Voices Raised in Montecito

Salud Carbajal Rebuffed at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Hearing

boS%20004.jpgAt Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors (BOS), the rookie Montecito watchdog group, Voices of Montecito let out a roar that could be heard throughout the county of Santa Barbara. When the reverberation ended, three Montecito Planning Commissioners found themselves unceremoniously unseated, their appointments delayed for two weeks pending a further BoS review that could also include a re-examination of the Montecito Planning Commission (MPC) itself.

While First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal held to the mandatory podium politeness during the supes’ meeting, afterwards he said he was affronted by the “lack of civility about protocols and procedures by my north county colleagues,” who voted, in a block, to block Carbajal’s scheduled MPC appointments.

“The delay goes against the protocols, procedures, and etiquette of past boards. I think this sets a precedent. I hope this isn’t the start of a precarious future for the Board of Supervisors that has in the past collectively tried to be civil and deferential towards one another and toward historic procedures,” Carbajal said. Normally all board and commission appointments are ho-hum administrative items that pass without comment or debate, but not on Tuesday!

The boS%20009.jpgbattle came into play after a congenial swearing-in ceremony, complete with former Governor Pete Wilson as the bonding keynote speaker and BoS Chair Joni Gray highlighting how important it was to work together, adding “a war avoided is a war won.” However, as the board reconvened after a reception, the members must have donned flack jackets in the ante room because the mood moved from conciliation to confrontation.

With the party-crowd gone, only a few Montecito stalwarts graced the chambers for the unexpected showdown. Among them were Voices of Montecito leaders Lee Luria and Mary Belle Snow, along with Montecito Planning Commissioner Michael Phillips, up for reappointment, and Sue Burrows, expecting her first MPC appointment. (The third MPC non-nomination went to Bob Bierig, who was side-stepped the in-person humiliation opportunity. He’s rumored to be tapped as the MPC chair on January 17 — an item muddled by his non-appointment and leaving, perhaps, the MPC with no chair.)

Citizen Luria rose to the podium at the public comment. She said the planning process in Montecito disappointed her and that the process of choosing appointees to the MPC didn’t seem very open. “I would ask that the Board of Supervisors defer making any decisions on new commissioners until these and other issues have been dealt with in an open and democratic forum,” she said.

boS%20003.jpgMary Belle Snow, who resides on the borderline of Montecito in the First District’s Toro Canyon planning area, spoke on behalf of Voices of Montecito and she added her concern about the process of choosing Montecito’s Planning Commissioners. “I want to address this debacle we call Montecito planning,” she said, adding, in the opinion of Voices of Montecito, the commission’s current make up is not representative of the community. “We are not pulling from a large enough pool of applicants and that results in continuous replication of the same people serving year after year.”

Andy Caldwellof the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business said the Montecito Planning Commission had “a wider reach” than just Montecito and therefore, he suggested, the entire Board of Supervisors should review MPC applicants. Because Montecito is situated in the First District, to date, all MPC Commissioners and Montecito Board of Architectural Review members have been appointed by Supervisor Carbajal and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors.

“When it comes to planning issues [the MPC doesn’t] just represent Supervisor Carbajal. They represent the entire board,” Caldwell said. “In view of the public testimony you are hearing today, it is apparent something is broken in the system and we need a time-out here to review this relationship and determine if there really is a need for Montecito to have its own planning commission. Let’s bring this back and have a discussion.”

With that, Supervisor Joni Grey made a motion, seconded by Supervisor Joe Centeno to defer the MPC appointment until January 23. Supervisor Janet Wolf — installed literally minutes before the fracas began — cast her first vote in support of Carbajal’s position, but when Grey’s motion carried by a 3-2 vote, Wolf’s first-ever vote went, alas, into the loss column.

Lee%20Luria%20and%20Mary%20Belle%20Snow%20a%20the%20BoS.jpgFollowing the first round of political muscle flex came a second round eyebrow-raiser. Without discussion or concern, the board gave unanimous approval to Carbajal’s appointments of five returning Montecito Board of Architectural Review (MBAR) candidates. MBAR is the design review arm of the MPC, which makes recommendations and modifications to designs such as the Biltmore seawall. (It was that MBAR opinion, for example, that that led to Ty Warner’s appeal to the BoS, an issue viewed with distain by the board.) However, those provocative MBAR vets Peter Edwards, Ray Ketzel, Sam Maphis, Michele Michaelson, and Tony Spann all got the Supes’ full-on approval to march forward.

Supervisor Carbajal said the MBAR appointments reassured his belief that very little will change in the next two weeks. “In two weeks two things will happen: one, my three colleagues from the north will have had time to review their own process and become enlightened that it is the same process they used to appoint their North County BAR; and, two, I will put forward the same slate of commissioners I put forward today. I am glad we have two weeks, however, because it will give the boarder community of Montecito a chance to attend the next board meeting and in the mean time they can let their feelings be known about the value they place on the Montecito Planning Commission.”

Robert Meghreblian, who thought he retired from the MPC in December, may have to stay on through the January 17 MPC meeting or until new appointments are made. As Meghreblian is the founder of the MPC, Montage asked his opinion on the current BOS review. He said he felt nothing but pride for the MPC’s work and worth.

“In the past four years of its existence, the MPC has reviewed three to four hundred cases and very few were appealed. It has been very effective and we took a great deal of care reviewing these items. The county and community have been well served,” Meghreblian said.

MA REPORT: Just to top the day off, Montage went by the Montecito Association (MA) annual meeting to get reaction to the dissing MA received at the hands of the BoS, but we heard nothing because they cut their meeting short for parliamentary reasons.

Officer nominating committee chair Bill Palladini said the committee had decided not to offer a slate of officers for the first time in nearly 60 years because the organization was going to restructure itself at a retreat later in January. (You may recall they had ballot problems this year as well, but they seem to have gotten through it because they announced four new board members.)

Because the by-laws require officers be elected at the January meeting, Pallidini said no further business could be conducted. With that, Past-Present-Interim (we’re unsure) President Bob Collector gaveled down and the MA January meeting came to an abrupt end — leaving Montage to contemplate the bang-up beginning of Monte-centric politics-2007.

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