The Village’s Two Faces

FROM BEAUTY TO BLOWS: Montecito is such an anomaly — on Saturday, neighbors were bestowing air kisses in a most congenial fashion, but by Monday they’d squared off into varying political camps and seemed much closer to swapping punches than sipping punch!

Last Saturday was the 22nd Annual Montecito Association Beautification Day held in the Upper Village Green. Where else but Montecito would a garbage-pick-up event be kicked off by a buffet of freshly baked breads, sliced seasonal fruit, a variety of juices, and hot coffee poured from silver urns by uniformed waiters? This always-popular fall event attracts hundreds Montecito citizens, who, for showing up, are gifted with identically neutralizing green T-shirts.

However, in spite of the camouflage, there were interesting standouts in the crowd. For example, a team of enthusiastic Westmont students were volunteering right along side Laura Collector, who has been leading the opposition against Westmont’s proposed expansion. Sheriff Jim Anderson was heard countering a story that crime had risen in Montecito by 12 percent, explaining it was merely one additional incident that added the incriminating percentage.

Another intriguing Beautification Day contradiction came in the form of a generous gift from Ty Warner’s Four Season’s Biltmore made to his alleged antagonist: the Montecito Association! But by Tuesday morning, at a Board of Supervisors appeal hearing over a Biltmore beach staircase, the café diplomacy was cold and the only thing steaming was the ongoing rift between fans of the powerful developer and the association’s community protectors. (The board voted in favor of Warner’s appeal.) However, while a BoS showdown may not be a great way to start the day, Montecitans are a sophisticated bunch and they know how to agree to disagree and still live in community harmony.

It was just this sense of community (and occasional need for community healing) that inspired Patty Bliss and Joanne Rapp to originate Beautification Day in the late 1980s. Envisioned as an environmental clean-up day, volunteers receive free T-shirts, coffee, and community camaraderie in exchange for an hour’s worth of litter pick-up.


Mindy Denison (pictured) chaired Beautification 2006, which honored citizen of the year John Venable along with volunteers Barry Siegel and Austin Lampson. The event ended with a hot dog and chili lunch hosted by the Montecito Fire District. More than 1.38 tons of litter was collected and dumped by Marborg, causing one long-time citizen to ponder, “Does this mean we can’t call Montecito trashy?”

WESTMONT TBA AGAIN: The Montecito Planning Commission’s Monday hearing on Westmont’s expansion plans was continued until November 20. The commission spent another six-and-a-half hours mulling the impacts and mitigations of the massive plan. After months of listening to testimony from planning staff, the applicant, and the opposition, the commissioners spent the entire session debating amongst themselves. At the end of the day, they determined the had more questions and needed more discussion time. Expect the commission to re-examine penalties for traffic going over the any average daily trip (ADT) caps, and to review the cap itself. Current usage is calculated at 3,243 ADT, and Westmont is requesting an increase to a 3,500 cap. Do the math and that’s an additional 257 trips per day.

At the next hearing, the commission is also expected to revisit construction impacts, parking and traffic limits, possible affordable employee-housing opportunities, EIR certification, and the height and space requirements of the proposed chapel (down to the minutia of whether it’s 9- or 11-square-feet per person for an assembly area!). As he reviewed the “To-be-Done List,” commission chair Robert Meghreblian concluded triumphantly, “We have converged on those things that bother us.” But when assistant county P&D director Diane Meester Black heard the long list of unresolved issues, she slumped somewhat, adding, “One more hearing is my goal.” Wishful thinking aside, some oddsmakers are taking December for bets on the Westmont approval date.

montage%20cup.jpgMONTECITO MEANDERINGS: Westmont hosts a very creative ceramic show on display until December 15 at the college’s Reynolds Gallery, 955 La Paz Road, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The selection of unusual pots and cups, curated by Westmont alumni Chris Rupp, is delectable, distinctive, and affordable — at the opening guest were falling head over tea cups for this delightful display!….

Wearable and wall art will be on display at Tour de Arte Fashion and Fine Art show, November 15 from 5 until 8 p.m. The event is being organized by Montecito’s very aesthetic Arlyn Goldsby and will feature some Montecito artists and fashions from Arlyn’s trendy Objects. For info contact…..

The Coral Casino Social Committee (pictured, from left, Alex Fleming, Victoria Hines, Stephanie McGowan, and Daphne Ireland with Coral Casino manager Kevin Speer standing) got together recently to start talking about the Coral’s reopening party planned for July 1..…


In spite of one member’s lawsuit, the Coral closed last November and a seagull flying overhead might notice construction well under way. The grand ballroom has been deeply excavated and the pool is partially drained (contrary to rumor, it will not be reconfigured, but the pool is undergoing permit changes for tile and plaster modifications). The best news? The old view-blocking storage room is gone, allowing for the fabled pacific vista to once again be revealed from the stellar Coral Casino entry…..

On the MPC November 15 Agenda is a review of some MPC, MBAR, and MA subcommittee work. Initiated by First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal last January, the committee reviews include a look at acceptable floor area ratios, neighborhood compatibility descriptions, historical home inventories, and encroachments. The committee’s determinations could be used in the future by MBAR to better define and enforce the Montecito’s Architectural Guidelines….

Montecito architect Kevin Contreras reports his television series “Building Green” will air on KCET on November 12 and 19 at 5:30 p.m. Kevin’s own house, made of straw, has been featured on a past and popular Montecito Walk and Talk tour….

Film producer/director Steve Traxler reports the Santa Barbara High School Theater Department’s fall play opens on November 10 and 11, repeating on November 16, 17, and 18. The play, “Still Life with Iris,” is a fantasy that includes on-stage magic and illusion and stars Steve’s daughter, Carlin Traxler. “The play is aimed toward kids and it’s not well known so it may be tough to find a general audience,” confessed Steve. “As a loving dad, I’m out beating the bushes for publicity.” There are other Montecito kids in this play, so join this dad applauding his daughter and take a break from the drama of village politics to enjoy real theater at SB High School!…..

The Susnar property, including landmark Tom’s Pharmacy at the corner of East Valley Road and San Ysidro, has sold. Realtor Michael Phillips tells us the high bidder was real estate investor Richard Gunner, who shelled out $11 million, making it one very expensive Rx!…..

Lots of interest recently in the architecturally interesting Middle Road neighborhood that includes noted architectural designers George Washington Smith, Lutah Marie Riggs, and Frank Lloyd Wright, all within steps of each other…..

And it’s confirmed: those anonymous donors of the $75 million to Westmont? We’ll let them stay anonymous but let you know they are from Montecito, of course!

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