Montecito Association Tackles Multiple Land Use Issues

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   January 14, 2021
The roundabout at San Ysidro Road (pictured here in a rendering), is expected to be one of many Montecito land use projects that will progress in 2021, after its appeal is heard by the California Coastal Commission. The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee and Transportation Committee will join forces to provide input on the roundabout along with many other projects coming down the pike.

The Montecito Association Land Use Committee met earlier this week, and took a look back at the major land use projects the committee worked on in 2020. “We recognized early on after the debris flow that there would be multiple large scale projects to tackle,” said MA Executive Director Sharon Byrne, adding that the projects related to the debris flow, including the Randall Road Debris Basin and local road repair projects, coupled with the widening of Highway 101, two roundabouts, and more, kept both the Land Use and Traffic Committees busy. “If you found yourself a little exhausted, you’re not alone,” Sharon said to the committee, before diving into updates on where the projects are at currently. 

Kirsten Ayars and Lauren Bianchi Klemann, representing the Highway 101 widening and the roundabouts at Olive Mill and San Ysidro Roads, reported that the segment of the 101 widening through Sheffield is in progress, with underground supports and footings currently being built. Right-hand ramps are being built on the southbound side of the freeway, and retaining walls are in progress. Lanes remain open during the day with some partial closures overnight. Funding is still in progress for future phases of the freeway widening through Montecito, with SBCAG meeting later this month to work on obtaining federal funding for the unfunded portions of the project. Widening through the Montecito corridor is expected to begin in 2023. 

Both roundabouts at Olive Mill and San Ysidro are on appeal at the Coastal Commission; once resolved, which is expected as both the County and City believe the appeals are without merit, both projects will continue in the environmental impact review process, expected later this year. “Most people are ready to have the roundabouts built,” said Ayars. “They will reduce the wait at the intersections and improve use of local streets.” Ayars also said the staging for the roundabouts in relation to the widening of Highway 101 has not been determined yet, and multiple criteria will be considered including daily traffic issues as well as potential evacuations during wildfires. “We’re not far enough in the design process to develop the staging timeline yet,” she reported. 

Other projects impacting Montecito include the Randall Road Debris Basin, which goes out to bid in February, with construction expected in the spring, as well as a Community Trails Project that will add a walking trail along Olive Mill and Hot Springs from the roundabout to Casa Dorinda, also expected to be built in the spring. There is also the new building at Montecito Sanitary District which is on appeal at the Board of Supervisors, and a new Short Term Rental Ordinance expected to be debuted at the local planning commissions in the spring. 

Undergrounding of utilities continues to be a priority, with the neighborhood of Hodges Lane and Periwinkle Lane self-funding undergrounding as a pilot program. There are parking issues at the beach and trailheads, with Sheriff Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi and Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor both working on projects to combat congestion in these areas. Coming down the pike will be the installation of 5G facilities, as well as telecom facilities from Southern California Gas. The Hot Springs triangle will be beautified, and parking humps will be installed on Hill Road soon, along with other local street improvement projects, most of which are being paid for by monies acquired from the settlement with Southern California Edison. 

Because so many of the land use projects slated for 2021 have to do with roads and traffic, the committee voted to combine the Land Use and Traffic Committees, with chair Chad Chase at the helm. “A lot of these issues are intertwined this year. We can’t look at one without looking at the other. This year it makes sense to combine,” saidChase. “It makes sense to move forward as one team,” Byrne added. 

The Committee discussed the schedule for 2021, and contemplated forming subcommittees to look at some issues more closely. 

The full board of the MA meets next Tuesday, January 12, for its annual meeting followed by monthly meeting. The next Land Use Committee meeting is slated for February 2. 


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