MPC Says Goodbye to Two Commissioners

Robert Meghreblian, sometimes referred to as
the “father” of the Montecito Planning Commission, is taking
retirement at the end of today’s MPC meeting. megrebelian.jpg (The meeting is being televised,
beginning at 9 a.m., Wednesday, December 20, 2006 on Channel 20).
After nearly four years as one of Montecito’s five land use
referees, deliberating such controversial cases as Westmont
, the Coral Casino, Rob
Lowe’s mega-mansion
, and the Music Academy
, Meghreblian tendered his letter of resignation
to Supervisor Salud Carbajal earlier this month.
The First District Supervisor, who appoints all five Montecito
Planning Commission slots, said he has reluctantly accepted
Meghreblian’s withdrawal. He has not yet, however, announced a
successor. (Interested applicants can contact Carbajal’s office at
568-2186; an appointment is expected by January 9.) Supervisor
Carbajal said replacing Meghreblian would be difficult.

“Bob was an exemplary commissioner who leaves big shoes to
fill,” Carbajal said. “I am grateful for his service. Bob’s
leadership was part of the collective efforts that led to the
formation of the Montecito Planning Commission. He helped shepherd
the commission through its infancy and its early challenges and he
leaves the commission with at strong foundation to continue serving
the land use needs for the Montecito community.”

Meghreblian is seen by some as the central nervous system of the
county’s only local-area planning commission. In 2001, he conceived
the notion of an area planning commission for Montecito. He
tenaciously lobbied the concept through numerous community
gauntlets and, once he had Montecito’s support, he navigated the
idea through government narrows and bureaucratic channels at the

Meghreblian has been active in Montecito land use since the
early 1990s, having served as the president of the Montecito
and as the chairman of its Architectural Review
Committee. A physicist and manufacturing executive by profession,
Meghreblian worked Jet Propulsion Lab’s Space Science
and Cabot Corporation in Boston.

As an advocate for studious examination, Meghreblian became
well-versed in Montecito’s sophisticated land planning process and
long history. He knew, for example, that in 1927 Montecito was
credited with being the first unincorporated area in the state to
adopt a zoning ordinance and that, in 1992, Montecito’s current
community plan was updated and ratified.

He believed, with those basic planning tools in place, an area
planning commission, with five Montecito residents as
commissioners, was the next logical step for land use protection.
Prior to the creation of the Montecito Planning Commission,
Montecito land use issues were settled at by the county’s Planning
Commission, a body comprised of one planning commissioner from each
of the five supervisorial districts.

With the strong support of then-Supervisor Naomi
, the Board of Supervisors established the
Montecito Planning Commission in 2002. It held its first meeting in
March 2003. Prior to her retirement, Schwartz appointed the
founding MPC commissioners: Bob Bierig, Michael Phillips,
Dick Thielscher, Joan Wells
, and, of course, Meghreblian.
He became chairman of the commission in 2004 when Joan Wells
retired, and is credited with running a very tight ship.

“Bob’s mind is brilliant,” said fellow MPC Commissioner
Claire Gottsdanker. “He is totally committed to
Montecito and he has a very objective clear thinking style.” She
credits him for steering well-run meetings and keeping many of the
cumbersome, controversial, and complex projects on track. “Without
his leadership,” she explained, “I think we’d still be deliberating
some of those projects. He pushed just us, but it was the right

Meghreblian said he is pleased with the success of the Montecito
Planning Commission. “The MPC provides a very important service to
the community and the county of Santa Barbara by possessing the
patience and attention to get the job done — and it has shown it is
the group that can do it.” And, as he departs, how would he
describe the sometimes contentious and seemingly thankless
volunteer experience? Without pause he beams with enthusiasm, “It
has been very gratifying!”

Additionally, Commissioner Dick Thielscher also
tendered his resignation this morning. Although Thielscher said he
informed Supervisor Carbajal in advance, Thielscher’s resignation
seemed to come as a surprise to the other MPC commissioners.

“I am just shocked that you are leaving us,” said Commissioner
Bob Bierig. “You have a vision of Montecito that I will miss seeing
on the board. You see Montecito as visible and open and not behind
hedges, and I appreciate your work and will miss it.” “Montecito is
the place it is because of the work you have done, and thank you
both for your commitment,” said Commissioner Claire

Both resignations will be effective on December 31.

NO BOOMERANG: MPC Commissioner Michael
brought up the possibility of further MPC review
of Westmont College’s
expansion project
, which faces a Board of Supervisors appeal
hearing on February 6. Phillips did so, he said, because both the neighbors and the college have appealed the
MPC decision
. Phillips stated, “We got it wrong.”

But his notion got little support. County counsel said there
were no provisions for bringing a project back to the planning
commission. County P&D director Diane Black
said that were was no new information and therefore she was not
sure a review would change the commissioner’s positions. And
Commissioner Bob Bierig said he wished he could bring back a lot of
the projects, but he did not see the feasibility.

With Meghreblian and Thielscher resigning — and two new
commissioners having little background on the project — Phillips
boomerang idea died without further discussion or even a vote.

Tecolote Book Shop is showcasing two hometown
bests on their bestseller rack: Steve Crandell’s
Silver Tongue, a breezy and bountiful memoir about of his
loquacious 83-year-old father, Larry Crandell,
makes the list along with David L. Gersh’s new
mystery Art is Dead.

When asked how David came to write a mystery about art, he tells
us, “I always wanted to start a book with ‘It was the dog that did
it.’ ” David’s seems to have a dog-gone good recipe for success
right on the cover flap of Art is Dead. gersh.jpg It says, “Take one juicy slice of the
art gallery scene. Pour in a bottle of Pinot. Add a dark haired
seductress, season with a soupcon of treachery and murder, and who
says the plot doesn’t boil.” Aside from the murder it sounds like a
normal day Montecito—where nothing is ho-hum!

Silver Tongue writer Steve Crandell shares Larry
Crandell’s (both pictured with former N-P publisher Joe
Cole) ability to laugh, love, and make friends in minutes — and
true to Larry’s love-of-nonprofits character, the book’s profits go
to charity, making it truly the gift that keeps on giving!
crandell%202.jpg It is a poignant read, a father-son
take that is packed with inspirational and amusing vignettes that
make Larry seem even more lovable — if that is possible. This book
is a real must for any dad on your list!

Both these literal literary pros can get you in the spirit —
either by spiritual inspiration or by inspiring you to soaking up
that a sultry pinot nior, but don’t take it from me. At the check
out line at up at Tecolote recently were a gaggle of writers, armed
with these bestsellers: former News-Press publisher
Joe Cole, the Montecito Journal’s
Jim Buckley, former News-Press community
columnist Judy Ishkanian, and former
News-Press and Indy society editor
Beverly Jackson.

Association has mailed out new, revised ballots for their annual
board of directors elections which are due back January 3. In
related news, the new MA watchdog group Voices of
seeks a voice at the MA board table. So they’re
waging a write-in campaign for J.W. Colin, and
lobbying for an appointed seat should a board vacancy occur. (We
hear this could happen as early as January.)….

We are happy to report that the Montecito Board of Architectural Review made a
swift “it’s passed—whew” of the now famous Ty
Biltmore steps. The design committee demurely
offered that a few new “It’s Public Access” signs did the trick,
although they politely suggested that maybe (not a condition, but a
recommendation) the posts could be lowered by one brick lower. Like
a benign conquering hero, architect David Van Hoy
gamely threw in the one-brick chip — after all, what’s one brick in
the scheme of things? No date set for starting construction….

The community is expressing sadness over the loss of two well
know Montecito residents: Nancy Farish Basham,
well known for her many involvements and notably as sales director
for Sea Meadows and Montecito Shores; and Robert
, a longtime Montecito Water District Board member and esteemed
community leader. They will both be missed….

It’s my annual plea to remind you to send a holiday card to the
hard working men and women at the Montecito Fire
. A few years ago, they had three paltry holiday cards
hanging in their office. I’m sure the community is more grateful
than that, so here’s an easy way to let them know how valued they
are. Send a holiday card to The Montecito Fire District, 595 San
Ysidro Road, Santa Barbara, 93108.

And, to all, Happy Holidays from Montage!


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