Hard to imagine what we did to the Santa Barbara News-Press to so badly offend its editors that they now think it is OK to take a few facts (very few), misinformation, myth and inaccuracies, throw them in a blender, and then spit it out in the form of an editorial. But here we are, and I find it once again necessary to clear up a few of the juicy tidbits they included in an editorial on the Miramar Hotel project last week.

“The Montecito Association abdicating their responsibility to safeguard good land-use planning …”

Ridiculous. The Montecito Association has held nearly a dozen public meetings (of either the board or its land-use committee), including two large forums to pore over the plans and to hear extensive comment from both supporters and foes of the project. The association held our feet to the fire, and exacted a lot of changes, right up to the end when we removed the second floor of the spa building in direct response to the association’s urging. The association also wasn’t alone in its support of the project — the Montecito Seaside Association, the Miramar Beach Homeowners Association and Voices of Montecito all endorsed the project, as did the staff report prepared by the professional Santa Barbara County planners. No project has had such unanimity of support.

“But the Caruso proposal for the Miramar … was too big and too tall for the property.”

Wrong. According to the county, our plan complies with the Montecito Community Plan and it complies with the community’s floor-area ratio standards. Moreover, it has fewer rooms than either the approved Schrager plan or the old Miramar, it has the same number of restaurant seats as the approved Schrager plan, and it has the same ballroom capacity as the approved Schrager Plan.

“Only using a warped and loose definition of the Montecito Community Plan could one argue that this proposal met its rules.”

The Montecito Association said our plan complied with the Montecito Community Plan, as did county staff. Additionally, the Montecito Board of Architectural Review found our plan to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood with respect to mass, bulk and scale. Every organization that typically reviews projects like ours and/or are tasked with advising the Montecito Planning Commission with respect to a project’s compliance with the Montecito Community Plan said our plan met the standards.

“County planners … cut corners on the necessary environmental review.”

Absurd. Go to the county’s Web site, www.sbcountyplanning.org/projects/07RVP-00009/index.cfm, and view the thousands of pages of analysis on this project from everything from monarch butterflies to preservation of historic resources. This project has been heard by MBAR twice, the Planning Commission three times, the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission three times, in addition to a public scoping meeting, and public comment meeting on the SEIR. Few if any projects have been subjected to such thorough review.

Those are the facts. The Miramar Hotel is a good project because people like you took time out of your busy schedules to tell us what you wanted to see on that site, and we shaped this plan accordingly. Ten years of an empty hotel seems long enough. But it is not long enough for some of our opponents. If you want this project to move forward, we need your continued support.

If you want to bring back Montecito’s Miramar, we need your help.  Please contact Supervisor Salud Carbajal at SupervisorCarbajal@sbcbos1.org and the Montecito Planning Commission at pad@co.santa-barbara.ca.us to let them know 10 years has been long enough and that they should support this plan today. Many of you have contacted them before, but we need your help again. Many of you have not contacted them before, we need your help today. Our next Montecito Planning Commission is Aug. 28, and the decision makers need to hear from the community. Thank you so much for your continued patience, assistance and support. And please forward this letter to the editor to your friends and neighbors so they have the facts.

P.S. A second editorial last week was about the security on the hotel site. We are working to repair the cyclone fences that surround the site and we continue, as we have throughout this project, to paint over graffiti as quickly as we can when it appears. We also just completed a significant weed abatement across the entire site.

Matt Middlebrook
Government relations vice president, Caruso Affiliated