Westmont Magazine Master Plan Wins on All Fronts
After a long and challenging seven-year process, Westmont has won final approval for its updated Master Plan. In two separate votes, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors upheld the favorable decision by the Montecito Planning Commission in November. The supervisors denied an appeal by college opponents 4-0 Feb. 6 and granted Westmont’s request to eliminate two of the 116 conditions 5-0 Feb. 20.
After listening to a handful of opponents argue at the Feb. 6 hearing that the 5-0 vote by the Montecito Planning Commision should be set aside, several supervisors commented on the soundness of the college’s planning process.
“Westmont’s project today is a lot better because of the input of the neighbors,” said Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who represents Montecito. “I look at the proposed plan and I see nothing but trees,” said Supervisor Joe Centeno.
“The supervisors were uniformly supportive of Westmont’s plan,” said Cliff Lundberg, executive vice president at Westmont. “The message that went out to the community was the right one, that our plan is not only compatible with our com-munity, it’s beneficial.”
In a light moment, Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship, spoke during the public comment period. He invited those opposed to the Master Plan to attend an upcoming student symphony held off campus because there is no suitable venue at Westmont.
“If you walk up to the ticket booth and tell them you’re against Westmont’s plan,” Shasberger said, “you will be given free tickets.”
Two weeks later, the board unanimously upheld Westmont’s appeal of two conditions in the approved plan. The college argued that the planning commission had inappropriately imposed additional restrictions on traffic and parking.
During the hearing’s public comment period, 19 people spoke, 18 in favor of Westmont.
The supervisors agreed with Westmont, which voluntarily offered to monitor traffic indefinitely on Cold Spring Road to maintain an average of 3,500 car trips each day, less than half the capacity designed for the road. Even though there was no demonstrated environmental impact from that number, the planning commission had previously reduced it to 3,355.
During closing arguments, Chancellor David K. Winter remembered when Ron Cronk, then vice president for finance, approached him with the revolutionary idea of a cap on college traffic.
“I was opposed to it,” Winter said. “And I still have some reservations about it. It was courageous to offer it. And we didn’t just come up with some arbitrary number. The EIR showed there was no negative environmental impact for our proposal. So, if the planning commission’s decision to lower the number wasn’t vindictive, then what was it?”
Although the evidence showed that no problem existed with students illegally parking in the vicinity of the college, the commission imposed a requirement that all freshmen and sophomores who own cars not allowed on campus put stickers on their vehicles identifying the owners as Westmont students — even if the cars weren’t kept in Santa Barbara.
“I can’t believe intelligent people could come up with a hare-brained idea like that,” said Supervisor Joni Gray during the hearing. It too was thrown out.
Opponents have indicated they will sue the county over the approval of the Master Plan and may seek an injunction to halt construction. But the college is moving ahead with plans for each building and looks forward to breaking ground.