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Letter to the Editor: Caruso Affiliated Disputes Newspaper’s Characterization of Miramar Process

I wanted to take the opportunity to briefly respond to a June 3 editorial in a Santa Barbara newspaper. What the piece makes very clear is that the editorial writer has not been paying attention to the Miramar project for the last 18 months. Those paying attention to the process would be aware that Caruso Affiliated‘s proposal for the Miramar property has been the subject of two hearings before the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, three meetings of the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (the members of which also took a tour of the property), a public Scoping Meeting on the Environmental Impact Report of the property’s historic resources, a public comment hearing on the EIR and Addendum, and a conceptual review before the Montecito Planning Commission.

Our plan for the Miramar has also been on the agenda of no fewer than 10 meetings of the Montecito Association or its Land Use Committee (which are publicly advertised and open to anyone). Additionally, the staff analysis of the project was available for public review and comment for 45 days. Moreover, the project’s hearing before the Planning Commission was originally scheduled for March, then May, then June, and now July. We, as a company have also held dozens and dozens of community meetings to hear comments on the plan and to answer questions. To suggest that this project is being rushed is absurd and ignores the facts. Such a suggestion also ignores the hundreds and hundreds of pages of analysis that have been conducted on the project and that are discussed at length in the staff analysis of the project and available for public review for anyone to see.

The analysis has looked at every detail of the project, including traffic, flooding, air quality, water quality, historical resources, biological resources, archaeological resources, geology, landscape, structural, noise, arborist, drainage, and storm water runoff, among others. We have studied whether it is a monarch butterfly nesting site (it is not), and whether the sea wall is viable (it is). We have placed, at considerable expense, two sets of story poles up on the site so people could see exactly how tall the buildings will be. The staff consistently looked at our analyses and asked follow-up questions to which we provided voluminous follow-up answers (gladly). Again, all of that information is available for anyone who wants to see it.

All of this is in addition to all of the analysis that was done for the Schrager plan, on the very same site. And all of this analysis is not for some entirely new use on the site — it is to build a hotel, the exact same use that has existed on the site for more than 100 years (except for the last 10 years when the property has sat vacant and decaying). The Schrager plan was approved eight years ago, and our project has fewer rooms, the same number of restaurant seats, the same capacity for guest events, better public access to the beach, and much more parking.

Finally, the editorial writer’s premise that the project is being rushed also demonstrates a lack of understanding of Montecito. No one — and I mean no one — is going to throw a land-use fastball by anyone in this great community. No matter how impatient Montecito residents may be over the current state of the Miramar, they would never accept a bad project to replace what is there. The overwhelming support in the community for the proposed plan comes from the fact that it has been shaped and reshaped based on community input. The facts have been laid out, debated, revised, and revised again until we find ourselves here today. And it is time that this project be heard and voted upon. The studies have been done, the community input has been gathered and incorporated, and it is time to call the question.

With respect to the comments by Michelle Gibbs in an internal letter at the County, we were not aware of these concerns despite speaking with her numerous times per week. Additionally, while her comments imply that the project has been hurried, the delays the project has faced shows quite the contrary. The County, throughout this project, has been exacting in the information it has requested and diligent to ensure that the analyses submitted have been professionally prepared and thorough. The County has been more demanding in the amount of analyses required at this stage of the process than any other jurisdiction we have worked with, all of which is to the benefit of the community.

While some people in the community will continue to oppose the project regardless, we are grateful to the hundreds and hundreds of residents who have helped us shape our plan and have supported the process. We are confident that when this project is built it will be one that Montecito will be proud to call its own.

Matt Middlebrook
Government relations vice president, Caruso Affiliated

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