The Best of Montecito and More

OUR FAVORITES: No fall would be complete without The Independent’s “Best of Santa Barbara” list and Montecito didn’t want to be left out. So here’s an “on-the-street” take of what some neighbor say is best about Montecito:

“The quality of life and the trees.” — Claire Gottsdanker, landscape designer and member Montecito Planning Commission (She’s right, so we put up this tree picture.)mm%20trees.jpg

“The community spirit.” — Jean von Wittenburg, former and longtime chair of the Montecito Association Beautification Day

“The Montecito trails system.” — Montecito Fire District Chief Kevin Wallace, who took the helm of the Fire District on October 1

“The kindness and loyalty of all of our customers.” — Liza Johnston, manager of the Montecito Pet Shop, a longtime Coast Village Road business relocating to the Mesa to avoid Montecito’s rabidly rising rents

“My favorite thing in Montecito is—of course—getting a project completed and all the people I get to talk to who help us reach that goal!” — Greg Rice, Property Executive, Ty Warner Resorts and Properties

“The best of Montecito is the sense of commitment to the land and the continuity of the community. The winding paths, the undulating terrain, the physical diversity of the plants, and the variety of the microclimates we have here are always embraced by residents. The faces change in Montecito but the sprit remains the same.” — David Bertrand, 75-year resident of Montecito, to whom we award “The Best Poetic Response.”

WESTMONTTO BE CONTINUED: After a six-year-long community debate, a 90-day hiatus to re-group, a fully new architectural re-design, and God only knows how many prayers, Westmont College’s hoped-for campus re-vamp sits stalled in limbo!

The 15-hours of public hearings, held on October 16 and 18 at the Montecito Planning Commission, served only to whet the appetite of the information hungry commissioners. At the end of the day they asked the Christian liberal arts college and the county’s Planning and Development staff to come back on November 6 with more details to help their deliberations, which could extend into December.

Westmont’s 300,000-square-foot proposal is the largest project to ever be considered in Montecito, so the commission’s need for minutiae may be warranted. This week’s sessions were dedicated to staff evaluation (well organized by P&D staff member Alex Tuttle), a formal Westmont presentation introducing their redesigned project (poetically dubbed the “Natural Contour Approach”), and hours of public comment from citizens with varying interests in the project.

At debate is Westmont’s desire and stated need to have upgraded facilities to attract and accommodate top-notch students. Westmont’s President and Chancellor David Winter believes an upgraded campus will “add richness and value to the community.” However, some of Westmont’s nearby neighbors disagree. The college is situated right in the center of a residential neighborhood and residents have expressed concern that the massive project—equal, as one neighbor put it, to “two Home Depots and One Costco”—would negatively impact the residential quality of their homes and their lives.

Over a dozen citizens took to the podium to make their feelings known, and each of the opponents, proponents, attorneys, specialists, technicians, builders, planners, and architects added bulk and mass to the discussion. And, as if in-person testimony was not enough, Westmont provided a videotaped cameo appearance by popular former county counsel Alan Seltzer, which was culled from stimulating past lectures on the nuances between vested rights and entitlements.

In the last hour of the discussion, the commissioners seemed revitalized and ticked off a narrowing list for items further discussion. Among items on the list:

• Review the project’s total square footage

• Look at site’s specific uses, such as music practice rooms and sports equipment storage

• Examine traffic containment measures, including brainstorming ideas for stronger penalties for traffic abuse.

• Study a construction timetable, including a building phasing plan and a sequencing schedule.

• And, discuss the precedent-setting potential of a proposed 49-foot winged roof chapel.

The commission will begin deliberating on the merits of the project beginning at 9 a.m. on November 6 in the main floor hearing room of the County Engineering Building, 123 Anapamu.

INQUIRING MINDS DEPARTMENT: “Ned” asks J’Amy-Online to update the status of the Railroad “Quiet Zone.” The Quiet Zone refers to a new federal law limiting those over-endowed train horns that blast through Montecito’s quiet residential neighborhoods day and night. The county has been looking into this blaring issue for several years and we get this update from Gary Smart, Department of Public Works:

“The item is currently being reviewed by our traffic engineering committee. The next meeting is on November 8. We hope to have the committee review completed at this meeting. If not, we will be looking at holding a special meeting to expedite closing the issue and getting the application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The train quiet zone is one of our highest priorities and we are working to complete the item a quickly as possible. Once the FRA approves the quiet zone we will need to work with the railroads to implement any improvements required. We hope to have the quiet zone active by middle next year.”

salud%2C%20naomi%2C%20and%20janet.jpg MONTECITO MEANDERINGS: Montecito was well represented at Janet Wolf’s recent non-partisan campaign party. Former First District Supervisor Naomi Schwartz was seen chatting with current First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal (both pictured with Wolf in the middle) and Montecito Association Land Use Chair Susan Keller.… While under the shears of Montecito hair stylist Bruce Green, client Sylvia Abualy reported her daughter, Leslie Blodgett, president of Bare Escentuals, has just taken the popular cosmetic company public. Leslie’s magnetic personality has made Bare Escentuals the number one top selling product on QVC and Sylvia, the proud mom, was primping for a trip to New York where her daughter was to be honored at a 1,200-person banquet saluting women in the beauty industry…. Under the “We Won’t Support Montecito Movie Star Maps” category, we did find a photo (below) of Ellen DeGeneres‘ new Montecito digs circulating and felt Inquiring Minds would have to see. ellens%20house.jpg

THE MONTAGE LOG: Montecito Association’s Semi Annual Home Owner’s Meeting, featuring P&D’s new head John Baker, along with Montecito Planning Commissioners Claire Gottsdanker and Michael Phillips, the Sheriff’s Deparment’s Darin Fotheringham, and Fire Chief Kevin Wallace, Wednesday, October 25, 4:30 p.m. at 1469 East Valley Road.… Ghost Village Road’s Trick or Treats, Tuesday, October 31, 3:30 until 7 p.m. behind Here’s the Scoop…. Annual Beautification Day honoring John Venable and Barry Siegel, Saturday, November 4, 9 a.m., Upper Village Green.

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