Coast Village Conundrum

I have lived in Montecito for 44 years. I served six years on the GPAC (community plan), eight years on the Montecito Association Land Use Committee, two terms on the Association’s board and 4 years on the Montecito Planning Commission.

The Montecito Association is opposed to the project [mixed-use condos at 1298 Coast Village Road] as proposed. Montecito surrounds Coast Village Road on all sides and the community is opposed to the project (and had the story poles been up more than 2 days, you’d be hearing even more dissent). The issues are:

1) Traffic: This five-way intersection is already tremendously congested and in gridlock in the early morning and from 3:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon. Despite the opinion of the applicant’s traffic consultant, it will get worse with this project.

2) Height: The limit is 35 feet in Montecito. This 40-foot project will totally obliterate the wonderful mountain views at this “Gateway to Montecito” site and totally shadow the adjacent home to the North.

3) Zoning Change Required: The current residential zoning buffer on the north side of the site is there for a reason–so that commercial structures don’t back up to the home.

4) Set-Back Modifications: It is patently unfair to the homeowners immediately to the north to invade what already is a modest set-back.

5) Water: The project will use 500% more water than the gas station and the Montecito Water District has recently proclaimed an emergency water shortage.

6) Other 3-Story Buildings: The applicant cleverly showed pictures of many three-story buildings. What the applicant failed to say is that with the exception of two buildings (which are not very visible because of huge setbacks), all of their examples are on the south side, where topography drops down severely so that only one story shows on the road. Coast Village Road is noted for its predominately one-story charming buildings. This 40-ft. three-story building at the entrance to the commercial district is definitely precedent-setting and will lead to more of its kind, destroying the very reason people visit the area.

Some people say the project is an improvement over the gas station. I disagree. The gas station has been there for 50 years and actually adds to the feel of a “village” (if you visit Carmel’s Ocean Avenue shopping area, you will see a gas station, and it is very much in keeping with the “village feel” of that area). Equally true, the eliminating of the gas station in the upper Montecito Village on East Valley and replacing it with a large commercial building would change the whole “village feel” of that commercial area.

The appeal of this project’s approval should be granted and the applicant should be directed to make the project conform to the site: Two stories, and honor the present set-backs and zoning.

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