Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Caruso/Miramar Project Emails Released

The enclosed PDF was released to the media late last week by the law firm representing community groups opposed to the current Miramar project. It represents a series of email communications between County staff, employees and officials -- as well as emails from the applicant in a drama which continues to unfold.

Decide for yourself -- but this project looks like it was fast-tracked on an unrealistic timeline. These emails also give us a view of the circumstances around two project managers who had issues with the process and the ethics surrounding the County's approach.

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Anonymous unrealistic timeline? said...


It may seem like an "unrealistic timeline" in terms of Santa Barbara's project approval process, but in context of most of the rest of the world (outside of the SB bubble) the project has already dragged on way too long. It is simply ridiculous that at this stage of the process they're discussing whether or not people could have chairs on the beach and by what mechanism that would be regulated. We need to get real otherwise the project will sit in an abandoned, dilapidated, deteriorating state for the next 10 years.

7/13/2008 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Sea Clearly said...

Wow. So Brown is already spending the bed tax.

Could someone please explain how the county avoids a conflict of interests in any of these cases when upfront they salivate over increased revenues over-development brings. And that revenue is used to over-bloat staff salaries and benefits.

With this added bonus of causing people to resign if they don't like this inherently corrupt and greedy process we call county "government".

7/13/2008 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Shame said...

Wow. This is explosive. For someone who has lived in SB County for decades, I will say the saddest part of reading this 70+ page saga is to see in print the drastic decline in ethics, standards, and excellence in our County. Esp on pgs 13, 31, 54, 64---well, just read the whole thing.
The collaboration among the developer, elected official, County staff to basically employ strongarm tactics and outright deception to move this flawed project forward is abominable. Hopefully some of the names in this document will not be in the County directory for too long. Thanks Sara for exposing this.

7/13/2008 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Read the Damn Documents said...

The files linked here in this posting spell out a clear picture.

Team Caruso would not provide all the information they promised, and then what they did have never arrived in a concise package nor on time.

The project could increase flooding onto neighboring residential properties, and Team Caruso was refusing to perform the technical floodplain analysis needed to verify no flooding.

The project was evolving into stuff placed on the beach that would reduce legally required public access.

Planning manager Dave Ward, working under the thumb of Michael Brown, deliberately changed the conclusions of the environmental assessment against the professional opinion of the subordinate staffer.

"Timeline" above (the first comment) may whine all he wants, but this is Santa Barbara so our Santa Barbara standards apply. The planning-by-extortion method does not work here.

7/13/2008 6:04 PM  
Anonymous I HEART Public Records said...

For "Freedom of Information", just how does keeping up the high standards for planning and development become an "anti-Caruso effort"?

You write your missive like some secret about who is Out To Get Caruso can be "determined" only by calling the propaganda hotline.

7/13/2008 6:10 PM  
Anonymous sylvianne said...

Actually planning by extortion does work. The same kind of string of disgusting documents exist on the St. Francis project, especially where public health concerns were considered "too political" and covered up. But the city planners didn't show much backbone or conscience, and it's all buried in the record instead of plastered right here. Bravo for the brilliant and timely release of these documents. Bureaucrats beware--it's a new way of communicating the truth.

7/13/2008 6:38 PM  
Anonymous can't believe my eyes said...

The emails written by "Dave Ward" "Diane Black" and "John Baker" are so astounding they seem scripted right out of central casting for some Chinatown-like saga of corruption, greed, deception and intimidation on behalf of a powerful developer, power-hungry elected official/supervisor, and crazed, greedy County Executive Officer. I can't wait for Doreen Farr to get in and help clean house. abominable is right.

7/13/2008 6:53 PM  
Anonymous freedom of information fan said...

to "I heart public records": just call the number and find truth

7/13/2008 7:15 PM  
Anonymous I HEART Public Records said...

So the "truth" can be heard by calling there and involuntarily getting entered into the database, but not by the same paid advocate just reporting the truth here?

7/13/2008 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Italian Momma said...

Demand Caruso play by the rules. Demand Caruso cleans up his public nuisance. ASAP. He has kept that property a health and safety hazard too long while he gooses the planning process.

If his only response is my way or the highway, let me be the first to wave his sorry little *ss goodby.

7/13/2008 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Italian Momma said...

Hate to break it to you, but there is no "anti-Caruso" effort. This guy'es ego needs to get over itself. There are simply pro-process people out there. Caruso needs to get with the program and stop being both petty and petulant.

7/13/2008 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Sammy said...

Explosive? Good grief! This is the most tedious set of practically pointless work emails I've ever slogged my way through, and I CARE about timelines and 100 year floods. Montecito--get over yourself.

7/13/2008 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Brian in Carp said...

Blogabarbara joins the NewsPress, and Montecito dilettantes Elaine from Seinfled and her "director" husband Brad Hall (who gave us the riveting movie classic "Must Love Dogs") in a lame attempt to prove Caruso is somehow trying to manipulate the planning process and short-circuit the environmental review process..NONSENSE!

The emails look like normal working communications among interested parties in the Miramar process. After Caruso bought the Miramar, Supervisor Carbajal said he would help move the process along quicker..that is no mystery....the biggest mystery is Michele Gibbs..another Valley Girl planner in over her head who quit when the going got a little bumpy...the smoking gun is in reality a smoking pickle...

7/14/2008 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Careful Reading please said...

Sammy--perhaps you find this document "tedious" because you aren't reading it carefully enough. Compare the dates of the emails to when pressure was applied to the staff. Read who refused to sign on to the changes in approvals, etc. Read for Mike Brown's name.

7/14/2008 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Freedom of information fan said...

Just read a study in the LA Times that maintains the vast majority of bloggers are at the far ends of the political spectrum (both left and right) and do not represent the majority view. Hmmm. Guess that means us. And for "I heart public records", are you assuming that anyone siding with Caruso is a paid advocate? Did you call the number?(hint: it's not a database and even so, you can use *67 to block your id if you're paranoid about being "caught")

7/14/2008 10:28 AM  
Anonymous When you cannot win on the facts, then attack the messenger said...

Nice spin there, Brian in Carp.

Attack former planner Michelle Gibbs as the messenger and keep repeating that Team Caruso never screwed up and brought this onto themselves.

Half of the messages in that public records request are about how the floodplain analysis was not provided on time by the applicant, Caruso, to keep the review on schedule.

Attacking Michelle Gibbs (whose name you cannot even spell correctly) as the former planner with integrity is really pathetic. She also originally is from northern California, so who is the Valley Goon now?

7/14/2008 10:37 AM  
Blogger Dick said...

In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" there is the statement: "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

What a sad tableau where the developer is able skate on fulfilling his responsibilities under CEQA while pummeling the staff. What a sad situation it is when the staff can't organize the process in a sufficiently clear way to keep track publicly of where things are and who is behind schedule.

The County, if it certifies the flood effects and or other potential problems is liable if harm comes from those things, i.e. doesn't perform as approved by the County. So, there should be careful oversight.

These e-mails do, indeed, suggest a fairly typical back and forth work environment. Sadly, a more robust system of communication and responsibility is needed.

7/14/2008 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Brian in Carp said...

Can't Win/Spin/Messenger...

I didn't really attack Michellle, it's just that when I spoke with her she sounded like, well, a total Valley girl! Nothing wrong with that. She was the go- to person regarding the Harley Davidson expansion, and I wanted to know why Harley was constantly violating their zoning permit...didn't get much of an answer.

Re: the flood. If they (planners) haven't figured out that water flows down hill by now, they never will...

7/14/2008 1:42 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...


The line may or may not have been repeated in Cuckoo, but that was Strother Martin's line in Cool Hand Luke when Luke attempted to escape the chain gang.

7/14/2008 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Put the "P" back in "P&D" said...

So many people in and out of the county and among all departments and agencies are so looking forward to the 'changing of the guard' that will take place in January. It is time to return the public process back to the public----and those who Mike Brown has deemed his trusted minions--Dave Ward and others like him--should be dusting off their resumes

7/14/2008 7:51 PM  
Anonymous In the buff said...

Speaking of appropriate movie lines, my favorite understatment was in Dirty Dozen when the crew was going hammer and tong with each other and the leader of the group reported "the men are discussing their dinner arrangements".

Witness the county planning process emails: the parties are just discussing their winner arrangements.

7/14/2008 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Double Standard or special treatment said...

In the N-P editorial today, Travis takes on Causo, and cites some of the email exchanges we first read in your blog, Sara. That's all well and good. What is AMAZING is that while he exorciates County staff involved in this "expedited" mess, he completely omits any mention of the pressure exerted by Carbajal, or the exchanges with Carbajal and his Chief of Staff! That is amazing....just imagine what Travis would be writing now if this travesty had occurred in, oh, say the 2nd District, or in any jurisdiction where a female elected official presided. well, you get the picture.

7/15/2008 6:42 AM  
Anonymous GurlyGirl said...

Excellent observation, DoubleStandard. Yup, TKA really has it in for alpha female politicians --- except Iya who is more of a Beta female politician I guess (and resident NP mole?)

7/15/2008 9:09 AM  
Anonymous tka and moles said...

seems like there definitely are some TKA moles...easy way to spot them are the politicians and leaders who are not regularly trashed on the newspres opinion pages.

7/15/2008 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Way Broke @ P&D said...

So despite all that has come out about collusion between the developer and County staff on the Miramar, and now the Ballantyne project-----Salud with a straight face said during the Board of Soop meeting yesterday "if it's not broken don't fix it", when Wolf tried to challenge giving Brown's hatchet man John Baker another One-year contract! Guess what Salud---IT's BROKE!!!!!!!

7/16/2008 8:03 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well, some folks remember when Salud appointed a "blue ribbon commission" headed by Michael Cooney to look into and report on the Montecito planning process. Never happened. But Salud runs unopposed, so he must be doing all the right things. After all, the Indy gushed a cover page article on him calling him "all things to all people" - some would say that means nothing to anyone. Classic professional politician. Just what we need. I blame the voters.

7/16/2008 9:23 PM  
Anonymous Gracie said...

Today's MPC meeting went swimmingly, largely due to the Caruso Information Booth in the lobby of the county building. (Who knew you could do a table? No one said you could do a table.) Well trained CarusoStyle land-use docents manned the table, handing out pie-sized blue MIRAMAR NOW! buttons along with the following foolproof instructions for his fans:

When speaking, please be brief, as there will be many Public Speakers and the County Commissioners and staff recommend that short comments are best to keep the day moving.
Speaking points for project supporters:
Caruso’s outreach and work with the community the last 17 months has been extensive and has produced what is actually our community’s plan for the Miramar.
This blight has been an eyesore far too long and Montecito deserves better, we deserve to bring back the Miramar and Caruso’s plan does so with style.
It is time for the Miramar to once again become a vital productive business in our community. Tales tax, bed tax, new jobs for construction and long term employment for people in the hospitality industry need to begin as soon as possible.
Caruso’s plan for the Miramar will provide a wonderful amenity for the entire Montecito community.
It is time to approve the Miramar now; it is time to approve the Miramar today!

Tomorrow I will share Speaking points for project protestors. Look for it in PDF format. Title: SEIR. 890 pages. Santa Barbara County Publishing Company.

7/16/2008 11:22 PM  
Anonymous clara barton knows better said...

Supplying talking points for project supporters is hardly new. Apparently you didn't notice the nurses showing up in the scrubs, some with stethoscopes around their necks, wearing nice little houses on their chests in support of the 115 unit mega project. It's pretty tough for mere citizens to get a fair hearing, especially when the talking points include that babies will die if the project isn't built exactly the way that the applicant wants it...

7/17/2008 8:17 AM  

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