Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 12:16 am | Overcast 58º



New Business Development in Montecito’s Upper Village Drives Concerns About Parking

But owner/managers Richard and Michael Gunner say they've hired a parking attendant and insist the project will increase the number of marked spaces

Some business owners in Montecito’s Upper Village have expressed concern that neighborhood parking will be overloaded once construction of seven new commercial units behind the San Ysidro Pharmacy is completed this month.

Andi Doyle, manager of Pierre Lafond, said the likelihood of landlords purchasing an expensive parcel in Montecito for a parking lot or an even pricier underground structure is unlikely.

“If customers can’t get in because there’s no parking, that obviously hurts our business,” Doyle said. “Bare land would be way too expensive for anyone here to buy a parking lot.”

Owner Richard Gunner’s project proposal claims to be increasing the number of parking spaces in his lot from 37 to 57, more than is required by the Montecito Land Use & Development Code.

However, David Bertrand, who owns the adjacent commercial building at 539 San Ysidro Road that primarily hosts antique dealers, noted the disappearance of a dirt lot on a section of the pharmacy property. For years, he said, employees and customers of surrounding businesses used it as an improvisational parking lot when they couldn’t find a striped space.

By Bertrand’s calculation, Gunner has built seven new commercial units without adding new parking.

Project manager Michael Gunner, Richard son, disputes that claim, saying they have improved the parking situation by increasing the number of marked parking spaces.

“As part of our project approval, we had to comply with all the county parking regulations, which we did,” Michael Gunner said.

The Gunners also have hired a parking attendant to police the lot for any car that doesn’t belong to an employee or customer.

Jared Peddicord, co-owner of S.R. Hogue & Co. florist, said the Gunners have gone above and beyond what a normal landlord would do in developing the property.

The florist’s building hadn’t been renovated for decades until the Gunners purchased it. Its interior has since been renovated and new electrical and HVAC system installed. Peddicord also praised the new parking valet for keeping construction workers at nearby estates from using the mall’s parking lot.

“It happened a lot,” he said. “The valet keeps real close tabs on who parks here.”

To compensate for the loss of the dirt lot, Bertrand said, employees of Upper Village businesses now park north of East Valley along the west side of San Ysidro Road. The employees are then using this street parking from when they get to work in the early morning to the close of business.

“Employees are monopolizing what should be open to the public,” Bertrand said.

More than 2½ years after the Montecito Planning Commission voted to approve the project, Norman Borgatello, president of Valley Improvement Co., which owns the Montecito Village Shopping Center, believes the Montecito Association is responsible for failing to address the project’s lack of parking in the planning stages.

“They could have torpedoed that whole deal by saying, ‘We like the project but there’s not enough parking,’” Borgatello said.

In a letter to the Planning Commission before its July 2009 decision, the Montecito Association briefly summarized its concerns on the issue of parking in one sentence.

“We also have concerns that possible future changes to more intensive purposes within the commercial center will have a negative impact on available parking,” wrote Peter van Duinwyk, former president of the association.

Executive Director Victoria Greene said the association approved the project because of its scale and character fit within the Montecito community.

“I remember there was discussion about the parking issues,” Greene said. “We had committee members that expressed concerns. I think people were satisfied that [the Gunners] were addressing code concerns.”

Although the association is the primary community advocacy group in Montecito, Bertrand believes the lack of foresight extends to the Planning Commission.

“They’re not an agency of rules and regulations; they’re an agency of pressure and agitation,” he said.

Besides the lack of parking, Bertrand was shocked when the Gunner property was not forced to adhere to the Mediterranean architecture style of white stucco walls and red tile roofs like other developers in the Upper Village.

“In Solvang it would totally be in step, but there it is totally out of step,” he said.

County planner Julie Harris said she had never heard of this requirement in her 13 years with the county Planning & Development Department before a letter Bertrand sent her during the review process.

Planning Commissioner Jack Overall told Noozhawk that he recognized that Montecito in general has increased traffic and parking demands that may require a revision of the county development and land use code.

“To somehow retroactively apply that to the Gunner project is a little late,” he said.

Michael Gunner said he is uncertain on when new tenants might move in because of the fluid retail market, and the leaseholders will have to design their buildings’ interiors as they want.

He declined to comment on which businesses have expressed interest in leasing.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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