The Montecito Board of Architectural Review has had a full docket the last few months, hearing over 17 Montecito projects last week at a regular meeting, just one week after needing to call a special meeting in order to consider seven other projects. The next two meetings are already booked with 13-14 projects each, while the ideal number at each meeting is 10.
The scope of these projects ranges from new trellises and placement of outdoor lighting fixtures, to new garages, pools, and additions, all the way to demolition of existing homes and building of completely new residential projects – as well as a small handful of commercial projects, like the YMCA remodel – in the Montecito Community Plan area.
While the majority of projects come to the Board without much neighbor feedback, a new residential project on Miramonte Avenue has brought many neighbors – and their attorneys – out to voice their dismay. The project was seen for conceptual review at a meeting back in December, with a second appearance for more conceptual review last week.
The proposed project includes the demolition of a small cottage on the property, followed by the building of a roughly 2,300-square-feet home on the 0.25-acre lot, which in the process of being merged with the adjacent property. There is also a pool and detached garage building proposed. Architect Brett Ettinger presented the plans, saying that the design of the home was intended to look as if it is actually two modest-size homes, separated by a floor-to-ceiling glass, low flat-roof element located between two taller structures, one of which houses the primary bedroom upstairs. The primary bedroom includes an outdoor deck, built on the flat-roof element, and a second story balcony. The garage building also includes a roof-top garden. The project is slated to be modern in its design, with heat-treated natural wood siding, old world historical stone, and deep window punches, Ettinger said. The height of the buildings does not exceed 28 feet, while the maximum height allowed is 35 feet.
Beth Collins, Attorney at Law, had submitted a 30-page comment letter on behalf of neighbors within close proximity to the property, who contend that the project is inconsistent with the Montecito Architectural Design Guidelines and Development Standards, and is inconsistent with good neighbor policies in part because of its modern, contemporary architectural style and its size, bulk, and scale. Other concerns include a lack of privacy for neighbors, an encroachment on views, and fears about outdoor lighting and sound emitting from the balcony and rooftop decks. There is also concern about fire access on the narrow street, as well as issues with how cars parking on the property will turn around with sufficient space.
Sarah Bronstad, speaking on behalf of Collins, said that many neighbors felt uncomfortable voicing their concerns publicly, after the property owner of the project issued a cease and desist letter following the December MBAR meeting. One neighbor, who used to own the property many years ago, said the project looks too massive for the neighborhood. “It looks like two giant buildings on a skinny little property,” he added. Fifteen neighbors have signed a letter to protest the building of the project; many of the neighbors impacted by the project have also spoken out against the YMCA remodel, which is on the adjacent property to Miramonte Avenue.
Ettinger reported that the plans have been conceptually approved by the Montecito Fire Protection District, after concessions were made by the property owner, who agreed to give up several feet of his property to widen the fire lane that accesses his home as well as two additional properties. He added that since the December meeting, the project has been scaled back in size in an effort to compromise with the neighbors. “We tried hard to listen to the concerns about privacy and views,” Ettinger said.
MBAR members gave mostly positive remarks about the architectural style of the project, but encouraged compromise with the neighbors by perhaps lowering roof lines, removing the rooftop garden area on the garage, and shrinking the floor area ratio. Ettinger said he would consider the comments thoughtfully with his client, and story poles reflecting a revised project would be erected before the next MBAR meeting.
The Montecito Board of Architectural Review meets two Thursdays per month via Zoom. The eight-person board includes Chair John Watson, Vice-Chair David Mendro, Supervising Planner Kimberley McCarthy, and board members Bill Wolf, Claire Gottsdanker, Don Sharpe, Thiep Cung, and Alida Aldrich, as well as Secretary Sharon Foster. For more information on this project as well as others making their way through the planning pipeline, visit www.countyofsb.org/plndev/hearings/mbar.sbc.