Highway Construction Update

According to Gregg Hart with SBCAG, late last Friday the State Department of Finance lifted the suspension order that would have halted work on the 101 Operational Improvements project as of Monday, February 9. “They realized the cost of stopping the work exceeded the cost of continuing it,” he told us. Work will continue throughout this week.

Hart says in addition to the state getting closer to agreeing to a budget, a federal stimulus package that would help the state’s cash flow is also in the works. If both of these financing options fail in the short term, SBCAG is continuing to negotiate a finance agreement with Caltrans that would allow local Measure D funds to be used for the project so that work can continue, even if a state budget agreement is not reached.

1298 CVR Update

On Monday, February 8, the City of Santa Barbara Architectural Review Board denied preliminary approval to the mixed-use project slated to replace the 76 gas station on the corner of Olive Mill and Coast Village Road. Last seen by the board on December 15, architect Jeff Gorrell presented several alterations including color and detail changes, roof line changes, the addition of bicycle parking, pedestrian enhancements, and changes in landscaping. Window and doorway changes were also made to “enhance the pedestrian and shopper experience.”

Gorrell described for the Board the “big picture” changes made to the project since receiving Planning Commission approval last March and City Council approval on appeal back in July. The apparent bulk of the three-story, eight residential-unit building has been reduced by “imploding” the building internally, according to Gorrell. What results is a volume relocation of about 13,200 cubic feet that moved inward to the center of the plan away from the public’s eye. Other actions to reduce the bulk include: the third floor has been removed at the corner, and set further back from the street and nestled into the second-story element. The color of the building has also been changed to better fit into the color scheme already present on the road.

Landscape architect Sam Maphis outlined a landscape plan that will help mitigate the size of parts of the building. “Softening landscaping,” as well as draping vines, will be used to add aesthetic detail to the building. Bike parking that adheres to city standards was added for a more residential feel, and gas and utility meters vaults were relocated.

A handful of residents spoke in opposition to the project, including Phoebe Alexiades (President of Save Coast Village Road), Tom Bollay, Sandy and John Wallace, and Derek Weston. “The current project does not yet meet size, bulk, and scale mandates,” Bollay said. He suggested eliminating the at-grade parking, to which planner Peter Lawson responded that alternatives have been discussed but claimed there are no other viable options.

Alexiades voiced concern over the bulk, saying, “The height remains the same, and it’s the height that makes it incompatible with Coast Village Road.” Mr. Wallace showed pictures of his property and how the current hedges block sunlight; he and Mrs. Wallace both stated it is their right to not have sunlight blocked by the proposed building. Mr. Wallace said the developer is not adhering to the city’s solar ordinance, which protects residences from losing sunlight by new development. Lawson stated the ordinance does not apply to the situation because the parcel has been granted a commercial rezone; the solar ordinance applies to residential zones.

Proponents of the project included Dave Pintard, Leona Murphy and Ed Edick. Pintard praised Gorrell and developer John Price, saying, “They’ve worked with every agency along the way, and they’ve come back with this project after listening to your comments.” Murphy, who owns the adjacent Coldwell Banker building called the project “absolutely gorgeous” and “compatible” with her building. Edick agreed, saying, “It does lend itself well to the business district in the area.”

Several Board members agreed that the project’s bulk had been minimized. Gary Mosel said, “The applicant has done a very good job at what we’ve asked him to do… he’s done quite a lot of aesthetic things.” Chairman Christopher Manson-Hing agreed, telling Gorrell that his efforts have “brought the project into a comfort area” for him.

Board member Carol Gross voiced concern over landscaping, which she asked Maphis to modify. Clay Aurell said he was concerned with the building’s drop-off being so close to the 5-way intersection. After mulling over whether or not to grant preliminary approval, the board decided to give more direction to Gorrell to further modify the project and deny the approval. Gorrell told us he is working on more architectural design on the upper parkway and driveway, and enhancing the design of the elevation facing the nearby Longs parking lot. However, the board unanimously agreed the project’s size, bulk and scale is acceptable, but asked that Gorrell return in two weeks with detail changes.

Three More Years

At this month’s Montecito Association Board meeting on February 9, the Board reappointed Sally Kinsell for another 3-year term as Honorary Director. “I can’t tell you how valuable all her experience is,” said former President Bill Palladini, “I’m glad she’s back.”

Tea Fire Forum

The Board discussed the Tea Fire Forum held last month, and many board members commented on how emotional the audience of over 250 was. Bob Short called the forum a “pressure relief valve” for the community, allowing people affected by the Tea Fire a chance to get questions answered by various governmental agencies.” We are now getting results,” said President Peter van Duinwyk, citing the possibility of installing sirens in Montecito and the collaboration of Montecito Fire Protection District with Mountain Drive Volunteer Fire Company.

101 Roundabout

Kirsten Ayars, spokesperson for Highway 101 Operational Improvements project, attended the meeting to answer questions about the uncertainty of the roundabout being constructed on Coast Village Road, Cabrillo Blvd, Hot Springs Road and Old Coast Highway. She outlined three possible scenarios for the shaky funding for the project: a state budget could free up funding, local funding from Measure D via a vote from SBCAG, or a suspension of the project. If the project gets suspended, she said, the contractor has to revert the construction area to “safe interim conditions” i.e. CVR would be repaved and reopened. Ayars said that it would cost an estimated $400 million to suspend transportation projects statewide. The roundabout will take about a year to build, in four stages. Each stage moves the stop sign intersection around so traffic is still able to move through the area.

East Valley Road Crosswalk

CalTrans spokesman Chris Englemann presented a proposed mid-block crosswalk across East Valley Road in front of Montecito Library. Based on the number of vehicles traveling on Highway 192, and the speed at which they are traveling, Englemann said the area is appropriate for a crosswalk. He said he has observed many pedestrians crossing the street with canes, and emphasized the safety need. Englemann told us later he hopes to get from the MA a sense of whether the community would embrace the idea, and left pictures of what it would look like so the board can obtain community consensus.

In Other News...

Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Wallace reported fire danger with space heaters and chimneys, and Lieutenant Eric Koopmans reported yet another month of increased burglary from vehicles. He attributed the increase to the slow economy and vehicle owners leaving valuables in plain sight. “The crooks are willing to break a window if they know they’ll get something valuable,” he said.

In other MA news, last week First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal adopted a resolution honoring Palladini for his dedicated service as President of Montecito Association. Carbajal commended Palladini and the Association for bringing the community together. “I would encourage all people in all communities of Santa Barbara to participate in their own communities and their own governance, it’s a very important role,” Palladini said.

The next Montecito Association meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10.

Sierra Club’s Tea Garden Hike

A large group of Sierra Club hikers gathered at the gate house to the Tea Gardens on Sunday, February 8 and wended their way past aqueducts, reservoirs, pools, and the ruins of water features to the Teahouse Arches, where Shalimar Luciano and helpers served blended teas from her shop, Rituals, on Coast Village Road. Led by the owner of the property, the group noted the resurgence of vegetation on the fire-scarred landscape, the broad and open views of the coast, and the intricacies of the water courses that the owner hopes to repair and restore. While an intrepid group climbed the steep ridge trail that demarked the extent of the fire, others enjoyed picnics from the many overlooks and vantage points along the way.

Corrections & Omissions

In the article “On Building Green” by Lawrence Thompson (MJ 15/6), it was incorrectly stated that Mr. Thompson is the current Chairman of the State Energy Advisory Committee; he is in fact the former chair. It was also written that the City of Santa Barbara is "exempting" applications of fire victims, whereas it has instead developed an informal process to qualify fire rebuilds for streamlined review, provided the format of the prior home is used and there is almost no increase in project size. An informal review will determine whether projects are directed to full review by the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) or a simpler Conceptual Review with a hearing officer, depending upon the compatibility of the project with City standards. A green building consultant will be present at the preliminary informal review to evaluate the merits of the project and make suggestions to assist applicants.