YMCA Presents Plans, Again
After a more than 13-year journey, plans for renovating and enhancing the Montecito YMCA on Santa Rosa Lane are moving forward once again, amid some angst and concern from neighbors and members of the community at large. With story poles going up earlier this month in anticipation of last week’s Montecito Board of Architectural Review meeting, many neighbors were prompted to write letters and/or speak at the meeting, which was for conceptual review of the latest iteration of the project.
In 2013, an extensive expansion plan was submitted to the County; that former plan required that overflow parking be available off-site at Lower Manning Park, but the Y was unable to secure a long-term parking agreement with the County Parks Commission, and instead sought to revise the plans and lessen the parking need, so that all parking could be on the 4.25-acre site.
A new conceptual design was developed in 2018, which included a change in architectural style and a significant reduction in programing, including eliminating the YMCA’s preschool program. These are still the current plans, which were developed and revised after countless community meetings with concerned neighbors, including a remodeled and slightly expanded main building, which does not include a second story as originally planned. The main building will house weight training, cardio, offices, childcare, group fitness, and a flex/meeting room. A new locker room building will be nearly the same size as the current locker rooms, and will include family changing rooms.
A new multi-purpose/gymnasium building is slated for the northwest corner of the site, requiring multiple trees to be removed. It will serve as a place for basketball, volleyball, and adult wellness classes. The current sports court area will be used for a secondary parking lot now that all parking is required to be on site; the new plan has lessened the parking requirement to 96 spaces. The pool will also be revamped and widened.
According to YMCA Executive Director Mike Yamasaki, who spoke with us prior to the MBAR meeting, planners and architects have been working the last three years mostly on the secondary parking lot, which will be accessed off San Ysidro Road and will only allow a right turn in and a right turn out.
“We’ve been working with the Streets Department on parking and traffic flow. We have tons of parking now, and should we need more, we can still utilize Manning Park, and Montecito Union School after hours,” he told us.
At the MBAR hearing, it wasn’t so much the number of parking spaces neighbors and MBAR members voiced concern about, but the impact the parking lot would have on San Ysidro Road, which already has significant traffic flow issues at peak times.
“It’s to be used primarily for staff, and we expect members to continue to use our main parking lot,” Yamasaki said.
Montecito Association Executive Director Sharon Byrne recapped what her organization’s Land Use & Transportation Committee concluded earlier this month: that drivers leaving that lot will turn right on Santa Rosa Lane and turn around in the Y’s parking lot or at Manning Park, and then turn left on San Ysidro Road, through an already busy intersection frequently utilized by kids walking to MUS. Many neighbors voiced the same concern.
Other issues brought up included the height of the gymnasium building; the story poles of which were at least two feet higher than they should have been, according to YMCA reps. The building is less than the maximum 35-ft height limit, but a clear story, considered an architectural addition to the structure, is higher than the 35-ft limit. The clear story, according to DesignARC architect Mark Kirkhart, is for natural light and ventilation.
“I am changing my opinion from three years ago. It seems too tall to me,” said board member John Watson. Board member Claire Gottsdanker concurred, saying the project is not “semi-rural” and does not fit in with the residential neighborhood.
“This building and parking lot are unacceptable to me,” she said.
Neighbors voiced additional concern about noise, lighting, construction impacts, and traffic impacts. “I think you have some work to do,” said MBAR chair Bill Wolf.
The plans have been put on hold multiple times to accommodate minor damage from ash from the Thomas Fire in December 2017, as well as closures following the 1/9 Debris Flow in 2018 and additional closures and programming changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a long, arduous journey,” said Yamasaki.
The project is expected to be seen by Montecito Planning Commission early in the new year, and will require environmental review. Yamasaki says building the project is years away, as funding will need to be put in place prior to breaking ground.
The YMCA is located at 591 Santa Rosa Lane.