Archive » December 31, 2008
Letters to the Editor
By Community Letter
Thank You for Your Support
Mere thanks are not enough to express the immense gratitude I have to each and every person and organization that has reached out to me during this horrible time since my daughter Talia’s death. From the very beginning of this terrible nightmare, when I received that first call informing me that the plane my daughter, her father and her friend were on was missing until this very moment in time, this entire community that we live in has reached out and embraced me and my family in the most heartwarming way. From making phone calls to bringing food, and most of all by sending love, prayers, and support, all of you have helped me more than any words can possibly express. Saying ‘thank you’ to all of you does not begin to express the deep gratitude that I have for your care and concern.
It is impossible to thank every one by name. There are so many people at Crane School, as well as here in our wonderful community of Montecito and Santa Barbara, as well as throughout our nation that have helped on so many levels that I cannot possibly put everyone’s name down without accidentally leaving out someone’s, simply because I do not even know everyone that has helped! That is how huge the effort to help me has been and I will be forever grateful.
Nothing can bring back my amazing daughter, or her father, nor will anything relieve me of my sorrow, but all of you have touched my life so deeply with your love, support and help, that I will never, ever, forget it. So, thank you, from the depths of my heart and soul.
The Miramar: Setting the Record Straight
I’m not in the habit of writing letters to the editor but it’s time. The last several editions have featured long articles by Bob Hazard, a former developer of hotels, extolling the virtues of the new Miramar plan and criticizing the slowness of the planning process in Montecito. He charges the decision makers to push this project through in six months or Mr. Caruso may back out of the deal. This is just not true. Caruso has more than $52 million invested already and he’s a very sophisticated developer whose done his homework…he knows that a 200-room hotel on 16 acres on the coast in Montecito is special.
Everyone wants this project to be built and the sooner the better...no argument there, but every developer who comes to Santa Barbara County knows there is a process which must be followed (which is not much different than other counties) and believe it or not, they expect it. Much of the process is required under State law and the rest is required by the County. Mr. Caruso only submitted a complete package (which would be required by any County) a couple of months ago. The Montecito Board of Architectural Review and the Montecito Planning Commission have already given the project preliminary review. The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee and the Association’s Board have been working closely with Mr. Caruso from the day he purchased the property…no one is dragging their feet.
Most people think Montecito is a special place and so do developers. The Community Plan was completed after 6 years and over 100 public meetings and approved by the County and the State in 1992. It has served us well; it is our primary planning document and it is not broken. The Montecito Association has worked diligently for 60 years to preserve and protect the community from intense development and deserves credit for this special place. Given our zoning, this Miramar project will be the only other hotel built in our community in our lifetime. It happens to be at the gateway to the community and highly visible, which is a developer’s dream, but shouldn’t the community have some say about the project?
If you saw the story poles at the Miramar toward the end of last year (the developer only left them up for 15 days so you might have missed them), you saw a huge project. When you exited 101 either northbound or southbound, they were huge. From San Ysidro Road, from Eucalyptus Road, from North and South Jameson and from the overpass, they were huge. The main building is 52.5 feet high from the existing grade vs. Montecito’s 35-foot height limit. From the main building stretching more than 400 feet down South Jameson west to Eucalyptus, there is a line of two-story buildings that are 29 feet tall behind a 10-foot-high sound wall. The buildings are set back only 20 feet from South Jameson, creating a “fortress effect.”
The rest of South Jameson going east down to the freeway access has more buildings including a huge ballroom. The Community Plan specifically refers to the Miramar and requires that it be “predominately one-story and cottage style.” This is not “cottage style.” The developer has used the two-story “fortress effect” to enhance the interior of his project. If approved as submitted, most of us will rarely use the project but we will drive by it and view it from many different vantage points everyday and shake our heads and ask “how did that ever get approved?”
A few more specifics: Caruso’s project has 169,293 sq. ft. of floor area versus 115,797 sq. ft. in the Schrager Plan or 46% more, and the Schrager plan is the approved project by which this new plan is to be compared. Standing on the boardwalk and looking north toward the mountains, because of the building heights, 50% of the mountains are obliterated despite the requirement in the Community Plan that “mountain views are to be preserved.” Part of the project calls for abandoning Miramar Lane, the street that parallels Eucalyptus and historically has been used for public parking and walking to the beach. Caruso is providing a great deal of public parking along South Jameson but by abandoning Miramar Lane, he has picked up considerably more land to build on (this represents probably a $3-million gift to the developer).
The architecture is plantation style, not Montecito cottage style. While many people are not happy with it, I don’t mind it… it’s attractive and tasteful. There are other good things about the project: there is more parking than Schrager’s project and most of it is underground. The landscaping is attractive and the retention of the old Miramar Tennis Club is a plus for those local members. The interior layout and amenities (such as the spa) for the guests are first class and the demand for hotel rooms in Montecito should ensure its success. So what do I think needs to be changed?
The 21 two-story units from the hotel entrance west down to Eucalyptus should be one story and set back an additional 15 feet from South Jameson to eliminate the “fortress effect” for this 400 feet of road. The landscaped 10-foot-high sound wall should be set back the same amount. There is plenty of room on the interior of this 16-acre parcel to put the 21 second-story units. Tony Harbor, a very respected architect who serves on the Montecito Association Land Use Committee and Board had an excellent solution for the 52-feet-high main building...eliminate the high roof pitch and make it a flat roof. Many fine projects use modern, contemporary flat roofs and the contrast with the cottages’ pitched roofs would make it a signature building. Just those two changes along South Jameson, which badly affect the community, would at the same time preserve the mountain views and come closer to achieving the “cottage style” which is a very basic requirement of the Community Plan. If you are concerned about this project, I encourage you to email the Montecito Association at: montecitoassociation.org
(Publisher's Note: You have made excellent points and your suggestion of a “flat roof” is worthy of Mr. Caruso’s consideration. A flat roof may improve mountain visibility, but we are not sure what a plantation style cottage with a flat roof would look like, or whether it would fit in with the other pitched roof cottages.
The "fortress affect" is also a concern, but the constant noise of the 101 freeway makes it almost necessary. Back when the Miramar first opened, the freeway wasn't the busy beast it is now. Also, if expansion continues on the 101 freeway and a third lane is added (and it inevitably will be), the Miramar will be that much closer to the freeway. Few people would pay top dollar to stay at a high-priced roadside motel within earshot of constant highway noise when the Biltmore is right around the corner, unless that noise level is mitigated.
We too feel the community should have some say in a project of this magnitude but it is not the community that is putting up the money to recreate the Miramar hotel. No matter the size of the developer or how deep his pockets, we should be respectful to the costs associated with delays, redesigns, and complications. – TLB)
Worried by the Looming Monstrosity
After seeing the story poles for the proposed project at the corner of Coast Village Road and Olive Mill, I would like to express my dismay. I find it hard to believe that a building so extremely large and out of scale is seriously being considered to replace our much needed 76 station.
Every time I drive by the looming monstrosity that has turned part of Chapala street into a claustrophobic corridor, I feel sad and mad. How did that get built? Please don't allow something similarly inappropriate and disturbing to be built in his neighborhood. Those poles told a scary story.
(Publisher's Note: We believe this project, if built, will be reduced in size by a considerable amount. – TLB)
Measure R 2008 Effect on Home Sales
Let's take a look at the cost and effect that the taxpayer cost of this bond measure will have on new home sales in the district. According to the latest year-end figures, the median price for a home in the district is $2,900,000.
The best estimate (could be more!) of the tax rate to fund this bond is $28.70 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. On a median-priced home sale that would equal $832 per year, for 31 years (the life of the bond); the total cost would be $25,801.
This surcharge will discourage buyers who are concerned about taxes from purchasing homes in our district and in effect lower the value of your property. If you agree, vote No Bonds... NO on Measure R2008.
Cold Spring School District Voter
Considering the Cold Spring School Bond
Cold Spring School District wants to make improvements to the school and that’s going to cost money. The fact that the School District needs to spend quite a bit of money to make the upgrades means there is inevitable opposition from some in the community. Anything that involves a tax often receives a reflex reaction against it. However, I support the School District’s desire to improve Cold Spring School and I encourage all voters in the District to vote in favor of Proposition R.
No one likes to pay taxes. But unlike income and sales taxes where most of the money leaves our community and goes to support who knows what, the taxes raised for a school bond go to an important and very specific purpose in our own community.
Our own future depends to a great extent on how well the current generation of children competes in a global marketplace. These children will succeed against counterparts in India and China by virtue of their education and their creativity. Don’t we owe it to these kids to give them the best facilities in which to develop and learn?
Also consider that a key reason why the students of Cold Spring School rank in the top fraction of one percent of all California public schools is because of the outstanding faculty and staff the school has. Don’t we want to support that faculty and staff by giving them modern facilities in which to instruct the students? The faculty and staff have a choice of where they choose to work. Providing them desirable facilities to work in will certainly influence whether they decide to stay at Cold Spring School or go elsewhere.
Please consider what the Santa Barbara County Courthouse would be like if those who didn’t want to “waste money on public buildings” had won the day when a bond to build the courthouse was on the ballot. The County Courthouse stands as a monument to those that believe that sometimes it is necessary for taxpayers to step up and do the right thing for the entire community and for future generations. Cold Spring School is a precious community asset and it should also be a testament to those with a vision of the future.
Despite the fact that our children no longer attend Cold Spring School, my wife and I will be voting in favor of the bond and I strongly encourage all voters in the Cold Spring School District to do the right thing on February 5th, and vote in favor of Proposition R2008.
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