Proposed landscape and vegetation replacement plan at segment of trail along new driveway | Credit: Courtesy

After reading the recent piece about the Hot Springs trail relating to our family’s plan to construct a single-family home on the parcel we bought over 26 years ago, I was encouraged by a friend to share our perspective seeing how we are directly referenced and naturally affected by this story. I feel the article from June 28 does a great job touching on many of the moving parts and perspectives. I thought with all that’s stirring up, our lived experience owning the land since 1998 and the epic journey of attempting to get a land use permit since ’04 might be relevant and important if there were to be any further developments and clarity added to this saga.

For added context about the applicants, we have been part of the local community since 1999 with my folks living here five to six months out of the year in an old Victorian house we restored together near the mission. Theirs is a real American immigrant story, and even though octogenarians, they are still working at the factory they founded and built from scratch a few years after they were married in ‘62. I designed this house as a tribute to them, after I moved here from Pasadena in ’08. I love participating in the arts in Santa Barbara. In the last decade, I have founded a tech platform and company in town that focuses on social and environmental data solutions.

What was originally estimated to be a two- to four-year wait to secure approval has now been 20 years and counting since we were issued the initial grading permit. We proved the viability of the property’s water sourcing and leach field, and successfully jumped through a seemingly infinite number of hoops while seeking a permit to build a single-family residence.

In the process, we hired and consulted botanists, biologists, arborists, landscape architects, archeologists, architects, engineers, planners, and more. We have worked so hard to understand all the sensitivities, to manage the constraints, and to read between the lines inferred in the county’s and Montecito Board of Architectural Review’s guidelines.

While this may not matter to those angered by our presence, we deeply love the land and wanted to create an artistic and iconic example of a symbiotic residence that honors the landscape and the habitat. Simply put, we came with great intentions to build our dream and be a humble part of the community.

For us, this process has been an exceedingly difficult one, especially when the portrayal by some is misleading or just plain wrong. We have made every conceivable attempt to be considerate and transparent while reducing the impacts and scale of the project, using natural materials sourced from the site where possible, native-only landscaping, off-grid energy and a design that blends into the landscape as if it were a modernist outcropping of rocks. We even proposed to Montecito Fire Protection District. that access be considered a rural ranch property and forego the additional road construction. That idea, along with many others, were not acceptable for various reasons.

As for the trail, initially I worked side-by-side with Ray Ford, a local trails tender and nature photographer, to revise and enhance the trail to snake to the side of the road, gracefully around trees and through the easement.

All of this to share, we would love nothing more than a light touch, fully natural access to our property with zero disruption to trail access, but all of these measures were never ours to choose.  The requirements the county agencies have placed on the project come from literally thousands points of correspondence, addressing changing conditions, meeting all of the concerns voiced over two decades, all while paying taxes and countless contractors in the attempt for our family to make a home on land we love.

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