) and Stan and Jean Harfenist, were both submitted to the county before the October 20 deadline.

CPA’s appeal, which is about 140 pages long because it includes documentation submitted at each of the four MPC hearings, describes the project’s inconsistencies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Montecito Community Plan.

A number of issues including water use, FAR calculations, flooding, traffic, storm water drainage, historic preservation, sewer capacity and construction noise are cited in the appeal. The MPC spent four day-long hearings poring over the project, to which Naomi Kovacs, Executive Director of CPA, stated in a press release, “The fact that the commission spent approximately forty hours over a few months’ time discussing and deliberating over this project reflects the complicated nature of this project. Don’t be fooled; much discussion took place, but not about some serious matters that needed attention and resolution, yet were ignored.”

Many hours, especially during the last MPC hearing on October 8, were spent hashing out operational issues such as the number of events the hotel can hold per day and beach club membership, while other more significant, issues including long-term water availability and alleged problems with Caruso’s flood analysis were never fully analyzed, according to Kovacs. She has been publicly opposed to the Miramar project, claiming a full EIR needs to be done.

The Harfenist appeal cites about 26 issues and is a more readable three pages long. In addition to Oak Creek flooding issues, of which Mrs. Harfenist spoke to at every MPC hearing and numerous Montecito Association meetings, the appeal cites inadequate environmental review, non conformance with the Montecito Community Plan, the Coastal Act, Coastal Land Use Plan, and Coastal Zoning Ordinance. Additionally, the Harfenist appeal accuses the MPC and Santa Barbara County of making numerous mistakes including not responding adequately to public comment, using an improper baseline to assess the impacts of the project, and inappropriately using an Addendum instead of a full EIR. The appeal also accuses MPC of abusing its discretion and committing an “error of law” in approving modifications regarding project height and setback, and in not gaining authorization and approval of Union Pacific Railroad.

“These are all issues we think have been covered in great depth,” Middlebrook told us. Errin Briggs, SB County project manager tells us these appeals will stall the project; instead of moving forward with architecture plans and seeking guidance from MBAR, Miramar owner Rick Caruso will have to deal with the appeals first. The first step? Facilitation with County Counsel, in which Caruso and the appellants will try to reach agreement without a hearing, Briggs told us. If that fails, the project will be sent to the Board of Supervisors. The Caruso camp remains optimistic: “It’s a good project that has been thoroughly looked at, and while this is a delay, hopefully it won’t be a long one,” Middlebrook said.

Westmont Groundbreaking

On Thursday, October 23, Westmont College will officially break ground, signifying the beginning of Phase I of its Master Plan. On October 9 the Westmont Board of Trustees voted to take this historic step of breaking ground on two new buildings: Adams Center for the Visual Arts and Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics. Westmont representative Scott Craig tells us these buildings are the first to be built in 24 years; in total, Phase I construction will add 166,000 square feet of under-roof building space to the campus. For more information on the new buildings, visit