Letters to the Editor
Water Well Done
Great job on the first water piece in last week’s Journal by Nick Schou. Water is very critical for us and a healthy environment but the issues surrounding it can get complicated very quickly. I have been very involved in both our local and statewide water issues for over three decades and it is encouraging to see such a clear comprehensive look at this complex issue. And refreshing to see the truth. Thanks MJ.
That Ship Has Sailed
Last week’s May 20th meeting of the Montecito Planning Commission marked the end to our nearly five-year Hedgerow Community campaign to try and stop the now “set in stone” roundabout scheduled for the intersection at San Ysidro and North Jameson roads. As Commissioner Susan Keller put it in her disheartened summation at the meeting:
“I have to state on behalf of the almost 70 letters in opposition to the roundabout received that I am more than frustrated that this was a fait accompli before it ever came before the MPC.”
It turns out that CalTrans, SBCAG, the Board of Supervisors and the Coastal Commission made the San Ysidro roundabout a required element of the 101 widening project years before any of us – homeowners, residents, the Montecito Planning Commission and the Montecito Association – had an opportunity to review or respond to the proposed roundabout in a consequential way.
The Montecito Planning Commission was repeatedly told they would be the “decision making body” in regard to the roundabout but discovered at the meetings in April/May 2020 that the only decision required from them was whether or not to issue a Coastal Development Permit to construct the roundabout, which is pursuant to the Coastal Zoning Ordinance. This decision-making capacity would be appealed to the Board of Supervisors, the very body that mandated the roundabout in the first place.
Commissioner Keller further stated: “I find this an incredible lapse of representation… I find the communication extremely lacking… I find the ignoring of the Montecito Community Plan to be outrageous… that an outside body would make a decision that has to do with our Community Plan which the Planning Commissioners have all been sworn to uphold, when we had no chance for any meaningful input.
“To everyone who reached out to me, I am sorry… you are out of luck. That ship has sailed.”
So here is a sampling of what to expect from this project which holds absolutely NO regard for the directives of the Montecito Community Plan whose stated goals are to “maintain and preserve the residential, low density, semi-rural character of Montecito”:
• Forty signs which must conform to Caltrans standards.
• Possible crosswalk “chirpers.”
• Nine post lamps – on all night – adjacent to a residential neighborhood, which neither reflects a semi-rural feel nor upholds the Montecito Community Plan of protecting the nighttime sky. MCP CIRL 3.7.1
• A multi-million-dollar 18-month build-out, which is hardly minimal, with add-ons like 7-foot-high berms that block protected ocean and mountain views.
• Fake decomposed pink granite like cement (which Montecito disallows) 8-foot-wide sidewalks. MCP CIRC M 1.1
• Removal of 38 trees and a number of Old Growth Oaks. It will be landscaped, but are we guaranteed the plantings will survive? No one has seen a landscape contract aimed at keeping the new plantings cared for… just look at the vines that were planted along Jameson and the dead palm trees (removed) in the center median of the freeway… or consider the roundabout at Coast Village Road – all the small vegetation has died. What is left are two trees in the center.
And all of this – this massively costly and disruptive project – is based on traffic studies done as far back as 1995, with only piecemeal studies since. Clearly this project is not being driven by the most recent available traffic data. MCP CM 1.2
This entire scheme fails on traffic design, visual design, sensitivity, subtlety – or even at the very basic level – blending in with the Susan Van Atta-designed real decomposed granite Safe Route to School path.
But for me, the biggest failure lies in allowing the blatant disregard for the Montecito Community Plan. Before moving to Montecito almost thirty years ago, I used to think – imagine living in a town that has a Community Plan, what a remarkable and foreword thinking idea…
I guess, judging from the end result, it still remains just an idea.
Yesterday, I was contacted by Ralph’s son Robert of the passing of his Father Ralph.
“Ralphy” was one of the great forces that moved to Montecito with wife Rebecca (Becky) in 1989 from Beverly Hills.
Ralph had been a very successful Television Producer with Dukes of Hazard, Gidget, and Courtship Of Eddie’s Father to his credit.
Ralph and Rebecca had two children, Robert and Julia.
Rebecca had been a very successful Realtor throughout our Central Coast and tragically became a victim of the 1-9 Debris Flow.
I first met Ralph when he walked into my video store, Montecito Video (1989).
His infectious smile and “bubbling” demeanor told me that I needed to befriend this special man.
One strong bond was cars. Ralph bought one of my very favorite cars ever, a BMW Z-8.
Perhaps around 2000, Ralph became part of our “Buddy” luncheon group. Also part of this group was Freeman Gosden Jr. Freeman’s Father created Amos & Andy. Thinking I had made the introduction of Ralph to Freeman at a lunch, I was surprised to hear Ralph state, “I met you at Boys Camp on Catalina in 1939, they were reunited!”
The lunch immediately travelled back to a kid’s life in 1939!
At one lunch, Freeman was not in attendance due to failing health and was hospitalized.
Ralph wanted more time with Freeman and dug through his massive photo collection to a picture of the “Boys Camp.” Armed with the picture, Ralph went to Cottage Hospital to spend hours of reminiscing.
Ralph never said “no” to family and friends.
His family, friends, and Montecito have lost another great individual with the passing of Ralph Riskin.
A Big Thank You
I want to send a sincere note of thanks to District 1 Supervisor Das Williams, Sheriff Bill Brown, and Montecito Association Exec. Dir. Sharon Byrne, along with folks from nonprofits and government agencies, for collaborating with an ad hoc committee of Hammonds and Miramar Beach neighbors to deal with three issues of concern to beachside homeowners: property crimes, homeless encampments, and beach congestion during COVID. As these issues will need continual or periodic monitoring, it’s great to have an informal group to focus attention from various stakeholders and leaders on keeping Montecito’s beach areas clean and safe – while still accessible.
On parking, we quickly came to a consensus to support Supervisor Williams’s proposal to restrict parking temporarily along Humphrey Road and Miramar Avenue near Eucalyptus Lane, which should help to limit visits and trash/waste from out-of-town beach-goers, as well as promote the goal of social distancing.
I applaud and admire the intrepid Sharon for twice accompanying outreach workers “into the woods” to visit several individuals living in camps adjacent to the Union Pacific railroad tracks between Eucalyptus Lane and Olive Mill Road. Unfortunately for owners, including me, who pay dearly for guards at the entrances to the gated communities of Montecito Shores, Sea Meadows, and Bonnymede, these individuals experiencing homelessness are taking advantage of easy access to Hammonds Beach via the ungated Surfrider Foundation trail that leads from the train tracks, directly through our communities, to the Chumash burial ground and the beach. The trail also enables entry after dark to beach campers; my family and I personally witnessed a group of five young people camping beachside in the Chumash site early last Sunday morning. As Supervisor Williams noted, trash and human waste are just two of the problems left behind.
As to crime, it’s unknown just who is responsible for recent beach-area property crimes and vandalism, including a very large hole cut into Bonnymede’s back fence, enabling the theft of a cache of professional tools and supplies. Using power tools, thieves earlier had stolen my brand-new electric bike, tethered with a very expensive lock to a large pipe, from our garage. As Sharon made clear in her several helpful comments and messages to beach owners, it’s up to homeowners and condo HOAs to recognize that gates provide only the illusion of protection when there’s an open trail leading through our communities to the beach. She urged us to install and improve security systems, using video and other technologies.
To all of my neighbors and new friends on this ad hoc committee, sixteen of us in total, thank you for coming together under Sharon’s excellent leadership. Let’s keep talking.
With much gratitude,
Eileen White Read
Keep ‘em Coming
I enjoyed your recent column “A Thing or Not A Thing” very much. We need these kinds of deep-dive insights into the ever-evolving, expansive human condition.
Which, I hear, is still a thing.
I must admit that I have always appreciated Mr. Brilliant’s illustrated epigrams called “Pop Shots” and have several of them posted in my home office. I also admire him for having the courage to write his “Dear God” article. I am sure he realized that there would be push back from various religious people and criticism of him for writing such an article and, in some cases, attacks even on his personal life. However, I do hope everyone agrees that he has the right to his opinion, and publish it since he is a very talented writer, even if one disagrees. There is a growing trend away from organized religions in the United States and I am sure many people approve of his article, but would not admit to it in public for the reasons mentioned above, and appreciate his willingness to point out some of the reasons for this trend.
Mr. Brilliant, I would like to thank you for pointing out some of the fallacies for believing in an all good and powerful and perfect God.
PS: Like you, I, too, am both thankful and grateful for being on this earth.
Jack L. Sanford
Keep it Local
I enjoy reading every issue of MJ. Your coverage of local news is very good and important.
In addition, you publish numerous letters, which serve two purposes: 1) they allow the writers to vent and virtue signal, and 2) they allow readers to identify cranks, as well as the well-informed, by name.
However, I don’t understand why you carry long articles by writers such as Rinaldo Brutoco and Robert Bernstein. The former’s attacks on Trump and the latter’s on Reagan are simply iterations of partisan “talking points” with little or no relation to the facts. For example, many governors have praised cooperation from the Trump administration, while New York and California have had many set-backs despite that help. And while Reagan may have tried “to dismantle decades of accepted public policy,” there were no cuts, just a slowdown in program growth as the result of compromise with the Democratic Party which controlled Congress. And Reagan’s two victories, and J.H.W. Bush’s one as well, were too overwhelming to be simply the result of mobilizing “devout fundamentalist Christians.”
So, please keep up the local news and local letters. We need to know what’s happening, and also the range of local opinion. But spare us the sanctimonious scribblings of superficial pundits who would divide us to satisfy their needs for self-righteous indignation.
As editors, you may ask your writers to stick their main points. For Brutoco that might be “more Federalism and less Federal Government dictates might be good” and for Bernstein perhaps, “corruption and favoritism are contributing to the neglect of many public needs.” And you could ask them for specific examples…