Westmont’s Wins, Water’s Raises, and Rick’s Slick

What a Week for Westmont; Water District “Torture;” and Getting
Kisses from Caruso

Westmont College, Montecito’s
normally subdued institution of higher learning, has been a hub of
exhilaration this week. westmont_seal.gif In just seven days, the small
Christian college announced a new president, won a double-appeal at
the Board of Supervisors, and hosted a well-rounded and
well-attended discussion about our flat, but never dull, world.

Traffic and parking were at the heart of Tuesday’s BOS appeal
issues. The Board of Supervisors unanimously granted Westmont’s
appeal, reversing a
Montecito Planning Commission condition
that set the number of
average daily car trips to and from Westmont at 3,350. At a

late November MPC hearing
, Westmont volunteered to cap the
traffic to 3,500 average daily trips but MPC, after listening to
neighborhood frustration, thought the 3,500 trips might have too
much impact. They reduced the allotment to 3,350. Westmont did not
fancy their voluntary offer being chiseled away, so they sought BOS
relief, and Tuesday they got everything they asked for.

The three-hour-plus BOS hearing was the last county stop on the
seven-year Westmont campus-expansion-permit-march, but there is at
least one lawsuit pending, and Montage hears there may be more
court-required action in the pipeline. With legal issues still in
the air, Westmont cannot begin construction on their dream campus,
and the years of frustration and public debate have created plenty
of rancors from all sides.

“When there is an institution in a neighborhood, it will always
create tension,” said First District
Supervisor Salud Carbajal
at the conclusion of Tuesday’s
hearing. “It is the nature of conditional use permits (CUP) in
Montecito. CUPs in a residential area will always have this
dynamic.”

As an olive branch to neighbors, who are still smarting from

another BOS appeal-loss two weeks ago
, Carbajal added language
to his final motion that will assure accurate and frequent
compliance monitoring, and with strong penalties for
infractions.

Another MPC condition, requiring every Westmont student cars
have ID decals, was swiftly overturned, but the issue caused a few
wry Supe comments. In trying to understand the decal logic,
Supervisor Joe
Centeno
pondered, “I put a sticker on my car so you can come
and give me a ticket? As a former law enforcement officer, I wonder
if we could do this for peddlers of dope…’I am a criminal, come
give me a ticket?’” Supervisor Joni Gray
also found MPC’s decal solution lacking merit: “This is an
impractical, hair-brain idea…I hope I didn’t offend anybody.”

A PATIENT MAN:
Dr. Gayle D. Beebe
(pictured) has been selected to be
Westmont’s next president and he will assume his duties on July 1.
beebe.jpg He told Montage that, in spite of
Westmont’s years of battle to get approvals, he is looking forward
to the challenges of being a part of the college’s
354,000-square-foot campus building project and knows firsthand how
a large project can test patience.

“I have just finished a major building phase at my campus in
Michigan
and know every project always takes longer than you
think it will. We are excited to be a part of the next phase of
Westmont’s work,” he explained.

Beebe currently serves as the president of Spring Arbor
University in Michigan
, was a dean at Azusa Pacific University, and actually
attended Westmont for a semester in 1980. He also did undergraduate
work at George Fox University
in Oregon
and graduate work at both Princeton and Claremont. Beebe replaces
Stan Gaede
, who left Westmont last June to return to the
faculty of Gorden College in
Wenham, Massachusetts
. Beebe will be joined by his wife, Pam,
and their three children, ages 14, 12, and 8.

CONTINUING ED: With the President’s February 28
Breakfast, featuring best-selling author Thomas
Friedman
, selling out in three hours, Westmont was determined
not to leave pursing minds out in the cold.

So this week the college held an addendum lecture by hosting a
provocative panel discussion about the precision of The World
is Flat
, Friedman’s best-selling, future-think tome.
westmont%20lecturers.jpg Presented at the University Club last
Thursday evening, nearly 100 people attended the “Westmont
Downtown” seminar and they all seemed engrossed by the 21st Century
world vision described by professors (pictured here left to right)

Chandra Mallampalli
(history, Westmont),
Susan Penksa
(political science, Westmont) and Cynthia Stohl
(communications, UCSB). The panel was moderated by
Deborah Dunn
(communications, Westmont; pictured here on the
left with Gerd Jordano and Roberta
Griffin
). Westmont%20lecture.jpg

Friedman, we were told, is a master metaphoric story teller
whose 496-page book takes on the complex notion that globalization
is creating a competitive playing field between industrial and
emerging market countries like China and India — thus flattening
the world. The professors steered the audience off the edges and
through the bumps of some of Friedman’s more complex political
economic treatise and challenges.

Considering that the topic could have been a flat-liner, the
Westmont team kept the discussion alive and the audience without
need of resuscitation. The
Westmont Foundation
hosts these educational forums
(“Conversations About Things That Matter”) from time to time — a
welcome refresher course, especially for those of us who still
thought the world is still round!

WATER TORTURE: On Tuesday, the Board of Directors
of the Montecito Water District
(pictured) voted to approve a
water rate increase — to get themselves out of hot water! It seems
the board adopted a 2007 budget that anticipated the rate increase,
so if the hike had not been passed, the district would experience
deficit spending.

Montecito%20Water%20District%20Board.jpgNew board director Sam
Frye
questioned the reasoning behind such quirky financial
planning, but general manager Robert
Roebuck
responded that the longer the vote was put off, the
deeper into budget deficit the budget would go. “If we don’t vote
today,” Roebuck warned, “we will lose three months of revenue.”


Martha Smilgis
, one on only nine customers to attend the public
hearing, said the district’s annual rate hikes were like “water
torture.” Some of those attending said they were irked that
domestic use will go up from $3.47 per hundred cubic feet to $3.75,
while commercial users such Starbucks or the $700-per-night
Biltmore Hotel will experience no water rate increase, even at
their splashy spa!

A-LIST INVITE: Montage is pleased to report the
Montecito
Association
revised their earlier privacy policy and shut no
one out of a Friday reception with
Miramar developer Rick Caruso
(pictured).

rick%20caruso.jpg

More than 75 people showed up and those who attended say Caruso
floated a interesting trial balloon about a fractional-ownership
concept at the Miramar. In his loosely sketched what-do-you-think
scenario, the developer suggested a plan where he might sell a
fractional interest in a Miramar cottage to a private owner who
gets to use it for, say, a month. The other part of the year the
cottage is used as a hotel room. This financial concept allows the
developer to raise relatively easy up-front revenue but not lose
ownership. Many guests departed, applauding Caruso’s financial
dexterity and dubbing him, admiringly, “Slick
Rick
.” At lunchtime on Friday, Caruso cultivated a
different set of admirers. Over pasta at Tre
Lune
,
Lee Luria
and several members of
Voices of Montecito
gave Caruso a full thumbs-up and adamant
promises of future Miramar application support.

Caruso’s next planned group love-fest, we hear, will be at
Montecito Country
Club
with a large contingent of nearby Miramar neighbors.
Montage also hears Caruso is about is ready to start floating
tweaks to Ian Schrager’s old plan. His local dream team is coming
together, and the county is well-meaning, but well-known dream
busters are poised for a preview.

MONTAGE’S SOCIAL TIP: A Caruso air-kiss is
Montecito’s A-list catch this week, so get an in-person squeeze if
you can. Otherwise, it’s getting so common-place, a
next-week-invite could sink your social status like an
elevator.

MONTECITO MEANDERINGS:
David Myrick
is making a black ball our of
Montage’s so-far-stellar crystal ball
. Every month since
December, I have predicted David will be retiring from the
Montecito Association board and every month, just like the
Energizer Bunny, Myrick shows up looking very un-retired.

This month Montage was told it was sure bet — but nope, wrong
again.
Gene Sinser
was elected to the board of directors of the
Montecito Association — to replace not Myrick as predicted, but
Jim
Wolfe
, the Balance Bar CEO and president, who was just elected
to the MA board in January. It seems Wolfe did not check his
calendar, and, oops, he was fully booked. So, after a
notable double-ballot election
, Wolfe resigned his once-used
seat faster than you can say energy bar!

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