Montecito Association Board Meeting

By Joanne A Calitri   |   February 20, 2024
The Montecito Association reception for outgoing president Megan Orloff – in the center holding plaque (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The Montecito Association (MA) held its monthly Board meeting February 13 in person at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. Executive Director Houghton Hyatt acknowledged the donation of the board room by the hotel to the MA.

There was one public comment from a representative of the Neighborhood Group living next to the Rosewood Miramar Beach. His statement was focused on the rise of commercialization coming to Montecito, including the Rosewood Miramar Beach’s proposed 50,000 square foot building, its high-end retail shops, and market rate apartments for its workers. He stated that the neighborhood will bear the costs of the water, sewage, roads, and related activities while only the hotel will profit. Additionally, it will take away business from Coast Village Road and the Upper Village shops. “We are here to preserve and protect Montecito, not turn it into another Malibu.”

Community Reports began with Carpinteria Police Chief Lt. Ugo Peter “Butch” Arnoldi on the uptick of crime in the area, citing the known and reported robberies including Romero Canyon, Las Tunas, and at the YMCA parking lot. Suspects are named. His division is working with Ventura and L.A. County Police Departments. Arnoldi said, “This is a sophisticated crime group who we believe has tapped into our police scanners and know when we are coming and leave. They will, if caught, post bail and move to another location.” He also noted that the outing planned by a Hollywood group for the Hot Springs Trail was issued a cease-and-desist order which stopped the intrusion. 

Arnoldi is working with Chris Stubbs, the Los Padres Forest Supervisor, on renewing Los Padres’ 2022-23 Forest Order No. 05-07-54-22-04: Fire Use Restrictions in the Los Padres National Forest. These are to do with public safety – and to protect natural resources within the Los Padres National Forest and Santa Barbara front country, from Gaviota to the Ventura County line, including (but not limited to) Painted Cave Road, Gibraltar Road, Stagecoach Road, the paved and unpaved sections of West Camino Cielo and East Camino Cielo, Divide Peak OHV Road, the Hot Springs above the community of Montecito, and all user trails within the identified fire use restriction area. Arnoldi concluded with the stats on the number of Montecito people (356) who should have evacuated during the last storm.

David Neels, Montecito Fire Dept Battalion Chief, reported on the last storm and the work behind the scenes the MFPD does to prepare for storms, including the upcoming one this weekend. He stated that the last storm’s winds caused it to change direction, which made it weaker than originally projected. He stated that the work Caltrans is doing did not impact local road flooding, as it was more an issue of storm drainage that was maxed out. His advice on sheltering in place is that it can only be applied to specific situations. If MFPD requests an evacuation it is best to follow that recommendation, as roads providing access to people sheltering in place may get flooded, and air rescue can get blocked by weather conditions. Both scenarios put First Responders at risk.

Montecito Sanitation District General Manager John Weigold reported there were no damages sustained from the last storm, and they are preparing for this weekend’s storm. The formerly FEMA-damaged areas and creek beds are doing okay. The MSD is open to performing courtesy inspections for local businesses and is in process with a project to update and refurbish the wastewater plant. 

Local public-school reports started with Anthony Ranii, Superintendent of the Montecito Union School District (MUS). He shared they are celebrating their 100 year anniversary and Chinese New Year. The Professional Focus for 2024 is in Foundational Literacy, and for 2025 Comprehensional Literacy. MUS’ Nature Lab is partnering with the Housing Authoring for collab educational experiences, and their other partners are the United Way and AHA! The MUS Foundation is funding the innovation lab and new books. He thanked MFPD Chief Neels and his team for the best communication he has had in seven years to local schools for an emergency, “It was timely and gave us options on what we needed to do to be safe.”

Amy Alzina,PhD Superintendent and Principal of the Cold Spring School District (CSS) echoed Ranii’s accolades to Neels. “Thank you for your excellent communication. It gave our teachers the information to make the best decisions.” Professional development for CSS teachers is on AI (artificial intelligence), and how to use it to create personal learning experiences for our students. She announced their project “Building Bright Futures” by the CCS Foundation to build a new two-story STEAM and art classroom building projects will be done at “only $2.1 million, an unheard-of budget.” Starting in June, CSS is offering summer school classes in STEAM, engineering, cooking, and more using CSS state funds.

Ranii and Alzina both adamantly upheld that the schools work well together, and have for the past seven years – sharing teachers, learning experiences, and activities. Resources are also shared with SB South County.

First SB County District Supervisor Das Williams thanked the MFPD and Arnoldi’s teams during the past storm. He stated the SBC is using $5 million to clean out Cold Spring and San Ysidro debris areas; the Montecito Master Flood Control Plan is moving forward; a new Buena Vista debris basin is planned for 2025, and encouraged everyone to call in with debris and flood issues. He said that SCE will help rebuild the Romero Canyon Trail. All permits for swim platform at the Miramar Beach Resort are approved, and the kickoff will be May 2024. When asked about the Hot Springs Trail issues, he replied the goal is to reduce the insanity. The strategy is to act when the natural processes like the recent storm revert the area back to its natural state, to ensure the Forest Service understands to bring back the Rangers. There was then a debate about the parking.

Nick Turner from Montecito Water Protection District reported the last storm topped off local reservoirs; Lake Cachuma is at 100 percent. He encouraged all to register for the smart meter program. He also said, “The pipeline at Channel Drive and Monte Cristo is completed. The water report study from 2023 will continue through June 2024. There is a proposed well registration program so the MWPD can have a database on the location, owners, and if the well is active or not.”

MA President Doug Black said the MA Board meetings will resume in person at the Montecito Library, and “The neighbors of the Miramar met with the Miramar reps and hopefully can work out issues. MA is updating their computer system and website.” He called to vote in the new Board Chairs – Land Use: Bill Babbitt; Events: Mindy Denson; History: Trish Davis; Outreach: Megan Orloff; Groundwater: Cheryl Trosky; Hands Across Montecito: Andrew Velikanje.

President Montecito Trails Ashlee Mayfield provided her updates, which included “After the last storm trees were everywhere, and the trails change with each storm. Cold Spring Trail did great, and we got our excavator equipment there to restore it. Hot Springs, and Buena Vista were ok, Romero Trail had issues with the creek overflow.” She detailed the restoration due on the four-mile Camino Cielo trail, requesting help from SCE for the first two miles of it and with Stubbs at the Forest Service. There is one petition against their work on the McMenemy Trail but they are working on it.

Joe Cole reported on the Hot Springs Trail recapping issues from the pandemic to current. Issues of priority concern are the possibility of a fire started by hikers at night who go up the trail to party and build bonfires; issues of parking and crowd impacting evacuation orders; there are currently 11 mini-pools and unknown number of fire pits built illegally by people coming to the trail. He showed a biologist’s report on the trail from January 2023. Solutions were debated. Permits are being requested with the Forest Service, Fish and Game and other agencies to restore the trail, remove the “pools” and fire pits.

Following a brief by Houghton, a vote on the budget, Committee Reports were given. Trish Davis,Chair of History, reported the MA is working with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s altar restoration, a history book on Casa Dorinda, and continues working with the SB Historical Society. Orloff reported on Outreach efforts that include updating the membership database, growing 300 new members by next year, mailings welcoming Montecito newcomers, sending outreach to the CVR businesses and farmers market, and holding election forums. 

Following the meeting, a reception and toast to Megan Orloff, outgoing MA president was held. Orloff was presented with a plaque for her five years as president. She said, “My time at the Montecito Association advocating for the community has been rewarding. I am incredibly thankful for the relationships that I have built throughout my time here. I am honored to continue with the association in my new position as Outreach Chair and doing outreach to new Montecito residents to help them understand and appreciate what makes it so great.”  



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