A Montecito uproar pitting urbanization against public safety has been put on simmer while the question of who will perform maintenance once the project is completed remains unanswered.
The Santa Barbara County Department of Public works unveiled a new and improved “Safe Routes to School” pathway from Montecito Union School (MUS) to Jameson Lane on Tuesday evening to a crowd of over a hundred residents inside the MUS auditorium. “I’m outraged. It’s a railroad job,” uttered an older Montecito resident as he left the building. “The Land Use Committee and the Montecito Association have serious issues. The biggest is the maintenance. The Park and Rec budget has been cut. There’s no guarantee of maintenance in perpetuity.”
In 2008 the county applied for and was awarded a $392,000 grant to construct the pathway. The federally funded project was celebrated by 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the School Board, and a group of concerned parents as a win for kids, pedestrians, and cyclists. After a din last fall, “Friends of San Ysidro” formed and collected over 800 signatures declaring the grant was applied for and the project planned without adequate input from the community at large and residents along the just over a half-mile stretch of San Ysidro Road. More meetings were held.
The revised design changes presented Tuesday represent a compromise between the various stakeholders, promise a more meandering natural walk/bikeway narrowing to skirt trees and mailboxes, and preserve homeowner privacy. As proposed, the pathway requires the removal of three trees including the large Eucalyptus just South of MUS and several hedgerows. The revised design implements the termination of decomposed granite surface at driveway crossings, the removal of any visible borders, the inclusion of boulders, a detailed planting plan of drought tolerant vegetation, and removing the standard plastic domes and replacing ADA bright yellow bumps with a more neutral sand-cast color to match the decomposed granite.
“There’s 11,000 cars traveling down San Ysidro [Road] every day. We need to reduce that number and give parents a safe way for their children walk and bike to school,” said Jodi Osti, an MUS parent who worked on seeing the project to fruition for the last three years and helped collect 400 signatures in support of the safe route pathway. “I’m thrilled and passionate about this project. We can’t wait until there’s a tragedy to get this done.” In the meantime, Carbajal remains optimistic, “The county provided an informational meeting tonight to continue to enhance the semi-rural pathway project that will improve pedestrian safety for children and the public along San Ysidro [Road],” he said. “Clearly the community showed up to support it.”