Community Speaks on Rosewood Expansion at Board Meeting

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 21, 2024
Clifford Ghersen speaking at the MA meeting with audience members holding their “I Support the Miramar” signs (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The Montecito Association (MA) held its monthly board meeting on May 14 in person at the Cold Spring School auditorium to accommodate the expected large turnout of residents regarding the slated presentations by All Saints-by-the-Sea Parish and School, and the Neighbors of the Miramar. Indeed, the auditorium was at capacity with the MA board on one end and the public seated on the other, many carrying signs saying, “I support the Miramar.” 

MA Board and staff present were President Doug Black, Treasurer Bill Macfadyen, Executive Director Houghton Hyatt, Mindy Denson, Jacqueline Duran, Aimee Miller, Jillian Wittman, Patrice Serrani, Robert Kemp, Leslie Lundgren, Inken Gerlach, Melissa Miller, and Joe Pennino.

Speaking for All Saints-by-the-Sea were Reverend Channing Smith and Katie Graham. Neighbors of the Miramar speakers were its founders Branden and Valerie Aroyan, and Clifford Ghersen.

Representing the Rosewood Miramar Beach were Retired Senior VP Rick Lemmo, Executive VP of Development & Acquisitions Bryce Ross, Senior Director of Development Katie Mangin, and Executive VP of Hospitality Philipp Posch.

MA Board President Doug Blackreminded attendees, “The Montecito Association does not hand out building permits, or regulations. We are a body of volunteers that facilitates conversations between all parties concerned about issues in Montecito. We request that public comments be respectful and not signal anyone out. Public comments are taken in the order we received your request slip, and are limited to three minutes per person.” 

The regular orders of business were conducted as follows:

Lt. Ugo Peter “Butch” Arnoldi reported on crime in Montecito for April through today. Burglaries were at All Saints-by-the-Sea school, a 3375 Foothill Road residence, the San Ysidro Pharmacy, and a residence at Butterfly Lane near Channel Drive; and a subject near San Leandro Lane with mental health issues was taken into custody. He alerted the community that a white line has been painted along East Mountain Drive and Riven Rock Road to delineate the no parking zone, and tickets will be issued by the CHP and the Sheriff’s Department.

Montecito Fire Chief David Neels thanked the over 120 residents and school kids for helping to push engine 92 into the fire station last week. MFD crews are preparing for fire season and doing annual trainings in the area. He alerted the residents to the increase in rattlesnake bites in the area and asked people be cautious when hiking.

Nick Turner for the Montecito Water Protection District gave updates on the Groundwater Sustainability Agency. There are increases in the rebates for residents’ projects to improve groundwater filtration, like rain gardens and creating permeable surfaces. He talked about the well registration program to fill gaps in data the board has on well locations and their active status. For the water district there is a public hearing June 25 regarding rate increases for the next five years. Rebates for water conservation are $500 to $5,000 for single-family residences, and most residents will not realize increases greater than $20/month on their water bills. Smart meters for water provide hourly readings and detect water leaks. He referred residents to check the website for info and updates. 

Superintendent/Principal of Cold Spring School Amy Alzina invited the community to the school’s play on May 29 and 30, the art fair on May 16 at 5 pm, an all-school track and field competition held at Westmont College on May 24, graduation on June 6, and a training for high school students on the seven habits of highly effective people on June 17 and 18. It was announced Alzina has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators for the State of California.

Black replied to the request from the last MA meeting on how the MA board responds to letters, saying they read all letters, and either answer it directly or refer the letter to the correct public government department to contact the resident.

Hyatt restated the invite to the community to attend the Hands Across Montecito Monthly Walk on May 23 at 8:30 am with City Net and the Sheriff’s Department to assess and help the homeless in the area.

Macfayden reported the MA is “still in the red operating $13,000 below budget, which should even out when the MA autopay dues are renewed.” Bill Babbitt is reported to have resigned from the Land Use Committee, and thus no report. Denson updated on July 4th – to be in the parade is $120, and there will be a public picnic with live music and beer in Lower Manning Park. No other committees reported.

Next were the presentations on the Miramar project, MA Board questions, and public comments, which are outlined below. Refer to the full videos of the presenters on the MJ website and MJ YouTube Channel.

Smithand Graham’s key points were presented in a slide show and included the church’s goals to maintain a good working relationship with Rick Caruso, the Miramar’s impact on the parish community, the parish as a historic resource, an environmental review, and the Montecito Community Plan which provides for historic preservation, roadway character, and the Santa Ynez Mountains’ visual importance – all of which they said are being impacted by the Miramar’s projected updates. The parish was established by a donation of the land it is on from the prior owners of the Miramar Hotel. They have been working with the Caruso team since 2014 and will continue do so with full transparency. Given their committee’s findings on the historic value of the parish, the mountain views that potentially may be blocked by construction, the proximity of the proposed building, and other issues, they stated they are against the Miramar project. 

Aroyan and Ghersen spoke about the loss of nature and serenity in the area, congestion the project brings, and the aesthetic of Montecito: “If Caruso wants to build affordable housing along the creek that is ok with us, but not a shopping mall in our neighborhood.” Ghersen emphasized that the resort only serves the wealthy and many not from the area, and it will alter the landscape of the bordering neighborhood.

MA Board questions included clarification of the exact property line for the Miramar and All Saints-by-the-Sea, the height of the bell tower on All Saints-by-the-Sea compared to the proposed construction, the number of retail stores and employee apartments. Graham did not have the facts requested. Ross ensured that all property setbacks are consistent and in line with what is already existing and permitted for the property, including the concessions they are requesting, as well as stating that, “Our property line goes into the church parking lot.”

Mangin stated: “There is a lot of hyperbolae in the points made by the presenters, many issues are already addressed and amended in the Miramar project. Our goal at the start was providing affordable housing for our employees without public financing, and our plan is 72% affordable housing for our employees. To pay for it we introduced 12 shops. We are committed to continuing to listen and take that feedback in, but we do intend to move this plan forward.” 

Public comments were made by John Agoglia, Rock Rockenbach, Jenny Haeg-Hudson, Marni Blau, Brent Morrison, Jan Larson, Cori Hayman, David Boyd, Cam Gittler, Padric Davis, and Julie Teufel. Some who signed up left, and time ran out for two others. 

Hayman, a member of All Saints-by-the-Sea said she and many parish members are in support of Caruso and read a letter signed by 100 Montecito people in support of the project (see video). Comments in support of the Miramar praised and thanked Caruso for rescuing Montecito from the “rat-infested eye sore” that was left on the beach for years, for building affordable housing which saved Manning Park from being a location for that, paying taxes that support Montecito schools, providing employment, raising the economy of Montecito, for the beauty and community resource the resort is, for helping during the mudslide and fire disasters, that 12 shops is not a shopping mall, and for being amenable to listening to the community’s concerns. Comments against the project included the same cogent points made by the Smith, Graham, Aroyan, and Ghersen – see videos.  



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