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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 3:04 pm | Fair 63º


Jen Lilienstein: Neighbors Call for Cautious Approach to Miramar Parking

Though those of us at “ground zero” who depend on street parking could go into several different aspects of the problems with the Miramar parking situation, we’ve chosen to focus on residential parking needs for this op-ed piece.

To be clear, the majority of residents on the surrounding streets are not opposed to the overall Caruso Affiliated plan. Our concerns center on parking predictions versus needs.

Many of the residents and their children who live in the surrounding area on Miramar Avenue, Eucalyptus Lane, Jameson Road and Humphrey Road depend on street parking for their homes and guests. We are concerned enough about this issue that 10 residents have volunteered their own time to keep count of what available parking looks like on a daily basis pre-construction and make sure we keep a close eye on Miramar overflow with actual, historical data.

As someone who lives on Humphrey with two young children, there were many times when I had to strap my kids into a stroller or Baby Bjorn and carry groceries down the street because there weren’t spaces available near my home. When my kids have playdates or out-of-town guests come to visit, they often have to park several houses down and brave lots of traffic circulating to get to our house without an adjacent hotel/event venue/beach club.

The resident and surrounding beach-loving community demands on our streets are already high. The proposed Caruso plan has 436 parking spaces for the property, and here’s why we’re concerned:

Per the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 16, luxury hotel  occupancy rates are up and continue to rise. In fact, the average occupancy rate in 2014 was 70 percent. This means, of the 176 guest rooms on the property, we can bet that 123 or more of them will be filled on a regular basis.

Many luxury hotel operators, including the Terranea in Rancho Palos Verdes, have a 2.6 employee-to-room ratio or better. Split into three shifts, with one “peak hour” shift, we believe the Caruso group has underestimated the max hotel employees on site by about 50 percent.

On an average — not peak — day at the new Miramar hotel, this means that we can count on close to 300 parking spaces being used solely for hotel guests and employees. This leaves just about 150 spaces on site for 200 proposed beach club members, 400 proposed event guests and 200-plus proposed restaurant patrons. Further, county ordinance requires 614 spaces, so the Caruso proposal is already 180 spaces shy of the county requirements by which everyone else who builds in Santa Barbara County must abide.

Among Miramar Avenue, Eucalyptus Avenue, the Edgecliff parking lot and Humphrey Road, we have fewer than 140 spaces available. Thirty-plus spaces are used by residents, on average, on a regular basis during our 7 to 9 p.m. parking counts. Again, these residents depend on street parking for their homes; many do not have off-street parking as an option.

During the day, it’s a very different story. Based on daily parking counts from the last two months, which are by no means peak season at the beach, we already have under 70 spaces available between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is also the prime beach club attendance window for the 200 proposed Miramar Beach Club members. On weekends and good surf days, that “available space” number has already dropped to fewer than 40 on a very regular basis — again, during the low season. If 400 event guests, 200 beach club members and 200 restaurant patrons are fighting for 150 remaining spaces on the Miramar lot, where else will they park?

If the county Board of Supervisors decides to repeal the reduced entitlements of the Montecito Planning Commission, we cannot ever ratchet back those entitlements. If our public servants inadvertently get it wrong and it turns out that the Miramar is, in fact, underparked, we cannot say, “Oops! We both didn’t anticipate these problems. Going forward, you can only have 100 beach club memberships and 350 event guests.” We, as a community, will have to deal with the overflow from those miscalculations indefinitely.

If, however, we move into the entitlements more cautiously and it turns out the original Caruso parking predictions were right, they can get back to “business as usual” with 200 beach club memberships and 400 event guests within 12 to 18 months. They can even petition for higher numbers, if they see fit.

There is a way for all stakeholders to benefit. An extra level of parking in lieu of the current “flat lot” plan would not only ease the residential parking concerns of the neighborhood and preserve nearby parking for public beach access, but this additional parking also benefits the Caruso group. It paves the way for increased entitlements vis-à-vis the number of allowed event guests and beach club memberships if parking does not pose a problem. For this reason, additional parking — with no other changes to the Caruso plan — would also benefit our county as a result of even more sales tax dollars coming our way from the Miramar as a result of potential event and club entitlement gains.

Please don’t strap us with another El Encanto problem because we just couldn’t wait for this hotel to get built. The county has already given a lot to the Caruso group in the form of a $15 million tax break and a county road. Let’s make sure that we protect the already limited parking spaces for the people who depend on those spaces when they return home from work or school and preserve nearby parking for the surfers and beachcombers who can't afford a beach club membership by easing into the entitlements for the Miramar rather than rushing into a decision we cannot ever repeal.

If available parking for area residents, guests and the general public is important to you, please make sure your voice is heard by sending letters and emails to the county Board of Supervisors before the hearing date and support the Montecito Planning Commission’s entitlement precautions. Your voice is crucial to the future of this project! Click here to contact your county supervisor.

— Jen Lilienstein is a mother of two young children and a nine-year resident of Humphrey Road in Montecito.

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