Story poles at the Miramar.
J'Amy Brown

It seems Caruso Affiliated labored mightily over the Labor Day weekend, decorating the long barren Miramar Hotel site with a medley of soaring story poles and flapping pink flags. The linear high wires made some lookie-loos wonder if a big-tent circus had arrived in Montecito.

In reality, the poles – which popped up on Friday and are rising throughout this week – mark the outline some of major buildings proposed in Rick Caruso’s plan for long vacant hotel property. The plan calls for approximately 239,023 gross square feet of new buildings, including a new main building with a lobby, meeting rooms, and conference facilities. Some 156,420-square-feet of underground parking is proposed along with 209 guest rooms, two restaurants, a beach bar, two pools, new landscaping, a new 10-foot-high sound wall, four employee dwellings, the abandonment of the north-south segment of Miramar Avenue, and the relocation of a private access easement. The want-list may seem like a whew!-list, but the site does cover 20 acres of beachfront property, and it’s been sitting, like a pitiful albatross, dead in the water for more than eight years!

More poles at the Miramar.
J'Amy Brown

The story poles were prompted by the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, which wanted visual aids before continuing their hearing of the development on September 10 at 3 p.m. All poles will be erected by Friday, September 7.The poles and flags to the far east end of the property mark the roof ridgelines of the proposed lobby, and also mark the convention center and a bank of hotel rooms. Flags running alongside South Jameson Road also indicate building heights of hotel rooms and accoutrements.

At its highest point, the proposed roofline of the lobby area reaches nearly 50 feet, as measured from existing grade. That elevation exceeds the Montecito Community Plan height restriction of 35 feet. But Caruso is asking for a height modification, arguing that once the property is graded and filled to an even level, the actual buildings will fit well within the surrounding community. A dark line on each of the newly installed story poles shows how high the grading goes, and where the actual buildings begin.

The property will be open on Monday, September 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for the MBAR and public walk-about. Public comment may be made in person or in writing on September 10 at the MBAR meeting or on September 19, 9 a.m., during a special joint hearing of MBAR and the Montecito Planning Commission. However, residents and homeowner-group reps weren’t waiting for a formal invite to see the story pole trapeze and the curious filtered to the Miramar over the weekend for quizzical self-guided tours.

Still more story poles.
J'Amy Brown

Montage was among them and, as we spun away, we had visions of the Miramar’s festive flags dancing in our head. Along with visions of last week’s Coral Casino opening and the upcoming Oprah-Obama fiasco, it made Montage ponder whether Montecito really isn’t just a few clowns short of a three ring circus!

From right, author Stephen Murdoch with Naomi Schwartz, Dr. David Thomas, and Deanna Hatch.
J'Amy Brown

HIGHEST I.Q.S: Proving their smarts, with absolutely no clowning around, are Lotusland’s Deanna Hatch, Dr. David Thomas, former county supervisor Naomi Schwartz, who all joined together to congratulate Stephen Murdoch on his new book, IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea. See a previous write-up by The Indy here.

The artist, Virga (left), and, "The Dish," Martha Smilgis at an opening.
J'Amy Brown

DISH RETURNS: Montecito’s most delectable dish, Martha Smiglis, has returned from a summer sojourn to San Francisco and various points north. She made her first stop at an art exhibition of robust, zesty oil paintings by Montecito artist Virga. The exhibition is currently on display at Dianna Bottoms Fine Art Gallery in La Arcada Court.

Jay Barry Colin (left) and J.W. Colin.
J'Amy Brown

DOUBLY GOOD: May we introduce two Montecito residents by the name of J. Colin! To the left is Jay Barry Colin, who spends part of his year in Florida, shown here with his long time friend J.W. Colin. Both men – and we are not making this up – have had long careers in the car wash business, both reside in Montecito, and both drive classic cars! They told Montage they keep a careful eye on each other, because if one messes up, the other is sure to get the blame. So these two pals stay squeaky clean and connected!


September 6

Merrag Monthly Training: Public is welcome to attend this session where the Sheriff will teach how to direct traffic and media during an emergency. 3:15 p.m. Montecito Fire Station, 575 San Ysidro Road.

September 17

Peter, Paul and Mary will honored at the 24th Annual the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Victoria Hall Theater. For info, email Steve Crandell at

September 20

Bill Blass trunk collection comes to Montecito. Contact Maria Black at Village Properties for information or see

September 27

Rudy Guillani revisits Montecito for a fund-raiser. 11 a.m., at the Biltmore Hotel, organized by Mary Belle Snow.


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