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Montecito Association Land Use Committee Tears Into YMCA Renovation Plans

Members question the lack of a cost estimate for the proposed gymnasium, in addition to the project's height, location and 'institutional' look

The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee voiced concerns Tuesday about a gymnasium proposed by the Montecito Family YMCA because of its height, proximity to San Ysidro Road and “institutional” look.

YMCA board members, architects and senior staff presented plans for the first renovation since 1986 to the property at San Ysidro Road and Santa Rosa Lane. The committee’s perception of the project was considerably more critical than that of the YMCA’s residential neighbors, who were invited to see the plans several months ago as described by Mark Kirkhart, principal architect at DesignARC and the architect for the project.

“I’m concerned about what I would call the urbanization of San Ysidro Road,” committee chairman David Kent said.

A few committee members agreed that the proposed project has a more commercial or institutional look, but that it should look closer to the residential feel of the upper village.

Kirkhart reiterated that the gymnasium is the minimum required height of 22 to 25 feet to make it suitable for basketball or volleyball. Any lower and the structure would be useless for such sports — its main purpose, he said. The building would rise 12 feet above San Ysidro and be partially covered by trees already planted there.

Tim Werner, capital committee chairman for the Montecito Family YMCA, sidestepped questions from members of the Land Use Committee, and said after the meeting that he couldn’t provide an estimate about when a number would be released.

“I’d hate to throw darts without talking to donors,” Werner told the committee. He added later that he was waiting to hear from local donors about how much they would be willing to put into project if their name was on certain buildings or features.

“Until we know exactly what we are doing, there is no reason to say a price,” said Clas Lensander, finance chairman of the Montecito YMCA.

Robertson Short, a member of the Montecito Association Land Use Committee, said he would have been embarrassed to make such a presentation without some estimate on how much the project would cost.

Committee members said they were particularly skeptical about the claim that neighbors had been given the appropriate opportunity for input.

Kent suggested that another presentation be heavily publicized to the public and be held at Montecito Union School or the Montecito YMCA.

The Montecito Association sent out more than 100 invitations for Tuesday’s meeting to YMCA neighbors.

“My take on it is that we’ve been really responsive to the neighbors,” Kirkhart said.

The designs shown Tuesday were preliminary and are being used to secure the right to build and renovate the Montecito YMCA, wrote Kevin Dumain, associate architect for the project.

Kirkhart emphasized that the lengthy, formal project description has yet to be prepared.

The project would be constructed in phases, starting with the new freestanding preschool and gymnasium, followed by adding a second story to the main building and finishing with the indoor pool area.

The Montecito YMCA plans to have its new campus certified as LEED Silver, recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as environmentally friendly. This includes a permeable parking lot, natural lighting and ventilation, capture of rainwater and rehabilitation of the site with local riparian plant life.

“There will be a whole educational part of it that will show people how LEED really works,” Kirkhart said.

From the outset, Lenshander made it clear that the project isn’t something that has been solely developed by the YMCA, its board or members, but some committee members weren’t convinced.

“This is not a neutral project,” Land Use Committee member John Watson. “To pretend that it is, is a disservice to the entire process.”

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. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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