In Response to the MPC Removal

By Montecito Journal   |   February 14, 2023

I feel I must reply to the Journal’s article (“The MPC Shuffle”) of Jan. 26 regarding my removal from the Montecito Planning Commission, as it contained several errors. Additionally, there were important issues that I raised at the hearing before the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors to which they did not respond, and which the Journal did not address in its article. 

It is important to note that Supervisor Das Williams was not required to show any cause for the board to approve my removal from the MPC. Williams initially had demanded that I submit my resignation, which – admittedly – would have been less stressful and less public for me. However, I wanted to make a personal appearance in order to express my concerns about what had transpired. Taken together, the actions by two disgruntled MPC commissioners and Supervisor Williams are suspect at best; they potentially violate proper procedures and policies, and they provide clear evidence of collusion, bad faith, and unfairness on their part. Specifically:

1) Tyranny by the minority: I was told in early January that two MPC members were threatening to resign if I served as chair this coming year, as was anticipated, given my position as 1st vice chair this past year. They gave no specific reasons, they refused to speak with me about it, and then – after I offered to step aside as chair – they enhanced their demand and called for my complete resignation from the MPC. Again, I had no indication of their opposition during the many past years we served together, and neither they nor Supervisor Williams gave me any explanation as to why this was so imperative or urgent – since I had only one more year on my term, and I had announced my intention to step down after that. I have since discovered that the remaining two commissioners were as blindsided as I was by this unexpected opposition; they also had not been aware of any problems nor observed any cause for complaint.

2) Election interference: I also learned that these two remaining commissioners supported me, both to continue on the commission and to be chair. We three would have formed a quorum at the scheduled meeting on Jan. 18, but that meeting was canceled per the direction of Supervisor Williams. Thus, he was able to include my removal from the MPC on the Board of Supervisors Agenda for their January 24meeting, prior to any MPC meeting. Supervisor Williams and the two opposing MPC commissioners conspired to prevent my lawful election as chair, and Williams unnecessarily canceled a scheduled MPC meeting in order to accomplish that.

3) False claims of retaliation: After I spoke during the Public Comment period at that Board of Supervisors meeting on January 24, Supervisor Williams then alleged that I attempted to force the resignation of Commissioner Ron Pulice last year. I had no opportunity to respond, to refute this false claim. In fact, what I did – at the January 2022 meeting – was to bring up the fact that Pulice was no longer a resident in Montecito when he was in line to become chair. People in Montecito had noted the high-profile sale of his home in 2021 and knew that it is required by law (specifically, under Section 2-26(b) and Section 2-26.2(b) of Ordinance No. 4468 that established the MPC) that commissioners must be residents of Montecito in order to serve on the MPC. They contacted me about it. I wanted the process to be transparent and above-board, and my airing this issue at our meeting gave county counsel the opportunity to state that Pulice could complete his term even if no longer a resident. Pulice said he was actively looking to buy another home in Montecito and that – if he still was not a resident in 2023 – he would resign from the commission. 

As a result of this exchange of information, I voted for him as chair for 2022. By the way, Pulice still is not a resident of Montecito, and Supervisor Williams reappointed him in December, ignoring the ordinance requirement.

4) The function of the MPC: The ordinance creating the MPC states that appointees should have an interest in the planning field, prior community service, and knowledge of the district. MPC acts as a decision-making body whose decisions are informed by the Montecito Community Plan and appealable to the Board of Supervisors. The MPC has no staff except designated personnel in the Planning Department. The MPC is solely responsible to the Board of Supervisors. Thus, recommendations to the MPC from the Board of Architectural Review are exactly that, only recommendations. Therefore, regular deference to the MBAR gives that body more authority than was intended by the ordinance. Furthermore, Planning Department staff works for the County, not for Montecito, so complete adherence to recommendations of Planning Department staff means that Montecito has no autonomy as a community and has ceded all power to the County of Santa Barbara. The few criticisms leveled at me about my work on the MPC were in these two areas: my lack of deference to MBAR decisions and my questioning of Planning Department recommendations. It appears that I was simply doing my job as a Planning Commissioner. 

5) The appearance of sexism: Three years ago, these same two commissioners tried to block the other female commissioner from becoming Chair after she had served as 1st Vice-Chair. I opposed their actions, and – ultimately – their effort was unsuccessful. Now, they have successfully managed to oust me, the other female commissioner. Paula Lopez Ochoa – incoming president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee – spoke on my behalf at the Board meeting on the 24th, and Supervisor Capps suggested that – if removed from the MPC – I should be replaced by another woman commissioner. When he initially proposed in December that I move to another, less prestigious County commission, Williams told me he had a male architect in line as my replacement on the MPC, which I felt would be wrong and completely contrary to the intended composition of that body. The very day after the Board of Supervisors meeting, Williams suddenly announced that he was considering three female candidates for the position, contrary to what he previously had told me.

I was expecting the Board of Supervisors’ vote to remove me from the MPC – given their policy of supporting each other’s recommendations in the matter of commission appointments – but I was very disappointed that the more important issues I raised were not addressed or even acknowledged by the board. I am raising them again now.


Susan Keller 
Montecito resident and community volunteer 

Parklets: Hazard Response

Bob Hazard’s plea to reinstate restaurant parklets is an obvious attempt to keep restaurants’ windfall COVID profits flowing. The emergency COVID dining restrictions ended on June 15, 2021, yet restaurants were permitted to keep their expanded parklet seating, allowing them to reap profits unrelated to the pandemic. 

Mr. Hazard overlooks the fact that Coast Village’s restaurants were not the only ones who were harmed by the COVID pandemic. He builds a case to restore parklets, benefiting five restaurants, while ignoring the harm they do to retailers. Remember that retailers too were impacted by fire, flood, and COVID.

The elimination of parking spaces along Coast Village Road significantly exacerbated an already serious parking problem. Mr. Hazard seems to imply that parking is not a big problem, but as we all know, it is. A petition to the City by 25 retailers and seven property owners (of which I was one) spelled out the harm caused by parklets and demanded their removal. 

Mr. Hazard extolls the so-called benefits of the extra millions (according to Mr. Hazard) they made from the emergency restaurant ordinance, but none of those wonderful millions trickled down to retailers. 

Now these restaurateurs claim that they will lose millions of dollars because they have to go back to life as it was before the pandemic. The assertion that they are losing millions is a bit of a joke. It was a temporary benefit to keep them alive during the pandemic, not to make them millions in windfall profits. But for the pandemic, the City would never have allowed parklets. It’s all about money, folks. 

Mr. Hazard then wanders off into traffic issues. He rightly complains about traffic jams on Coast Village Road, the construction related to the new roundabouts, and the freeway construction to come. All these projects will negatively impact the street. That is another reason why the parklets need to be removed. Aside from reducing parking, they create congestion and hazards by encroaching on the street. If anything, during this construction, it is even more important to have a free(r) flowing parklet-free street.

Mr. Hazard also criticizes the City of Santa Barbara for its hands-off approach to Coast Village Road. I’m not sure what that has to do with the parklets, but he has a point. I should remind him of the recent formation of the Coast Village Business Improvement District which was approved by property owners on the street. The goal of that organization was to address many of the problems he brings up: cleanliness, maintenance, street and median improvements, traffic and safety, and business promotions. As I pointed out in a previous Journal letter, change for the good is coming to Coast Village Road.

We property owners and businesses on Coast Village Road want a level playing field. It’s time for the parklets to go.

Jeffrey Harding

Decisions by CalTrans

In reading Bob Hazard’s opinion piece, “The Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem at the Wrong Time,” in the Feb. 2 MJ, I noticed two glaring errors.

First, Hazard states, “In 2008, the City of Santa Barbara made a tragic decision for CVR when then-Mayor Helene Schneider and her transportation director Rob Dayton opted to close the southbound on-ramp to the 101 at the Hot Springs/Cabrillo interchange.” 

It was not the S.B. mayor, nor the City Transportation Department that mandated the closure of the southbound 101 onramp. It was CalTrans. I was on the Planning Commission then and had a lengthy discussion during a public hearing with the CalTrans team about that. CalTrans was mandating the elimination of left-hand on ramps throughout the state due to safety issues. And when you think about it logically, they were correct that an uphill onramp into fast-lane traffic, with the visibility hampered due to the uphill nature of the ramp, was not very safe. I and other commissioners tried to push CalTrans to incorporate a right-hand onramp at that time. CalTrans’ position was that they were building an enhanced onramp at Milpas and that their planned enhanced signage would cause the southbound traffic to use that new onramp. I was skeptical, but it was not sufficient an issue over which to hold up the Coastal Development Permit. We can see in the aftermath that CalTrans was wrong.

The second factual error is about the Olive Mill Road roundabout. Hazard states: “In 2018, the City of Santa Barbara decided that Montecito needed a new single-lane roundabout at CVR and Olive Mill to speed ten lanes of current in and out traffic from a five-way intersection at the Gateway to Montecito.” 

The fact is that it was not the City but – once again – CalTrans that proposed the roundabout. Their 101 future traffic analysis showed that the northbound off-ramp volume would unsafely queue onto the mainline. Many potential solutions were evaluated, and the roundabout was deemed the best solution. The project is a combined City, County, and CalTrans project. Numerous formal public hearings and informational meetings have been held over the years about it, including at the Montecito Inn. I’m surprised that Bob apparently didn’t attend those or read about what was going to happen and why.

I have usually agreed with Mr. Hazard’s point of view on various subjects in MJ. But in this case, he should have done more research into the facts. As has been said many times, everyone is welcome to their own opinions but not their own facts. 


Addison Thompson, Santa Barbara

Fond Farewells to Montecito by Michael Cox

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for using your valuable ink and newsprint over the past months to delight us with the twists and turns of the novel Montecito, and thank you to the author, Michael Cox, for making it available! It was great fun seeing Hollis’ suspicions grow as he got himself knee deep, and then hip deep, and finally neck deep in Cyrus’ financial shenanigans. The usual anticipation of your Thursday editions was enhanced, knowing we would get a few more chapters of this engrossing story. It was like being back in the 19th-century craze of the serialized novel, with Mark Twain and others capturing the attention of the nation’s readers. Here’s hoping one of our local show-biz folks was equally entertained and helps to get the novel published and/or turned into a streaming TV series. And finally, pretty please, do another!


David Taylor, Montecito

Sad to see it end… enjoyed reading your work. Keep writing.

Annette Robson

Dear Michael,

I feel like I’ve lost a friend! Such a great character. I have so enjoyed your novel… and was actually sad when I found it to be the last chapter. My friend and I would so look forward to Thursdays… walk to Pierre’s and delve into the Journal, hoping there was another chapter printed… saying, “I wonder what Hollis is up to this week.” I hope you have more up your sleeve.

Wishing you more success, however you choose to proceed… a mini-series – why not? The world is fascinated with “Montecito.” But, for sure… we encourage another Montecito Reads for us.

Until we meet again,

C. Lee Kirch

Dear Mr. Cox,

I really enjoyed reading your novel in the MJ. I’m sorry I don’t have an agent or publisher to recommend, but I am certain you will get it published. 

I kept thinking Cyrus faked his death and would come back to Hollis with more threats and another 58 chapters. But your clever ending, of course, allows for that, anyway. Maybe Montecito: The Sequel?

And, of course, everyone is wondering who it’s based on and how much is true? 

Montecito Journal made a good decision in printing the serial version. It motivated me to pick up MJ for months. Best of luck to you for getting your book version published. 

Cheers, Katey O’Neill

Loved, loved, loved your story! Every Thursday we called “periodical day” and went out to get a Montecito paper. Some days I would read your story right away, and then some days I would savor your story and wait till Friday or Saturday to read it. 

I would call your serialized novel a hit!

It’s always fun to have something to look forward to. 

Here’s to another story!

L. Berrett, 5th-generation Santa Barbaran

Hi Michael 

Just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoyed reading your novel, Montecito, every week in the MJ. Being a lifelong resident, I feel you did an excellent job of capturing the true flavor of S.B. and Montecito. I wish you luck in getting your novels published because I would definitely buy them.  


Michael Hamilton


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