Music Academy Operational Changes Appealed

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   May 9, 2023
The Music Academy’s recent CUP revisal has been appealed by several neighbors

Several neighbors living by the Music Academy have filed appeals to the Montecito Planning Commission’s approval of the Academy’s proposal to revise its Conditional Use Permit. Last month, the MPC voted 3-1 (with Commissioner Sandy Stahl dissenting) to approve the proposed revisions, which include changes to events at the Academy’s property, located on Fairway Road in Montecito. 

In 2004, the current CUP established attendance caps at the property, including 47,000 annual attendees (22K in the summer and 25K in the non-summer months). There are 900 people allowed on site daily, with 330 at any given time. Student enrollment is limited to 150. The 2004 CUP also established limits on events with an annual maximum number of events capped at 41, with weddings and other such private events prohibited. 

The Music Academy team, including President and CEO Scott Reed, presented several key operational revisions proposed to the CUP, including eliminating seasonal attendance caps, increasing the any-given-time attendance cap from 330 to 410, and increasing student enrollment from 150 to 175. 

Most significantly, the team is proposing to introduce the holding of “Significant Life Events” i.e. weddings, memorials, bat mitzvahs, baptisms, etc., with a maximum attendance of 225 people. These events, which could be held up to 15 times per year, would be allowed between the hours of 9 am and 10 pm, with clean-up and breakdown allowed until 10:30 pm. Events with amplified music would be limited to indoor spaces (not Hahn Hall), while acoustic music would be allowed in nine identified areas of the gardens. The events would be permitted to include alcohol if the caterer hired has a liquor license. The person or group renting out the facility would be required to arrange ride sharing and security during the event. 

The Music Academy also seeks to eliminate the campus’ resale shops and reintroduce residential use of those structures for visiting musicians and visiting artists, plus use them for preparation space for significant life events. Other changes include increasing Hahn Hall seating from 300 to 350, and increasing the capacity of seminars and meetings from 175 people to 350 (capped at 41 per year).

The proposed changes are in an effort to diversify the MA’s revenue stream to ensure financial sustainability, according to MA reps. 

The Commission voted to approve the proposed changes with two conditions: that traffic be routed in and out through the main gate on Fairway Road during Significant Life Events, and that the MA shall assign a full-time staff member year-round to actively monitor and direct parking, vehicular flow, and traffic onsite and at the gates to reduce neighborhood impacts. Commissioner Stahlvoted against the proposal, saying that the 32 additional events per year would have a big impact on the residential neighborhood. “I think the Music Academy is incredible, but it’s located in a residential community,”
she said. 

Neighbor appeals cite incompatibility with the residential neighborhood, incompatibility with the Coastal Zoning Ordinance, insufficient environmental impact review, and other grievances. There were also concerns that the agenda at the Montecito Planning Commission hearing last month was modified and the agenda item regarding the Music Academy was moved to the afternoon session, which prevented those wanting to voice concerns from participating in the hearing in a
timely manner. 

The appeals will be heard by the Board of Supervisors at a later date. The Music Academy is located at 1070 Fairway Road. 


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