Not wanting to be even one step behind national political strategy, this week Montage will follow the lead of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and plant our own questions, which we will then answer with pre-planned ease:
What’s new with Rick Caruso’s Miramar?
What a timely question! Yesterday, Tuesday, November 13, Caruso Affiliated resubmitted a revised plan for the Miramar Hotel to the County of Santa Barbara. Then late Tuesday afternoon, Rick Caruso personally attended the Montecito Association‘s monthly meeting to present his reworked design. The plan was so fresh that even the county Planning and Development’s director of development services, Diane M. Black, was in the audience of nearly 70 people to see the show.
So what’s changed?
Last September, Caruso reached an impasse with his neighbors about the location of a private access road that cuts through the Miramar Hotel to their beachfront property. The new plan leaves the private road in its current location.
Any other changes?
Caruso said once the rocky road forced him back to the drawing board, he saw room for other improvements. “We did not look forward to redoing this, but the new plan is much better,” he said. Among the notable changes:
• A new, self-standing, two-story beach and tennis club
• Two tennis courts
• A separation between the main lobby building and the ballroom buildings, which breaks up a previously considered long building corridor on South Jameson
• An 11-foot reduction of the average building height
• A room key reduction from 209 to 202
What did people think of the new Caruso plan?
” I am very pleased to see the plan proposes to reduce the fill by 20,000 cubic yards and that is a huge benefit, “said Bill Palladini, president of the Montecito Association
“I was left with a favorable impression. I don’t see any impediments. It is a nice project and a real asset to the community,” offered Ted Tedesco, chair of the Montecito Association land use sub-committee.
“I’d like to reserve comment until I have seen the plans,” said Brad Hall, a neighbor who uses the private access road.
“If you think we torpedoed the last plan, then we ought to get credit for this better plan,” remarked Lorenzo Dall A’rmi, who is also a neighbor who was involved in the road jam.
“How soon can we get rid of that rat rubble down there?” prodded Bob Hazard, Montecito resident
Did Caruso have a “rat rubble” reduction timetable?
Yes. He said county now has 30 days to deem the newly submitted revised project complete. A public hearing is set for the December 17 Montecito Board of Architectural Review meeting and Caruso said story poles will go up prior to then. He optimistically added he would like to have Montecito Planning Commission approval by the end of May and previously has stated that construction will take about two years. Rat rubble, it seems, does not move away rapidly.
Did anything negative come up about the Miramar at the meeting?
The specifics of the plans were not presented at this meeting, so concerns about height, bulk, mass, grading, parking, traffic circulation, and environmental issues were not discussed. Caruso said he was uneasy that the county might require an Environmental Impact Report involving the historical significance of the original Miramar cottages. In 2000, Ian Schrager‘s approved plan deemed the cottages to be of historical significance. “That was nine years ago and the situation has changed,” Caruso said. His plan calls for demolishing all the old cottages, which he says have decayed to beyond repair.
Anything else happen at the meeting that was of interest?
Montecito Association president Bill Palladini certainly believes in an action-packed agenda. In addition to the Caruso presentation, the Association heard from the Montecito Water District‘s general manager Bob Roebuck, who said the district may soon be thirsting for water. He said in an effort to promote conservation, the Montecito Water District may put forward some conservation incentives, including landscaping permits and financial inducements. This may have been Roebuck’s last appearance before the Association as MWD’s GM, as he is set to retire from the district in January.
As well, a discussion of the Union 76 station on Coast Village Road was also on the Association’s agenda. A three-story, mixed-use building is being proposed for the site, which is under City of Santa Barbara’s planning authority. After hearing neighbors’ concerns, the Association tabled action, which included a letter to the city, until more discussion could take place at next land use committee meeting. That is set for 9 a.m. on Monday, December 3.
And lastly, representatives from La Casa de Maria also attended the Montecito Association the meeting to offer an open invitation for the Montecito community to visit their 26-acre retreat site off El Bosque Road. Created as an novitiate for young women entering religious life more than 50 years ago, the property now serves as an ecumenical retreat site in the center of Montecito, promoting “common good of the community through art, education, and health and healing.”
As a token of neighborhood goodwill, the Casa folks left a large basket of homegrown fruit for public enjoyment. Upon departing the meeting, Rick Caruso - fresh from winning $74 million in compensatory damages last Thursday on his claim that the owner of the Glendale Galleria made illegal business threats - couldn’t resist taking a handful of Montecito lemons from the fruit basket, making Montage wonder whether this man will really be able to turn them all into lemonade.