Apparently undaunted by a pending lawsuit that challenges the approval of their expansion plan, Westmont College moved forward with a design review of Phase One of the project at Monday’s Montecito Board of Architectural Review. “We know there will be multiple (MBAR) hearings, and any decisions will take some time, so we wanted to begin the process,” explained Randy Jones, Westmont’s campus planner.
The project was first presented to MBAR in April 2002, but it became mired in years of community debate and discussion. In November 2006, the Montecito Planning Commission approved a campus redevelopment plan after attaching a number of conditions.
Concerned about county staff’s directives to the MPC and not happy about the approval, a coalition of neighbors appealed the MPC decision to the county Board of Supervisors. The BoS supported the MPC determination and so neighbors pursued the matter in court, which is scheduled for hearing before Judge Thomas Anderle on December 18.
Laruel Perez, Westmont’s planner from Suzanne Elledge Planning and Permitting Services, explained the legal situation to the MBAR: “There is a pending lawsuit over the Board of Supervisor’s certification of the EIR and approval of the Westmont CUP revision and associated Master Plan. Legal briefs have been filed by all sides for the December 18 hearing. In the mean time, we will move forward with the county’s Phase One permit review.
“MBAR review and approval is an essential component of Westmont’s permit conditions,” Perez said. “Given the complexity, size, and scope of the project, it needs to broken into manageable pieces so it can be digested.”
Piecemeal bites or not, Laura Collector, representing the neighborhood group that filed the pending lawsuit, said she remains concerned about the scope of the total project. “The architecture is a vast improvement over the original design, but we still have major concerns over the scale and square feet,” she explained. “Doubling the square feet of the campus will surely invite further increases to the student population and faculty and events, and Westmont is already impacting the neighborhood as it is.”
Neighbor Gabriel Hayum also voiced uneasiness about the size of the project, explaining, “If this project has to be digested because it is so massive, that in itself speaks to something so wrong for the community.” During the hearing, other residents expressed concerns about the project, including the potential increased use of a westerly perimeter road; the brighter than expected color pallet; the possible reflectivity of glass ornamentations; the maintenance needs of the new landscaping; and nighttime light pollution.
The architectural and design team of Ken Radtkey (Blackbird Architects), David Van Hoy (Van Hoy Architects), and Susan Van Atta (Van Atta Associates), however, stayed focused on design. They talked about building placement, building use, building mechanics, and pedestrian circulation. Radtkey said he tried to blend the older buildings with the newer ones and combine and coordinate the indoor and the outdoors with well-placed campus intersections. “All students will cross paths with other students and faculty,” he said.
Rollup hanging doors on the new Adams Visual Arts Building provide an open-air feel and Radtkey said that unblocked access will foster learning. Passersby, he said, will be able to look in the classrooms and experience the art, while the art students will have an unrestricted view of the outside world.
“The whole landscape at Westmont is about open spaces and gardens,” said Van Atta, who is project’s landscape designer. She also presented the project’s color palette that combines garden green hues with accents of red and copper, texture splashes of aqua tumbled glass, and natural stone.
Although no action was taken by MBAR on Monday, the design rollout seemed to receive a favorable response. “You have done a beautiful job of blending the academic experience and architecture,” said MBAR board member Sam Maphis, “and because of that, the student experience will be enhanced.”
MBAR will continue the Westmont discussion – focusing heavily on grading and landscaping plans – on January 7.
REVELING IN MONTECITO: Speaking of land use crusades, just one year ago, as chair of the Montecito Association Land Use Committee, Susan Keller was facing the drama of the Westmont hearings and watching a community torn apart. This year the actress, activist, and public servant has put aside land use theatrics, choosing instead community-building through a live theatrical production.
Keller is the founder and producer of Revels, a seasonal musical, dance, and drama production, debuting this Sunday, December 9, at 12:30 p.m. in the courtyard of Casa de la Guerra, 15 East de la Guerra St. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through santabarbararevels.org. A free preview show will be performed at the De le Guerra courtyard this Thursday, December 6, from, 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. during the monthly First Thursdays event.
Revels features medieval and Renaissance traditional songs interspersed with dancing, music, and drama. As an added bonus for Montecito, the production features a children’s chorus by students from Montecito Union School and boasts Montecito’s Maggie Mixsell as the stage director.
Keller first saw Revels in Oakland and immediately thought it would be a hit in Santa Barbara. “It offers something for everyone and everyone joins in – the whole audience joins in singing and dancing,” Keller explained.
Asked how producing Revels compares to running land use in Montecito, Keller said there are similarities. “Land use issues made me familiar with the positive unifying experiences that create a community,” she explained. “Revels does the same thing – when you grab hands and dance together, it transforms the audience into a community.”
THE BILTMORE’S NEW CAPS: Speaking of fashion, the Biltmore‘s valet crew has new look.
Spiffed up and ready to park even the sportiest of sedans are Dave Sothen, Tom Elder, and Jeff Deruiter, all dressed in the new valet uniforms that were introduced at the Biltmore on Tuesday. Among the first to check out the new attire, we hear, was the owner himself, Ty Warner.
FUTURE OF THE 76? John Price, owner of the Union 76 station on Coast Village Road, reports he is still considering his options for a proposed development on that site. When neighbors expressed some additional concerns last month at the Montecito Association, a frustrated Price threatened to pull the mixed use, commercial-residential project.
As of Tuesday, Price said he has made no definite decision, but he has instructed his design team to cease work on the project. Price also owns the Chevron station on Coast Village Road and he said he is considering development options on that property as well. He added, however, with the prices so high in the gasoline business, his best option might be to continue selling gas.
THE SURF IS SNAPPING: Speaking of parking, it was at a premium across from the Biltmore on Tuesday afternoon when 10-foot waves drew a crowd of surfers and sightseers to Butterfly Beach. The massive sets rolled in earnest around 1 p.m. – by 5 p.m., the narrow beach was getting pounded.
A few hearts were pounding as well, as even experienced surfers were being tossed around by the massive waves. One surfer came ashore at Butterfly with a true souvenir of the powerful surf – his surfboard was split in half!
M.A. SUPPORTS LARGURA APPEAL: The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously on Monday to support Kay and Dave Peterson’s appeal of MBAR’s approval of the Largura project atop Romero Canyon on Montecito’s hillsides. The appeal is set to be heard at the Montecito Planning Commission on December 19.
HOLIDAYS IN THE VILLAGE: Speaking of revelry, Coast Village Road Business Association members will host a street-long open house for the holidays on Thursday, December 6, from 5:30 until 8 p.m.
Stores will stay open later than normal, offering seasonal nibbles, while Victorian carolers will stroll the street. A horse carriage will carry visitors up and down Coast Village Road for additional merriment in old-fashioned Montecito style.