ABCs of Montecito

By J'Amy Brown   |   September 19, 2019

Q: I just opened my September calendar and staring up at me is a bowl of alphabet soup – BOS, MLUDC, LUC, MCP, MAG, MPC, MBAR, MA! Can you help me sort out some of Montecito’s abundant and confusing acronym code?

A: What a perfect “Back-to-School” question! Take a seat, grab your pen, and I’ll try to spell out the ABCs of Montecito’s public-policy call-letters. In short, it pretty much spells “land development”!

First classes: geography, history, and civics lessons. Montecito is a 9.3-square-mile, mostly residential community, made up of 3,432 households, with a population of around 8,500. Montecito is bound by the Los Padres National Forest to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. To the west is the City of Santa Barbara and to the east is Summerland and Toro Canyon. 

Montecito is not a city, nor is it part of the City of Santa Barbara – it’s an “unincorporated” part of the County of Santa Barbara. Our village looks to the county for its legislative, administrative, and safety services. The county provides Montecito with flood control, land planning, parks, public records, public works (including road maintenance and repair), Sheriff Services, social service and, of course, tax collection to (more than amply) cover all those civic needs. 

Now comes the acronym part of the lecture:

BOS: Montecito’s top government authority is the five-member Board of Supervisors. Each Supervisor is elected from their own geographic district. Montecito joins Carpinteria, Summerland, New Cuyama, and parts of the City of Santa Barbara in making up the County’s First District. Das Williams is the First District’s elected Supervisor (805 568-2186).

MLUDC: This is Montecito Land Use Development Code. While Montecito has no government of its own, uniquely, over time, the Board of Supervisors has granted Montecito special authorities, allowing for some local control. For example, in 1927, Montecito was the first unincorporated community in California to develop its own zoning ordinance! A re-formatted version of that stand-alone ordinance still exists today to serve Montecito’s zoning.

MCP: In 1992, as an additional local land use tool, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Montecito Community Plan. (Note, and this will be on your final, do not confuse MCP with MPC, which is the acronym for the Montecito Planning Commission!) Initiated in 1986, the community plan was crafted by local Montecito citizens under the umbrella of a county-appointed General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC). It took nearly six years of public meetings, crafting and re-crafting to produce the finalized Montecito Community Plan. As a county ordained, supplemental land management document, the community plan sets out precise goals for Montecito’s development, specifically written to retaining Montecito’s neighborhood character. The plan sets specific goals for each part of community development – including public facilities, public services, transportation circulation, housing, open spaces, and natural resource constraints. The plan also designates the type of land use for each parcel – residential or commercial.

MAG: In 1995, the Montecito Architectural Guidelines were adopted by the Board of Supervisors. They are a companion to the Montecito Community plan and assist developers, builders, and property owners in designing projects that will be harmonious with the existing character of Montecito and assure the new structures fit within the community plan’s goals, policies, and standards. 

MPC: In yet another local governance benefit, the Board of Supervisors, in 2002, authorized an area Planning Commission for Montecito. It was seated for the first time in March, 2003. MPC is made of five Montecito residents, nominated by the First District Supervisor and appointed by the Board of Supervisors by vote. Most MPC Commissioners are well-grounded in local land use practice or land use law. Professions vary, but of the 13 former and current Commissioners appointed since 2003, six have been attorneys, and ten had previous service on the Montecito Association Land Use Committee (LUC). One is a road builder, one an investigative reporter, one a school administrator, one an architect, and probably the most suited for the job of all – one a former nurse! The current chair is attorney and former Montecito Water District board member Charles Newman. The Montecito Planning Commission normally meets on the third Wednesday of each month can be contacted via email through the county staff via David Villalobos at

MBAR: In 2003, simultaneous with the creation of the MPC, the BOS created a seven-member Montecito Board of Architectural Review. The board, nominated by the First District Supervisor and confirmed by the BOS, is composed of at least five licensed architects, who can reside anywhere in the county. The board also has two community members, who must live in Montecito, but do not have to be licensed architects. MBAR normally meets every two weeks to review the architecture and design aspects of proposed projects. Part of their duties also include assuring proposal projects fit with in the community plan as far as siting, visual impacts, and community character. The current chair is architect Thiep Cung. MBAR can be contacted through their secretary, Sharon Foster at 

MA: Everyone gets this confused – but here are the facts: The Montecito Association (MA) is a membership-funded homeowners association – it is not a government entity. It is a 501c4 advocacy group, whose job is essentially to lobby! MA has no government or jurisdictional authority.


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