Last Thursday, longtime Montecito resident and community leader Dan Eidelson (pictured) made a not unusual one-day roundtrip drive to Los Angeles – what makes it a story was his return to Montecito. Once near home, he became ensnarled in an afternoon traffic jam, not on the usually suspect 101, but on Montecito’s ever increasingly gridlocked gateway San Ysidro Road.

Any seasoned Montecito resident knows to avoid the village’s main artery after 3 p.m., when natives wisely turn San Ysidro Road over to those competing afternoon road hogs – the latte-lapping carpool moms and the hurried-homeward construction crews. But last Thursday, it was just prior to the do-not-enter timezone when Eidelson found himself dead stopped and deadlocked by a two-lane accident on the two-lane San Ysidro Road.

The roadblock created in Eidelson’s mind an unnerving situation, more akin to L.A.’s maddeningly blocked urban arteries than to Montecito’s lazy, bucolic, roll-along lanes.

“I got back from L.A. and the traffic was not bad until I got to Montecito and headed up San Ysidro,” Eidelson told Montage. “At around 2:30 p.m., just south of the Montecito Union School, the road was closed in both directions due to the accident. There were three patrol cars and an ambulance.” (The CHP and Montecito Fire District confirmed the accident, but reported ambulance transportation was not needed.) It was a harbinger of things to come, believes Eidelson.

“San Ysidro Road traffic and congestion is a community problem that is going to get worse,” Eidelson said. The past president of the Montecito Association added, “You’ve got multiple problems: speeding and congestion.” Eidelson pointed out that in addition to being the gateway road into Montecito, San Ysidro hosts a number of estate-size residences, the entrance to both upper and lower Manning Park, two elementary schools (Laguna Blanca and M.U.S.), the YMCA, several bus stops, a bike path, and a high degree of pedestrian and auto traffic.

“Three years ago, I counted 64 cars lined up on San Ysidro at Jameson going to the freeway at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon. San Ysidro takes a lot of traffic and the vehicles do not have other options. Sometimes that traffic is moving fast, right past two schools, and sometimes it is dead stopped for carpools – and you’ve got parks, the Y, bus stops, pedestrians, and children. It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Eidelson suggested.

Supervisor Salud Carbajal had the same thoughts after receiving a number of constituents’ calls about child pedestrian safety in Montecito. A week prior to the March 1 San Ysidro accident that Eidelson witnessed, Carbajal had convened 18 people for fact-finding discussion about safe routes to local schools. The task force included representatives from Montecito schools, community organizations, and county agencies.

Among those on hand to offer insights and opinions were Montecito Union School Superintendent Dick Douglas, Principal Kris Bergstrom, First Grade teacher Vicky Harbison, and M.U.S. parent Stephen Murdoch. Principal Brian McCabe represented Cold Spring School, along with parents Tracey Willfong Singh and Don Miller. The Montecito Association sent President Bill Palladini and board member Elisa Atwill. The county’s Public Works Department, the Highway Patrol, and the Sheriff’s Department had representatives at the table as well. Hearing about this week’s accident, Carbajal said it reiterated the importance role and critical mission of his timely safe-route task force.

“Any accident reminds us that we need to pay aggressive attention to parents’ and citizens’ concerns about child safe routes to school,” Carbajal said. “This issue is about safety of children and while we need a collective approach that will balance the aesthetics of the community plan, the significant attention must be given to the safety of children.” Carbajal said the round table’s first meeting focused on historical actions and resources; a follow up meeting later in March will be centered on pedestrian priorities, both long and short term.

TRUE GRIT: Eighty-plus members of the Coral Casino (pictured) converged on the Four Seasons Biltmore a week ago to get a construction progress report on Ty Warner’s multi-million dollar revamp of their beach club. Barry Winick, an associate of Peter Marino Architect, laid out the plan for the casino, which closed for remodeling in October 2005.

Here’s a rundown of what Coral Casino members heard:

The Current Situation

The demo is complete (under the watchful eye of county-mandated architectural historian David Wessel) and reconstruction is moving full-steam ahead, chugging toward a July 1 partial-use opening. All blocking legal issues have run their course and the project is free to proceed.

The Future Forecast

Once the framing is hammered in, the design elements will be set in place. Winick provided a slide show and color/fabric pallet (pictured) for the members to view. The club’s new colors will return to its historical beginnings and namesake: shades of coral, salmon, and sunset, accented by sandstone travertine, with splashes of plum and cranberry throughout. Much of the outdoor furniture will be nautical white and wood decking will flow throughout the club, creating what Winick described as a streamlined Swedish-Modern-Steamship feel.

The Response?

The design presentation received a favorable round of applause, and then members’ questions drifted to operational aspects, which were noted and parked, as the design team felt inadequately prepared to address more than facade. One operational cog not parked is the ongoing search for new members to fill all those newly spruced up beach chairs. Erinn Lynch, the public relations spokesperson Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts, presented a letter from Greg Rice, the voice of Team-Ty, indicating there will be 85 openings and nominations are being accepted. While the initiation fee price-point has not yet been confirmed, Montage hears a seat on the Coral’s new deck could cost as much as complete yacht, rumored to perhaps be as high as $65,000 or more!

Once the design presentation was complete, the Warner Team departed and the Coral Casino members were left to discuss member issues among themselves. With the club’s competitive sports teams on renovation-hiatus, it seems only sport left at the Coral is inter-member debating. Montage was planning to report each of the spirited verbal spikes, but when the kids started throwing sand at each other, we just had to put down our pen and join in this newest of beach club fun!

NO CAFFEINE NECESSARY: Over 800 early-risers suited up and showed up for the 7 a.m. Westmont President’s Breakfast, held last Wednesday at Doubletree. And they were rewarded for their dawning efforts. One hardly needed caffeine to be jolted by author Thomas Friedman‘s (pictured with Doug Hampson) future-shock thoughts. The author of The World is Flat presented such a thought-provoking lecture that even the sleepiest attendees failed to doze off during his description of tomorrow’s flatland world.

Westmont Foundation president Penny Jenkins served as mistress of ceremonies and Gerd Jordano chaired the breakfast, which is part of the college’s on-going lecture series, “Conversations That Count.” On that theme, Westmont chancellor David Winter reminded us that a conversation allows for “passion with civility” – an especially important message at this somewhat uncivil time of day!

PALLADINI’S DEBUT: Tuesday, March 13, will be the first time new Montecito Association president Bill Palladini chairs the monthly Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting. Since returning from Argentina, Palladini has been presenting his calling card to a variety community leaders and working hard to learn (and command) the ropes. His debut will begin at 4 p.m. at Montecito Community Hall.


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