Ty Versus The Association

The Inside Skinny on Ty Versus the Montecito Association

jamy.JPGMontecito residents have been
riveted by the newest game in town—this week’s Ty Warner
vs. Montecito Association
Grand Slam match, and both sides
have lobbed strong, hostile volleys against each other.

If you talk to Team Ty (Ty Warner’s bevy of consultants and
business managers), Warner has been the object of “abuse of power”
by the 60-year-old Montecito Association. From
association volunteers (whose average age is 60!), you hear they
are the brunt of an unwarranted attack by Warner’s slick PR

Things got exciting with the first slam last week (the Wednesday
before Thanksgiving). The Montecito Journal got a hold of
a letter that Greg Rice, executive VP of
Warner Properties and Warner’s appointed voicebox,
was about to send to the Montecito Association Board of Directors.
ty.jpg The letter blamed the association for
driving Warner away from future development of the Miramar
project. It confirmed that the locally
treasured-but-waning hotel was on back on the market. With Warner
dropping out, the story flashed around Montecito and Santa Barbara
at the speed of an aced serve. (Indy columnist Barney
Brantingham broke the news on Friday — but the full dish was
reserved for my Montage!)

“The Montecito Association is a radical group of self-interested
people who try to stop specific projects,” Rice told me. He then
enumerated a litany of what he sees as association abuses. The
final blow, he said, came in the form of a four-page letter, signed
by association president Bob Collector. It was sent to all
residents (3,000-plus) and in it Collector responded
to a previous Rice letter, which had lambasted the
association’s position on a Warner-proposed Biltmore
beach stairway. (I know this letter exchange is
getting confusing, but if you wonder why these people don’t just
talk, keep reading.)

Susan Keller (the Montecito Association’s Land
Use Chair) lobbied the Montecito Fire Department
to go against a median we proposed,” Rice complained. “Then when I
met with her about the beach stairs and told her Mr. Warner owns
the beach, she said, ‘Yes, we know he owns the beach so stop
rubbing our noses in it’.” With that, we hear Rice abruptly left
the Biltmore dining room, leaving Keller with the check and a cup
of cold coffee.

Rice said right now he’s feeling pretty chilly toward the
neighborhood organization and its members. “Diane
(an association boardmember) said our beach stair
case was too ‘glitzy.’ That’s what she gave as reason to deny the
project. Her comments made their way in to the
MBAR minutes and we were never able to respond and
our project was denied by the Montecito Planning
,” he said. (Warner appealed to the Board of
Supervisors and the decision was reversed.) [Editor’s Note: If all
these boards, committees, and associations start to confuse you,
check out J’Amy’s excellent roundup of who’s got what power and why
by clicking here.]

Rice added he does not believe that Warner gets a fair shake in
the Montecito planning process. He said the relationship between
the advocacy-based homeowners association and the county
governmental based-decision making MPC is too intertwined. “The
commission and the association work hand-in-hand. The commissioners
ask things like ‘Where’s the Montecito Association letter?‘” Rice
complained. “They cloak what they really do.”

So, does Rice want to try to drum the Montecito Association out
of business? “Not at all,” he promised, “a homeowners association
can be of benefit if it is balanced. It’s the bias that needs to
go.” He said Warner took the association’s widely distributed
criticism letter to heart.

“Mr. Warner read and re-read the letter and took a great deal of
time to contemplate what it meant for his efforts to improve other
Montecito properties in the future. Its meaning was evident to Mr.
Warner: (the Association) will not change the way it treats Mr.
Warner,” Rice explained. “Perhaps if you and your group would like
to take on the challenge of determining the fate of the Miramar,
you should think about purchasing the property yourself,” his
letter suggested to the M.A. Board.


As the developer and the community protection advocates continue
to bat each other rhetorically over the head, other community
members have started sift through the discourse. One land use
attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, emailed Montage: “The sale
of the Miramar cannot possibly be because Warner is afraid the
Montecito Association, a non-governmental body with no legal power.
Warner has actually gotten everything he wanted for every other
project he has proposed. Is it possible that Warner did not want to
actually build what he promised the community he would build? This
‘story’ about how he is selling because he was ‘hurt’ by the
Montecito Association smells about as much as the idea that Foley
quit Congress to be with his family.”

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal has
made some attempts to defuse the raging Montecito contest, which
pits two of his major constituents: Warner, one of Santa Barbara
County’s largest taxpayers, against the association, Montecito’s
longtime and historically powerful homeowners group. “As
emotionally painful as the debate has become, it may have a
purpose,” Carbajal said. “There is nothing wrong with a healthy
debate that flushes out all of the interests, but it is sometimes
painful and frustrating. Montecito is a special place that did not
happen by accident, but because of a careful planning process. We
don’t want to squander what has made S.B. County what we have
today. I stand ready to help in any way I can.”

Will the Supervisor’s soothing words bring reason to the
neighborhood? We hope so, or it could be game-set-match for our
quaint and beloved blue-roofed Miramar!

WESTMONT TREE LIGHTING: And now for a holiday
breather: Westmont will be lighting their fifth annual Christmas
tree lighting next Wednesday, December 6, on the university’s
Kerrwood Lawn at 5 p.m. westmont%20tree.jpg Hundreds of students, alumni, and
neighbors are expected to celebrate the occasion, which will be
enhanced by a visit from Santa Claus and some songs from the
Westmont Gospel Choir. Those attending are encouraged to bring
canned goods to help out The Unity Shoppe, which makes the holiday
season easier for the county’s needy families. For more info, call
565-6245 or see www.westmont.edu.


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