Say No to SoMo

From 1978 to 1981, post-UCSB, I lived on the north shore of Oahu. I was blessed with wonderful friendships, worked two to three jobs to stay afloat, and travelled to other islands, including Maui.

In spring of this year, I visited Maui for the first time in nearly 40 years. The transformation since I’d visited in the late ’70s was stunning.

Massive high-rise hotels, sprawling developments encroaching on acres of once-pristine beaches, and countless housing tracts covered the landscape. It was so overwhelming that upon returning home to Santa Barbara, I checked through old photos to confirm that I had not misremembered the gorgeous Maui I’d visited decades ago.

Sitting on a Maui beach in the looming shade of a high-rise monster hotel that did not exist 30 years ago, I found myself asking: how did this happen? The answer: citizens, the government, and powers-that-be allowed it to happen.

The natural beauty and splendor of Maui’s environment had been systematically devalued by humans, over decades. This was the tragic result.

Having experienced yesterday’s Architectural Board of Review meeting, wherein the ABR further reviewed the 121 East Mason “SoMo” Funk Zone project, I was struck by (1) the good fortune of our community in entailing rigorous standards of review for such projects, and (2) the massively inappropriate scale, design and function of the proposed project.

From the Citizens’ Planning Association letter to the ABR: “In addition to the size, bulk and scale being out of proportion to the neighborhood, the building is unattractive. There is no true Santa Barbara style, dignity or handsomeness proposed.”

What happened to Maui cannot happen to Santa Barbara.

The 121 East Mason project, in its current form, must not be approved.


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