Montecito Planning Commission
At this month’s busy Montecito Planning Commission meeting, Commissioners received a briefing on the roundabouts slated for Montecito at the intersections of Olive Mill/Coast Village/North Jameson and San Ysidro/North Jameson. “These types of meetings are very important to make sure we are having a transparent process and people are being kept in the loop,” said Public Works Deputy Director Chris Sneddon.
Sneddon, along with Caltrans Corridor Manager Scott Eades, Alternative Transportation Manager Matt Dobberteen, and Project Manager Walter Rubalcava spoke on various aspects of the roundabout projects, which are being considered as parallel projects to the Highway 101 widening.
“As you are probably painfully aware, we have a recurrent congestion problem on Highway 101 in the south coast,” Eades said, adding that the addition of a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara is in varying stages of development and construction. The Linden and Casitas Pass project is currently under construction in Carpinteria, slated to be completed in early 2020. The segment through Summerland and Sheffield is in the design and permitting phase, with construction expected to begin in 2021. The final two phases of the widening project, a 1.25-mile stretch through Montecito, from Sheffield to Olive Mill and then to Cabrillo Boulevard, is currently in the funding phase; the County is lumping the roundabout projects into the “funding ask,” Eades said. “In order to do that, what we really need is to have certainty on the content of this application. The California Transportation Commission wants us to very clear about the scope and cost of these improvements,” he added, saying the application for funding will be submitted later this year.
Sneddon explained that three arteries flow traffic through Montecito: Highway 192, Highway 101, and frontage roads including Coast Village Road and North Jameson. “If you go through this area and don’t look at the frontage system that goes with it, you end up pushing traffic north into the residential neighborhoods and on the roads that are not used to this kind of traffic. The more you can keep the bulk of the traffic on the main routes, the less you have impact on the residential roads,” Sneddon said.
Five years ago, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) directed staff to move forward on three local projects to be considered as part of the 101 widening: the roundabout at Olive Mill and Coast Village Road, mitigation of the railroad bridge at the Cabrillo Boulevard underpass, and assessment of traffic solutions at the San Ysidro Road freeway entrances/exits. Based on that board direction, SBCAG has been working closely with staff from both the City of Santa Barbara and County of Santa Barbara to continue progress on these projects; details including the size, shape, and elevations of the roundabouts are currently underway, as well as environmental assessments. The roundabout at Olive Mill and Coast Village Road will include entrances and exits for Olive Mill, Coast Village Road, North Jameson Lane, and Highway 101, and will be reviewed by multiple jurisdictions. The San Ysidro roundabout will be under the jurisdiction of the Montecito Planning Commission. Next steps include preliminary engineering and permitting, as well as public meetings at Montecito Board of Architectural Review, MPC, Santa Barbara City ABR, City Historic Landmarks Commission, and City Planning Commission. “There will be, at the very least, five opportunities for members of the public to express their views,” Dobberteen said.
Several members of the public spoke at the briefing, most of whom live nearby and voiced concern about the scale of the projects in a semi-rural community, as well as the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists traversing the roundabouts to access the beach. Project Manager Walter Rubalcava stated that several studies show roundabouts reduce the number and severity of traffic collisions because they force lower speeds, and reduce conflict points. “There are benefits associated with roundabouts for all modes of traffic,” Rubalcava said, adding that accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians are reduced by 40% compared to a standard intersection. Laura Bridley, Land Use Chair for the Montecito Association, reported to the Commission that the MA would like to help facilitate a forum for community input.
The Commission also considered the acquisition of eight parcels on 8.23 acres on Randall Road and East Valley Road in order to build a debris basin, with a proposed .75-acre additional easement area. “The proposed acquisition is consistent with the semi-rural land use designation,” said planner Ray Harmon. Upon acquisition of the eight parcels and the access easement, the District would have a total of 9.41 acres available for the proposed debris basin. The Commission voted unanimously voted in favor of the acquisition.
Flood Control Engineering Manager Jon Frye gave a brief update to the Commission, reporting that his department has been kept busy clearing debris basins after multiple storms this winter. “Even though some of the rains that we’ve had have exceeded the evacuation thresholds, the events that we’ve had have not been that outstanding. It’s still a fragile watershed, but we are getting good reports on the regrowth in our foothills,” he said. Flood Control is pursuing grants from FEMA to expand three of Montecito’s debris basins: San Ysidro, Romero, and Cold Spring. “We know the debris flow risk will extend at least into next winter,” he said.
The Commission was also briefly updated on the Miramar project: all building permits have been issued, and all structures have been completed except for the Miramar Club, which is still under construction. The hotel, owned by Rick Caruso and managed by Rosewood, is currently open and operating on a temporary occupancy permit, pending minor corrections including safety signage, railings, and the final inspection of the Miramar Club. Final occupancy is expected to be signed off by mid-April. The project will be back in front of the MPC 12-18 months after final occupancy is granted regarding compliance with the project’s parking plan. It will also be seen 24-36 months later to discuss beach club membership phasing, as per a condition in the Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
The Montecito Planning Commission is currently seeking applicants to fill the vacancy left by Joe Cole, who announced his departure last week. To apply, visit http://sbcountyplanning.org.