Keeping that 'Village' Feel
Reprinted from Montecito Magazine.
Maintaining a “Village” Feel
Everyone that attended the Tuesday July 10 Montecito Association monthly meeting was witness to what was surely the most positive response to a Montecito building project since, well, certainly within the last twenty years, maybe longer. The red carpet has been laid out for Mr. Richard Gunner’s build-out of what has come to be known as “The Pharmacy” property, a 55,000 square foot parcel that encompasses San Ysidro Pharmacy, the Montecito Coffee Shop, Coldwell Banker, William Laman Antiques, S.R. Hogue, and the parking lot across from Pierre Lafond.
“I think it’s a very interesting proposal,” Montecito Association President Bill Palladini told us via a telephone conversation. Bill suggested the Don Nulty-designed proposal “offers some real assets to the community,” and struck him as being “appropriate in terms of its bulk and scale.”
And that was before the official presentation.
Mr. Palladini explained that Mr. Gunner and Mr. Nulty came through the land use committee in June and presented some very early conceptual plans. Prior to that, Mr. Gunner had contacted a couple of members of the Association’s board of directors in anticipation of showing them something to familiarize members with some of the issues.
Gunner and Nulty also contacted the Montecito History Committee and asked about the historical uses of the site. History Committee Chair Maria Herold says she was pleased to have been consulted and responded with an extensive file of photos, drawings, painting, and articles on the site. Maria found evidence of “four or five” residential cottages that once lined a portion of the property. She showed Don paintings from the era, and photographs of many different houses, all in Montecito, that existed around 1900. Nulty studied Maria’s collection and subsequently sketched out a mixture of the various styles for the compound.
Maria explained during a conversation in her office at Montecito Hall just before the Association meeting, that she had “put a little booklet together for [Nulty] of the Pollorena houses that were there or have been moved off (as in the case of Bill Colville’s house that he purchased for $100 and moved to Hosmer Lane).” Three generations of the Pollorena family lived on the land for nearly 60 years before the modern era.
Ms Herold expressed delight that the architect was looking to create a number of smaller structures, “not with one type of architecture, but something that would have grown organically at that time.” The new buildings will vary in architectural style, from adobe, to wood and shingles, to stone. “It’s all like an assembly that would happen organically in a compound,” Maria exults. “I am tremendously pleased with the layout,” she says, adding, “I think it is so much more practical than what is there now.”
The plans, presented to the Association by Mr. Nulty beginning at 4:20 pm on Tuesday July 10, call for the eight proposed new buildings to look like individual cottages. Each with its own character (and fireplace), built to look more like a home than a commercial building. “Each one will have unique detailing, like one might find on a residential street in Montecito,” he explained, noting that “those with second stories will have balconies, some wrap-around.”
The project adds up to little more than 5,000 square feet of additional commercial space, totaling 14,257 square feet on the 56,807-square-foot parcel, giving it a 25% Floor Area Ratio, placing it within the Montecito Community Plan guidelines. There will be a total of 57 parking spaces when completed, versus the 41 there now.
Don Nulty described the three new buildings to be erected on the north end of the 1.25-acre property. One is a stone-clad single-story 900-square-foot building, another is 500-square-foot building, and the third is an adobe with a wrap-around balcony. There will be walking areas in front of all the buildings (somewhat like Pierre Lafond has now), and all will have working fireplaces. The road surface throughout will probably be a textured surface, perhaps cobblestone; there will be “plenty of room to walk,” and a number of trees will be planted.
The renderings also promise better access between the Gunner property and the Borgatello property to the west. New gates new steps will be added for easier access between the two parcels. “Right now,” Nulty proffered, “you park your car by the post office but if you have to go to Pierre Lafond, you’ll drive. Why get in your car and drive around when you can walk straight through?”
One particularly attractive and unique element of Gunner’s plans calls for a series of free-standing gas lamps. “We’ve located pairs of those at convenient spots,” Nulty revealed, and suggested that the new generation of such lighting fixtures “are approvable now.”
Members of the Montecito Association expressed some fear that a coffee house or retailer of that ilk, like a restaurant, might want to rent one of the units and that the Association would likely be opposed. Nulty responded that, while such tenants “are not prohibited, we’re not contemplating that we want that kind of tenant.” Mr. Gunner, who was present and in the audience, said he assumed “a specialty shop like William Laman” was a more likely tenant.
Residents worried about yet another construction project in the heart of Montecito were reassured that Gunner’s project would cause minimal disruption. Mr. Gunner said that since he had existing tenants, the idea was to not have adverse impact on the neighborhood by having trucks coming in and out and negatively impacting existing tenants. “The site is approximately seventy percent developed at this point, so we don’t want to come in and disturb the tenants that are there by building out the whole thing at one time.” The plan is to build two at a time, rather than all of the buildings at the same time. Gunner promised too that there would never be a time when the entire site would be closed to parking for construction purposes.
Other features include a fire-department turnaround, a one-way entry on the south side, and improving the pathway from the parking lot to the front of William Laman and the pharmacy. A variance will be requested for the west side of the development, where a 10-foot setback is required; Nulty says they need some of that footage to make the northwest parking area wide enough for easy access.
During the meeting, Nulty suggested that the new area “actually be named as a lane of some sort,” and someone (me) shouted out that it should be called “Herold Lane.” Maria Herold objected, however, insisting that if were to be named, it should be named for the Pollorena family. So, Pollorena Lane it may be.
Universal and unanimous praise was heaped upon Don Nulty and Richard Gunner for the excellence of the proposed build-out. So much so that director Richard Shaikewitz tried to make a motion that the Association endorse the project and recommend to the Montecito Planning Commission that plans for it be expedited. He was reminded by Victoria Greene, however, that what he suggested was out of line with procedural norms.
President Palladini admitted to being “impressed by Mr. Gunner; he’s a thoughtful guy. He’s not really a developer. He’s sensitive to the history of the area, so it’s a very thoughtful approach. It’s a little different approach to development than we sometimes see.” Former M.A. President Bill Collector said, “We applaud this effort,” and Gene Senser applauded “the thoughtfulness of the design.”
The Montecito Association Board of Directors did finally and officially express “its appreciation to Mr. Gunner and his associates”