Safe Routes to School

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 19, 2019
Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade Executive Director Abe Powell, Cold Springs Landscapes owner Steve Gowler, Cold Spring School Chief Business Officer Yuri Calderon, Bucket Brigade Operations Director Keith Hamm, and Bucket Brigade volunteer captain Carol Bartoli (photo courtesy Amy Alzina)

This Sunday, September 22, more than 200 Westmont student athletes will be volunteering with a partnership of community groups to restore and beautify three important pedestrian paths surrounding Cold Spring Elementary School. The volunteer workday emerged from a traffic-safety assessment orchestrated by the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST) in longtime coordination with Cold Spring School parents and the national Safe Routes to School program, and is led by the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. 

The crews will be working on three pedestrian paths: the first section runs along Cold Spring Road between Cold Spring School and the Westmont south gate entrance; it’s eroded from winter runoff. “We’re improving the drainage and putting down a three-inch layer of recycle road base, except in front of the church, where we will be tuning up the exiting decomposed granite path,” said Keith Hamm, Operations Director of the Bucket Brigade. The second path runs along Sycamore Canyon Road in front of Cold Spring School, where volunteers will prune back the vegetation to widen the existing path and put down wood chips as the walking surface. The third area is the corner of Sycamore Canyon and Barker Pass, where the existing path will be improved and widened, making a new section of a safer path to the button that activates the crosswalk signal. 

The work will take place from 12:30 pm to 4:15 pm, and drivers are asked to drive carefully in the area. The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade would like to thank their community partners on this project: Cold Spring Elementary School, Westmont College, COAST, Cold Springs Landscapes, and Montecito Trails Foundation. 

Montecito Association Latest

At last week’s Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting, a large crowd of residents attended to hear about and discuss a proposal by Pat Nesbitt, who is seeking a Conditional Use Permit to land helicopters on his large agricultural property in Carpinteria. 

Nesbitt, who admits he’s been landing helicopters on his property for decades without a permit, is seeking permission for a helistop with two landing zones to be used for personal use and emergency services. Both landing zones will be located on the eastern portion of the property; the first will be located on an existing 10-acre grass field and the second landing zone will be located on a concrete drive adjacent to an equipment storage building that is currently under construction under separate permits. The permit would limit the personal use of the helistop to a maximum of two times per week between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm, and per the staff report, his helicopters will take the ocean route as opposed to the mountain route in order to avoid any potential disturbance to residences along the mountain route.

Mr. Nesbitt, who attended the meeting with his wife, Ursula Nesbitt, passed out a list of “myths” about the helistop, and spent his presentation time disputing those myths. Nesbitt said that 500-650 helicopters fly over our area every year, and that he believes that adding two flights per week would not disturb the peace and quiet of the surrounding neighborhood, especially given the property’s close proximity to Highway 101. He said any helicopters landing on his property would be required to use a flight path over the ocean, across Summerland beach and the freeway, and onto the property. 

Many residents have surmised that one of the reasons Nesbitt is seeking proper permitting now is that his property is for sale and having a permitted helistop would add value. Nesbitt said that he would require the future owner of the property to adhere to the flight path above the ocean, writing it in as a deed restriction; land use attorney Marc Chytilo, speaking on behalf of several nearby homeowners, said a deed restriction is “completely unenforceable.” 

Mr. Nesbitt read letters from his supporters, including one from Graham Goodfield, the owner of Los Padres Outfitters, who helped bust another “myth”: that helicopters landing on the Nesbitt property would threaten horses and other animals. Another letter shared was from the owners of homes in the Summerland Cottages, which is the closest residential development to the Nesbitt property. Several owners within the development report that after witnessing Nesbitt’s helicopter land on his property, they found the noise of the helicopters was drowned out by the freeway noise. According to Nesbitt, a sound study conducted for the permit issuance concluded the same results: that the helicopter creates less noise than the ambient sound of the freeway. “Here is the voice of our fellow neighbors and fellow citizens listening to our helicopter actually flying in,” Nesbitt said. 

MA Board Member Marshall Miller refuted several of Nesbitt’s claims, saying that once a helistop permit is issued, there is no strict line or guidance on how helicopters will fly in. He also added that the sound study performed was based on a specific model of helicopter, which is touted to be one of the quietest. “The use of the helipad going forward will be different with subsequent owners,” he said. “My concern isn’t with Mr. Nesbitt, it’s with the ‘next guy.’”

Chytilo stood in front of the MA Board and suggested several reasons why the CUP should not be granted, including the issue of precedence, visual and audible issues in the community, and the lack of a full environmental review process. “Is it appropriate to approve and condone private use helicopters here?” Chytilo asked. “Take a position and require the County to do a full EIR; the Negative Declaration does not cut it,” he added. 

Several concerned neighbors also spoke out, including Jeffrey Schlossberg, who candidly asked Mr. Nesbitt why he needs or wants a helistop on his property. “I’m 75 years old, and I still work. It’s 35 minutes by helicopter from my property to my office in Santa Monica,” Mr. Nesbitt said, adding that flying in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport would triple his travel time given the congestion on the southbound freeway from Goleta to Carpinteria during rush hour. A neighbor from Padaro Lane responded: “I’m concerned that the need for one person is trumping the quality of life for many others.” 

The MA board decided to deliberate the issue in closed session, asking Mr. Nesbitt and the audience to leave the room to freely discuss the issue. In a letter to the County Planning Commission, which is meeting September 25 to hear the proposal, the MA board unanimously opposed the project, citing lack of compatibility with the Montecito Community Plan, specifically referencing low ambient noise, which preserves the semi-rural nature of Montecito. The Board also asked for a more in-depth environmental review process, and voiced concern over setting a precedent of allowing and permitting private helicopter landing pads. 

The issue will be heard by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on September 25. 

Also at the meeting, YMCA executive director Mike Yamasaki reported that he and his team will soon be submitting their revised application for the revised renovation plans at the Y in the next few months, with hopes to be in front of the MA Land Use Committee by the end of the year. The project is a scaled-down version of the original iteration, and includes a remodeled and slightly expanded main building that will house weight training, cardio, offices, childcare, group fitness, and a flex/meeting room; a new locker room building that will include family changing rooms; a new multi-purpose building on the northwest corner of the site for basketball, volleyball, and adult wellness classes; a revamped and widened pool; and a new second parking lot that will offer 44 spaces. The entire new plan is reduced in size by 29% from earlier versions, and is approximately 10,000 sq. ft. larger than the current buildings. 

Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor said that recent fires in Buellton serve as a great reminder that we are in peak fire season, with our first red flag event occurring last weekend. Chief Taylor reminded the group that a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) meeting will be held this Thursday, September 19 at Montecito Union School, where local power companies and the Office of Emergency Management will discuss the possible shutdown of power for multiple days during periods of extremely hot, dry, and windy weather. The meeting is at 5:30 pm. 

Cold Spring School superintendent Amy Alzina reported that the school is looking to build permanent classrooms to replace three portable classrooms that are on their last legs; a possible bond measure may be placed on next year’s ballot. We’ll have more on this in a future edition. 

For more information about the Montecito Association, visit 


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