A roundabout is coming to the intersection of Coast Village and Olive Mill roads, but when, and what it will look like, is still in motion.
The panels argued over whether to vote or delay action on the item until a future date.
In the end, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve a coastal-development permit to convert the hexagon-like intersection into a single lane-roundabout. Commissioner Jay Higgins was not present.
The Montecito planning commissioners delayed voting on its portion of the item until Sept. 16 — at its own meeting — because members felt the city didn’t allow them adequate time for discussion, and went out of order on the agenda.
The proposed roundabout is within both city and county jurisdiction.
“We’re not going to remain on the line for hours here, or together in go-to-webinar trying to perfectly align differences in standards or recommendations between our two jurisdictions,” said Santa Barbara Planning Commission Chair Deborah Schwartz. “We are going to leave that to both the joint staff and the applicant to work through any misalignment.
“We are just not going to spend that kind of time, and I don’t think this format allows for the type of back-and-forth negotiation in a public forum among all the commissioners that are on both sides of this.”
The tension between Schwartz and Montecito commission chair Donna Senauer was thick throughout the meeting, often serving as a distraction to the matter at hand.
“The whole reason to have a joint commission hearing was to basically understand each commission’s approach to conditions, etc., etc. and then do reconciliation,” Senauer said. “That was the whole point of this, rather than meeting separately.”
Just after Senauer’s statement, an unknown person who was not visible on the Zoom link muttered, “Deborah Schwartz is being incredibly . . .” prompting city planning analyst Ellen Kokinda to urgently jump in and tell everyone to stop talking. She eventually called a recess to settle things down.
When the meeting resumed, Senauer made the request of the city to reconsider its vote and instead delay the meeting to September.
Assistant City Attorney Tava Ostrenger jumped in to explain that the only way the city could reconsider its vote is if sudden new information came to light that required an emergency vote, which was not the case.
Several of the city commissioners started to peel off the meeting as it approached 6 p.m., and when the city lost a quorum, Senauer tried to tell Schwartz and the city officials to leave the meeting.
“The city does not need to be here,” Senauer said, adding that she “would like to wish the city adieu.”
Commissioner Barrett Reed said the meeting was “difficult,” before he left the zoom.
Overshadowed by the clash of the commissions was the roundabout effort, which began in 2014. Transportation planners have determined that the intersection fails during peak traffic hours and that the problem is only going to get worse as part of the Highway 101 widening project through Montecito.
Plans call for the multiple intersection legs and varied stop lines to get rolled into a safer and more efficient roundabout, with nearby pedestrian refuge islands, new sidewalks, street lighting, signage, landscaping, and drainage facilities.
About 45 trees will be removed, but they will be replaced at a 3-1 ratio. The city plans to install about six 23-foot-tall street lights and five 10-foot tall pedestrian lights.
Attorney Doug Fell, who presents the John Price-owned commercial and building on the corner of Coast Village and Olive Mill roads, convinced the commission to move a bus stop that would have blocked the development’s sole source of ingress and egress.
Fell also raised questions about staging and construction during the building of the roundabout.
“Will the construction zone be a storage zone?” Fell asked. “The answer is yes. This would be an unreasonable impact on our commercial tenants.”
The point resonated with Reed.
“I am concerned with the immediate businesses affected by this project and any loss of business or loss of rent for property owners due to a mismanaged project,” Reed said.
Roger Rittner, who owns a property on the 100 block of Olive Mill Road, opposes the current configuration of the project. saying it has serious impacts on his property.
Removal of trees would take away a noise barrier that he currently enjoys from the traffic on Highway 101, he said. The project also would eat up his property in front of his home.
“The current design moves our front bedroom windows 12 feel closer to the traffic noise and pollution,” Rittner said. “We believe the current design is unacceptably damaging to the the market value value and livability of our property. We continue to believe the design and/or location of the roundabout should be changed.”
Thursday’s meeting ended with all members of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission leaving the session, and members of the Montecito commission staying on.
Montecito Commissioner Charles Newman noted that it was commissioner Bob Kupiec’s birthday.
“I can assure you there’s a martini waiting for me somewhere,” Kupiec said.
“I hope it’s very cold,” responded commissioner Susan Keller.
“I do, too,” Kupiec said.