Largura Project Hits Another Wall

Appeal Upheld by Montecito Planning Commission; Plus, Andrew Firestone Joins Ty Warner

The site of the proposed Largura residence, with story poles visible within the red circle.
J'Amy Brown

After an exhausting four-hour hearing on Wednesday, December 19, Montecito hillside residents Dave and Kay Peterson won a Montecito Planning Commission fight to block Robert Largura’s proposed foothill home on Bella Vista Lane. The commission voted 4-1 to grant conceptual approval to Peterson’s appeal of MBAR’s go-ahead of the Largura project. Clair Gottsdanker was the sole dissenting vote, saying she felt the project fell within the quantifiably standards set by the Montecito Community Plan.

During a Largura residence site visit, Kay (left) and Dave Peterson (right) met with co-owner Brian Felix (center, with hat).
J'Amy Brown

The MPC continued final action on the issue until January, allowing their staff time to come up with revised findings to support MPC’s position. The extra time-window could also give the Largura team – made up of some Montecito’s most influential development pros like Bendy White, Bob Easton, Sam Maphis, and Brian Felix – the opportunity to offer a compromised solution.

The current rejected proposal, which was supported by county staff and approved by MBAR on September 24 after six hearings, calls for a 3,985 square-foot house, an attached three-car garage, an 800 square-foot guesthouse, and a bluff top infinity pool. It started its rough ride in the permit pipeline in early 2006, and faced several redesign challenges from both MBAR and MPC.

The Petersons, who live directly below the Largura project, are newcomers to the land use game and they presented their case in a simplified manner, sans the standard combat team of legal and planning professionals. They argued that the Bella Vista Road project violated the intention of the Montecito Community Plan, which states that hillside zones should be free of intensive development. The Petersons’ position got podium support on Wednesday by the Montecito Association, its former presidents Sally Kinsell and Bob Collector, and former Montecito Planning Commissioner Dick Thielscher, among others.

As indicated here, development on Montecito's hillsides is very much a community issue.
J'Amy Brown

In the end, the majority of the MPC was swayed by the community attitude and voted to support the Petersons and reject MBAR’s prior approval. “It is a lovely house, but I don’t think you are there yet,” explained MPC chair Bob Bierig, who based his appeal support on the hillside and watershed protection policies of the Montecito Community Plan.

The commission’s conceptual approval of the appeal will be voted on at the MPC’s meeting on January 16, 2008, the same day the Miramar is scheduled for a conceptual review.

LATE-BREAKING STOCKING STUFFER: It was confirmed this week that Andrew Firestone, who Montage saw wandering around the Biltmore two weeks ago, has been hired by Ty Warner as the director of membership for the hotelier. Among his responsibilities will be to organize membership for the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club and the Montecito Country Club.

Andrew Firestone

Firestone, who’s best known for his appearance on the TV show The Bachelor, is the son of Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone. He will start his new position on January 1 and have an office at the Montecito County Club. His job will involve implementing a program that offers Club-Ty packages, mixing and matching benefits from the Four Seasons Biltmore, San Ysidro Ranch, Sandpiper Golf Club, and Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, as well as the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City and the Las Ventanas Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Firestone grew up in Santa Barbara, graduated from University of San Diego in 1998 with a degree in business administration, and went on to work in institutional finance in San Francisco. In 2003, Andrew returned to the region to work for his family business, Firestone Vineyard.


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