Support Your Neighbors

By Montecito Journal   |   May 7, 2024

My family home is within walking distance of the Miramar. I am a seventh generation Santa Barbarian. My family and I, along with many neighbors both nearby and across Montecito, firmly support the plan to add affordable housing for the workers of the Miramar, which in part is funded by the addition of retail shops and rooms to the west side of the hotel. 

I believe Caruso’s proposal is a noble one, shows leadership, and goes above and beyond what any other business or individual has done to positively help our Montecito community with respect to affordable housing. I understand worker housing from personal experience. My family has been farming and ranching in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties since the late 1700s and we have provided worker housing on our ranches for generations. It is in our DNA. The benefits are many: Worker housing creates a sense of community and goodwill. It creates a more loyal and consistent workforce. It takes drivers off our crowded freeways. And it helps to enrich our schools, churches, and cultural institutions with residents who have a real stake in Montecito.

Caruso has listened to us and made substantive changes to their plan. They removed the third floor from the Eucalyptus side of the property, which will improve sight lines and view corridors. They’re devoting less space to shops. They also removed any direct access to the shops from Eucalyptus Lane. This helps eliminate traffic concerns and potential damage to the rural fabric of the neighborhood by keeping the shops contained within the Miramar campus and un-signed from the street. As has been their practice, I know Caruso will continue to listen to us in the future as well – that’s all part of the process.

The Miramar has been a good neighbor with substantial direct and indirect contributions to our community. They bring people together for the holidays, for summertime dog shows, and now they’re bringing back the swim raft. Caruso directly supports MUS and a host of other local groups. Plus, they’re one of our largest employers and generators of tax revenue for our community.

Caruso has shown they want to do the right thing for Montecito. I believe the best response is cooperation, rather than obstructionism. In today’s world, obstructionism is all too common and we’ve seen the results. Through cooperation and goodwill, we will find a balanced result that works for everyone. Let’s lower the volume, drop the fearmongering, and see this plan for what it is – a responsible solution.

Thomas Oreña Lloyd-Butler

The Tree Amigos Matter

In 1969, my class from Santa Barbara Christian School walked the beach after the Santa Barbara oil spill. I was six or seven. I remember seeing all the tar and the large oil-stained dead fish and tried to pry an eye out of one of them because I thought it would be cool to have. That was the start of the modern Environmental Movement. 

Seventeen years ago, two teen girls saw a 21-acre Orcutt open space that needed protection and gathered 1,300 signatures to stop a mixed use development. With letters of support from the Sierra Club, Supervisor Das Williams, the Environmental Defense Center, etc., the Tree Amigos, as they were called, was born. The girls saved an open space that thousands upon thousands of commuters have enjoyed on their way to work every day to Lompoc and Vandenberg. This open space sits on the corner of Clark Ave and Orcutt Rd, seven miles south of Santa Maria.

The Tree Amigos proved that North County teenagers are not powerless, do have a voice, and can work with government to protect environmentally sensitive areas. The Tree Amigos were able to get Fish and Game to put a pause on the development resulting in almost two decades of visual relief for weary, hard-working commuters. With stunning views, abundant wildlife, incredible scenery, Key Site 11 is a peek into the past of what Orcutt used to look like. That undeveloped, western oil “boom town.”

Because Santa Barbara County Supervisors are poised to pass an affordable housing plan based on 100% build out of all open spaces in Orcutt, Key Site 11 is slated by developers to become 150+ apartments and ball fields. No longer a wildlife corridor, but a gleaming mixed-use development full of old-fashioned themed retail and grocery stores ironically with the theme of “boom town.” Birds of prey will soon be replaced by the cheers of parents in baseball stands. Coyotes will be replaced with gas powered mowers, delivery trucks, and shopping carts.

I guess you can’t blame the owners of the carwash next door for building this project. Everybody’s entitled to get the biggest ROI on investment, aren’t they? But, wouldn’t it be nice, for once, if we all stepped back and told developers and the County of Santa Barbara you got 99% of what you wanted in Orcutt open space. Why don’t you just save us one little piece of the past.

Ryan Schwab 
Father of The Tree Amigos  


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