Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Miramar Project Shows Intrigue

Over at The Indy web site, there's an interesting article on the Miramar Hotel. Intrigue, whistleblowing, histrionics and arrogance are all present in this modern day EIR mystery of a hotel owner that doesn't want to go through the same process as everyone else.



Anonymous Circle the Wagons said...

LA carpet baggers are not welcome in this town. Just look to the Wine Cask arrogance and willingness to destroy our local history and character and then turn this assault after a forced remedy into a pretext to garner our business later.

We don't want these projects or these people ruining our town. Threatening to turn the Miramar into a homeless camp doesn't fly anymore. I'd rather keep it as derilict dump than see it become LA North.

This guy is no savior, has no right to threaten us and demand special favors. But he also had better clean up this site ASAP because he has no right to send his rats on to our town.

6/05/2008 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Why no EIR for a new project? said...

The most frightening part of this saga, besides the very idea of allowing a Caruso-esque monstrosity at the gateway to Santa Barbara, is the corrupt, gestapo-like pressure and threats that the staff planners have had to suffer under-----and Carbajal can't hide behind his claim of "following procedure". The pressure to move this square project through a round hole, without an EIR, had to start somewhere. This stinks. This is Santa Barbara, people---did you really think all of these tactics would go unnoticed???
Bring on the public information requests, people.

6/05/2008 7:50 AM  
Blogger Greg Knowles said...

I'm certainly no expert on EIR's or the actual plans Caruso has put forth, but I would sure like to see something get done on this piece of property.

It really is a black eye in many ways to this community. It certainly is a piece of property that deserves more than it has now. It will generate some new jobs, and revenues.

Just because someone comes here from out of town doesn't mean they should be looked down on. I guess the remodel I did a few years ago should have been challenged since I wasn't born here.

6/05/2008 12:04 PM  
Anonymous A smart Developer would do full EIR said...

I agree.

This guy deserves no special favors.

His project is completely redesigned and therefore MUST start over and do a new FULL EIR.

He does not appear to be smart enough to realize that doing a new full EIR will actually be the shortest path to a building permit because if he does not he will end up being sued and also will see his project appealed time after time at every single approval point in the long approval process.

Each BAR vote can be appealed.
Each planning commission vote can be appealed to the supervisors. and the coastal permit can first be appealed to the supervisors and then later also appealed to the full State coastal commission --not once but at the time of coastal permit and yet again at time the building permit is issued. Each of these appeals adds another 3 months to the process. So 10 such appeals will add 30 months to the process IN ADDITION TO THE YEAR OR TWO OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUIT!

So if the developer were smart he would voluntarily start over from scratch and do a brand new completer EIR.

Also, some supporters think there is only a tiny vocal minority who oppose this big project. Well I got news for them---at this time there are hundreds and hundreds of opponents to what he is trying to do. Hardly a vocal minority, and this will become quite clear as time goes on. In fact at this time the project opponents far outnumber the supporters. And as time goes on there are going to be few additional supporters coming out of the woodwork but a whole lot more opponents coming out of the woodwork. Thats how things work in this community. In the end the developer ius going to wonder just where all this opposition to his project came from---the answer is it came from his own actions of trying to avoid starting over with a new complete EIR.

So his undoing will be his own doing.

6/05/2008 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Public Nuisance #1 said...

Everyone knows it is hard to do business in Santa Barbara because residents feel a strong sense of ownership to the protections they built into the zoning and design restrictions.

The required process is on the table and out in the open. No one can claim later they did not know what hoops they were required legally to go through.

Sure the present site is a mess and it is the obligation of the property owner to clean up his blight and health and safety problems so he does not further contaminate the surrounding properties. It is time to declare this site a public nuisance and demand remediation.

And then he can take his sweet time getting the project approved through appropriate channels and process. But he can never hold a gun to anyone's head leaving it blighted to increase his bargaining position to cram down some monstrosity because he tries to buys influence with public servants who work for us.

I don't know anyone living here who is salivating for more developement and creation of more low paid service sector jobs with no housing. There is no way to put lipstick on this pig.

The county needs to sue him for maintaining a public nuisance if he keeps delaying going through the proper steps to get a proper development.

This is not LA. Hello.

6/05/2008 9:50 PM  
Anonymous CEQA said...

There's nothing holy about an EIR, as the neighbors learned about the one prepared for the demolition of St. Francis. An independent, out-of-town environmental expert called that one "more of a a marketing brochure than a good faith effort at full disclosure." EIRs are bought and paid for by the developer and shaped by the lead agencies when they want to. In that case that's what happened--and it's all in the record. So the requirement of an EIR may not provide the kinds of protections that citizens expect, and mounting a lawsuit to challenge the EIR is extremely difficult, even when the citizens have truth, but not process, on their side.

6/06/2008 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Landed Gentryman said...

Know you will be loathe to admit it, but Travis going after this Miramar debacle is going to be your best friend. This is where he shines - exposing the corruption in the land planning offices of both city and county.

Hope the new NP investigative reporter sniffs out what has been really wrong in both these departments for far too long.

6/07/2008 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/08/2008 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Plan on this said...

One does need to follow the money when it comes to city and county planning staffers and their all too cozy relationship with developers. And this means both up and down the money chain. NP Investigative Journalist - you have some fertile fields to plow on this one issue. Hope we hear more from the NP about this. Something has been very wrong for very long with both planning departments.

6/08/2008 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Planner Sam said...

County Grand Juries have investigated allegations in the County Planning Department ranging from corruption to the intentional stalling of projects many, many times. Their findings typically note the dizzying array of policies and development standards and the overly complex internal review process as primary issues needing immediate attention. No corruption has ever been found, certainly not in the form of skirting state or local planning laws in favor of development interests. Such allegations are absurd.

CEQA is a very complex, very grey section of State Government Code, subject to multiple interpretations on even the most straightforward sections. I'm not surprised at all that even within the same planning department there are such widely disparate opinions on the appropriate level of documentation for Miramar. I worked at County Planning for a number of years, and the level of education and passion for work evidenced by the staff was higher than any other planning department I've worked for or with.

I worked closely with Michelle Gibbs, as well as Dave Ward and Anne Almy. Each approaches their job from an entirely different personal philosophy, but they all have the highest ethical standards, which includes absolute honesty. Michelle was obviously passionate that her interpretation of the Supplemental EIR analysis was correct. I guarantee that folks like Dave and Anne are as equally passionate in the correctness of their interpretations. Just because their analyses differ does not lead to the immediate conclusion that Planning Department management are tools of development interests or lower staff are the only ethical people at the County.

One other thing. The allegation that county staff pushes for more development to occur so they can get consulting jobs is patently absurd. Yes, there are some development representatives that have worked at the County. So what? There are exponentially more ex-Planning staffers working for other jurisdictions or private planning firms. There are probably even more who have left the field altogether than there are current development reps.

County planning does not have a single pro- or anti-development agenda. There are far too many people in the Department for such a conspiracy to occur. Some planners are more favorable to development than others, but only personally. Internal processes don't allow for any project to receive anything but the most stringent of reviews.

6/09/2008 12:21 AM  
Anonymous Voters rule, not staff said...

FOSS (Friends of Outer State Street) are currently suing the city because of their endemic failure to follow their own rules. If this is not corruption, it is incompetence and favoritism to everyone but the voters who wrote the laws.

The results are the same no matter the cause. And it is time for the powers that be to realize they work for the voters; not the developers.

I am tired of this constant papering over this fundamental and chronic dissatisfaction with the impacts of "offiical" planning decisions.

6/09/2008 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Planner Sam said...

Two points, Voters Rule. 1) My comments were regarding County staff, not City staff; and, 2) Just because a neighborhood group sues the City because they didn't like a decision that was made, it doesn't mean that an entire department is "development friendly". Besides, last I'd heard, the FOSS case hasn't had a judgment yet, so the lawsuit proves nothing.

Listen, Santa Barbara County has some of the most stringent development review processes in the entire state. I can think of only a handful (Santa Monica, Laguna Beach, Malibu) that take longer to process a development application. It often takes a simple project like a room expansion more than six months to gain zoning approval. In the vast majority of jurisdictions in California, this is an over the counter type of approval.

County Planning isn't perfect (not by a long shot), but the staff is certainly ethical and devoted to their work. Allegations of developer backed conspiracies to bribe planning staff into faster processing are asinine.

6/09/2008 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think planner Sam just made our point .. there is something terribly wrong when 2 planners can polar opposite views. The planning process should be such that no matter who preforms the research the alternatives are brought to the decision makers (that represent the people that voted for them) for a decision to be made. If one planner has a different view than another planner both views and alternatives should be brought forward. When planners are inflicting their views into the process they have become the decision makers -- which is blatantly wrong.

6/10/2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Low Jack said...

SB city planning staff hijacks the entire public participation process, or they hire a "facilitator" to strong-arm the process by surrogate and then they brag about listening to the people. If that is not corruption of a process, please give me another word.

6/10/2008 6:47 AM  
Anonymous coyote said...

...and they call it "You Plan SB," which is such an insult. The outrageous pro-development behavior of some of the most senior planning staff who treat the public like mere annoyances at best is an example of the triumph of the Peter Principle. And then there's the shocking nepotism now that Mr. Casey is going back to being the boss of his sister and his brother-in-law. And you wonder why there's such a groupthink going on...

6/10/2008 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Planner Sam said...

Anonymous, I prove no such point. Why is planning different from any other policy/law based profession? Have you ever been to a visioning workshop or a hearing where everybody agreed on everything? I've participated in and facilitated literally hundreds up and down California and I've sure never seen it. There is no such thing as black and white in planning, but a million shades of grey.

The planning process in California is anything but straightforward, and CEQA is by far the most heavily litigated portion of the process. In this particular case, the question is whether a Supplemental EIR or a completely new EIR should be required. At a minimum, four or five planners and a couple of attorneys in County Counsel were involved in the decision making process. Given the passion from which County planners approach their jobs, I'm not surprised that there were such widely disparate views.

And, low jack, if you're so convinced that City planning staff hijacks the public participation process, report it to the Grand Jury or litigate it yourself. You have remedies. But, once again, my comments are regarding COUNTY planning, not CITY planning.

6/10/2008 10:33 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Dang! Left the anonymous in again as I am looking for content more than name...have to take it out.

6/11/2008 5:17 AM  
Anonymous seen it .. been there said...

What about this possibility --
Developers hire private planning firms ( such as Suzanne Elledge Planning) to get their projects approved. Most all of these consultants previously worked as planners at the county/city and they know how to navigate the county/city process. These private planning consultants have private meetings with the current county planners, taking them to lunch and invite them to fancy parties (such parties even get nice write-ups in the newspress!). . Perhaps once they have worked long enough to have great retirement benefits (paid by local tax payers) the current county/city planners might look forward to joining these private planning firms for high paid consulting work... and the circle of abuse continues ..

Pity the Brown Act does not seem to apply to staff.

6/11/2008 8:39 AM  
Anonymous eggs_ackley said...

since no one mentioned it: isn't there the hint of possibility that staff was leaned on from higher up the food chain, a process set in motion by FOR(friends of Rick)/influential montecitans bending the ear of elected officials with their dismay over the threat of yet another delay or outright abandonment of the project? D'oh! who wants to be mayor of montecito? follow the money.

6/11/2008 9:45 AM  
Anonymous born yesterday (not) said...

Oh, gosh, do ya think that the pressure applied by wealthy and influential folks has anything to do with how carefully a project is scrutinized? Or what requirements are waived? Can you spell COTTAGE? Look what they did to Brian Barwell when he dared to suggest they put in a tiny amount of solar in their bloated St. Francis project. In his own words, he got "taken to the woodshed." Eggs-ackly.

6/11/2008 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Hoodie sweatshirt said...

Barnwell got taken to the woodshed because he ran on protecting the neighborhoods and then voted for every development project that tarted itself up as "green" or "affordable" or "inclusionary" and crammed them down the very neighborhoods he promised he would protect.

It was not the NewsPress or Cottage hospital that brought him down. It was his very own betrayal of the neighborhood voters who believed him and then were shafted. Incumbents lost in a huge number of activist neighborhoods.

This should be a lesson for anyone who is thinking about running again and it will be the watershed issue between Iya and Helene. And with them, it will not be their promises we will look at, but their records.

Obama has to run on a hope and a prayer because he has no credible record. But Iya and Helene do.

Or will a new voice come out of the woodwork, also running on a hope and a prayer that is now such a fashionable substitute for experience, credentials and public accountability?

6/12/2008 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Spike said...

It seems clear that the County is not following its own rules or those of the State.

It’s the perfect storm: The planning process is still in a period of wild overcorrection following the Coral Casino debacle. Drastic budget cuts have intensified the cry for ending the missed opportunity of the Miramar Hotel bed-tax. Lack of complete & objective media coverage during our local newspaper mess has made it impossible for even the most involved individuals to stay well informed. The community is (rightly) sick of the rat-infested mess Schrager left. People believe that if this deal falls apart, no one will ever again buy that hotel. And, as you read this, a sophisticated developer is driving a fully loaded truck straight through the middle of our perfect storm just as fast as he can.

Which wouldn’t matter all that much if, in fact, the County were minding the store.

An astonishingly tall (and growing) pile of information shows that the County is not taking care of our business. Who business are they minding?

6/14/2008 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Smell a rat said...

If the place is rat-infested, the county needs to get an injunction and tell the owner to clean it up. Keeping it rat-infested is not license to dump the planning process. Who are you trying to kid, or threaten?

6/14/2008 8:01 PM  
Anonymous seenit2 said...

To seen it...been there,

Thank you for painting the very accurate picture of how things get done in this town by pastinsiders now free-lancing which can inherently corrupt the public review process because of favored access.

Another abuse is hiring former "insiders" to "facilitate" public meetings when in fact they just facilitate the status quo and pre-set agenda. The public might as well have just stayed home.

6/16/2008 8:58 AM  

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